The Director of Administration, National Task Force (NatForce) on Light and Small Ammunition, Ogun State Command, Mr. Akinola James Oluwatosin, is an amiable and hard-working man. Recently his men intercepted a bus carrying expired products in Ogere. Oluwatosin speaks on the feat and the activities of the agency in the state. He speaks in an interview with correspondent SUNDAY ROTILEFON. Excerpts…
Can just give us an insight into what happened between your men and those allegedly hawking expired products, I mean the arrests you made on August 16, 2015?
A vehicle with registration number Lagos BDG 368 XL was intercepted by our patrol team under the leadership of the Director of Operations, Michael Chukwuemeka, at our observation point at Ogere, Remo, Ogun State. We have many Observation Points within the state, such as Igboora, Ijebu Ode, Alamala, very close to Army Barracks, Oja Odan. Because of lack of logistics and manpower, we have been unable to open other observation points at Idiroko and Agbara. This particular arrest was made on that 16th of August, 2015. When we were searching for small and light ammunition which are our primary objective, we discovered that they were carrying expired maggi, which were not good for human consumption. The truck contained about 100 cartons of expired Amen Kitchen Cray Fish flavour seasoning power, 38 cartons of unregistered Akbar Brothers Tea from Colombia, 15, bundles (30 pieces each) of suspected substandard foreign bags and 3 cartons of phone accessories and 2 units of 40 inches plasma television. The suspects said that they were carrying it to Kano.
We took the suspects to Iperu Police Divisional Headquarters but because of the nature of the case, we were advised to transfer it to Sagamu Police Area Command from where we made statement. The Area Commander ordered that the case file be transferred to Ogun State Police Headquarters at Eleweran in Abeokuta and that we should provide a towing vehicle because the truck has developed a mechanical fault. We took the vehicle to Eleweran and after a brief meeting with the authorities there, they concluded that it is the jurisdiction of NAFDAC to further examine the products. They gave us two policemen with police covering letter to NAFDAC Office inside Federal secretariat, Abeokuta. The NAFDAC officials at Abeokuta supervised by Asst. Director and Co-ordinator NAFDAC Ogun State, Pharmacist Ilo Ugochukwu, offloaded all the items inside the vehicle and promised that those expired items would be destroyed at their Oshodi Lagos Office but till date we are yet to hear from them. We cannot categorically claim that the products have been destroyed or not.
The information we got is that the vehicle is more than one and they contained ammunition. Is it true?
I was there during the search and to the best of my knowledge there was no ammunition found inside the vehicle.
We were told that the vehicles were 30 but we found only one vehicle. We further gathered that money exchanged hands to cover up the issue and that, that was why you did not allow pressmen to cover it.
That is not true. The police organisation, which I received more training from them have an organized ways of carrying out their functions. They only told us that we can allow pressmen to cover it with the permission from the Police Public Relations Officer at the Headquarters.
Actually, since I joined them, this is the major interception but there are other minor cases, which we referred to the nearest police checkpoint.
Your primary function is to detect light and small ammunition, have you detected any since you were in Ogun State?
We have not recorded any incident of carrying ammunition across our jurisdiction and routes, apart from the hunters and vigilantes who have genuine reasons to be in possession of ammunition. We relate with them so that they can provide us information about the activities on the various routes.
We understand that the Idiroko route is noted for nefarious activities. What are you doing to checkmate the activities of smugglers?
Observation points are where the government felt there are loopholes and government decided to have Task Force to monitor the movement of goods and people around the border towns. We have many porous roads around the border towns. Unlike other agencies that are well-equipped, we are yet to have enough vehicles, a lot of nefarious activities are going on in border areas. That is what people called trans- border crimes.
What efforts are you taking to ensure that you get government’s recognition?
We have to start from home. If our own officers are disciplined, what we are targeting now is training. According to the Director-General of NatForce, Osita Okereke, he is working hard to ensure that we are recognised by the law.
What is the level of your interaction with other law enforcement agencies?
We are working together to achieve our aims. Without their help, NatForce cannot operate alone. Those smugglers who would have attacked our men could not do so because of the fear of the presence of other law enforcement agencies.
What are you doing to improve on your logistics?
Most of the stakeholders have connections to connect us with the government. There is nothing a single man can do, so we need the help of government. We hope very soon there will be a lot of improvement.
Are you saying that there is no law that backs up your operations?
There is no organisation formed without approval from the government, which the authority in Abuja has done. All the necessary documents have been submitted to the concerned authorities.
My Director-General informed us that the bill recognising the organisation has passed through the First Reading, we hope it will go through the Second Reading under this Eight National Assembly.
How do you settle differences between NatForce and other security agencies?
There is no encroachment in carrying out duties. We are working together to ensure safety.
What is the relationship between NatForce and your host communities?
The communities are pleased with our services. Right now, they want us to employ some of their youths.
Are people coming to assist you with useful information?
We have some of our men operating in mufti to gather information. The villagers too are coming to give us information if they suspect anybody of any strange movement around them.
What measures are you putting in place to safeguard your life?
We have suggested to the higher authority in Abuja that we need to be insurance-covered. We are still expecting the approval from them. Secondly, immediately we get National Assembly’s approval we can prosecute offenders rather than handing them over to the relevant agencies. We have our legal department, which will be saddled with the responsibility to prosecute offenders.
What is your advice to the host community?
They should open their eyes and report any suspicious movements to us. They know the community very well more than us, they should cooperate with us to avoid invasion by terrorists.
What is your advice to the government?
Human security is very important. Government should give quick approval to our organisation so that we can be efficient in tracking down those who are indulging in dealing in small and light ammunition.