Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade is the Minister of Police Affairs, under whose supervision, a major project to check insecurity is being undertaken. In this interview with Soni Daniel and Emma OkereH, Olubolade sheds light on the job and the nature of police force he is building for Nigeria.
Sir, what is the status of the CCTV contract awarded to ZTE, a Chinese firm?
Contrary to insinuations, the project has not failed. It was conceived as a secure network, which will enable Nigerians to give information to the police so that this insecurity can be addressed. So, it is more of a security communication system and the amount of the project is $470 million.
Fifteen percent of that amount has been paid by Nigeria while the Exim Bank of China pays the balance of 85 percent. In other words, it is a way of taking loan to achieve it.
But what is more important is that Nigerians must get value for their money. In the wake of insecurity that is prevalent now, the ministry on its own is doing everything it can to ensure that this project is delivered. But what is uppermost in my mind, is to ensure that this project gets completed within the shortest possible time.
So, since I came to the ministry, I have tried to assist considerably to ensure that wherever the contractors have problem on this project, we try as much as possible to resolve it very quickly.
We are supposed to have 2000 cameras. One thousand cameras have already been installed in Lagos and another 1000 in Abuja.
The other area where the contractor is having a problem is in the area of frequency. The problem is that they wanted that the present frequency which they are operating should be changed since it is being used by another agency.
But, in my view, there is nothing that should be compromised for the security of our nation. Even if we had some people on that frequency, there is need to look at it patriotically and concede the frequency for national interest.
About 1.5 million lines are expected to be on stream. About 500,000 thousand lines are slated for the security agencies while the remaining one million would be used by the private companies.
At the Force Headquarters, I have personally gone there to see the display of the pictures captured by the cameras that have been installed for the CCTV. I have been able to see the effect. It has been test run and you need to see them.
However that is not to say that the whole thing is fully ready. There are still some gaps here and there. The technical experts will be able to handle them. I have seen some aspect of it and the pictures are sharp.
But the company is alleged to have deployed inferior equipment to Nigeria. Have you checked what they are bringing to the country?
I wouldn't say that what they are bringing is inferior. There are specifications. Nobody can buy an equipment of this nature without specifications. Nobody has said that the cameras they brought are not what we asked for. If a statement like that is made, it is better understood by those who made it.
My greatest challenge in this project is to encourage Nigerians who are not too comfortable about how the project is going, to key into it, see what they can do to get it completed.
When do you think that the project will be completed?
As I told you, we are driving this project; we are also getting support from state governors to get this thing completed especially the ones that have to do with the release of sites where they mount their towers and masts. I foresee that the project can be completed in the next five to six months that is towards the end of the year.
But it is subject to how we are able to surmount these challenges. I assure you that the best we can do is to continuously monitor them as well as continuously remove the obstacles that hinder their progress. It is executed by a Chinese company and sometimes, the Nigerian factor comes into play. In some cases they can't even understand certain aspects and it is our duty as a ministry to encourage them to overcome those aspects.
Will it solve most of our security challenges when completed?
No, no. I will not say that. What I do know is that the equipment is as good as the user. Any equipment is as good as the user in the sense that somebody must know how to use it, he must be trained on it.
But once the equipment becomes functional, it will greatly enhance our security. The benefits are enormous and greater than not having it.
So what are you doing in that direction? Have you started training people on how to handle the equipment or you are relying on police personnel?
Training is going on in that respect. Some people are being trained abroad while others are receiving training locally. The equipment is being manned presently by some personnel.
What is it that you are bringing to the table to move the Nigeria police force to the next level?
I want to say that the problem of the police is not a problem that started yesterday. Over the years, the police have not been given the best in terms of their well being, accommodation, welfare, training and equipment.
The training for policemen should be continuous at all levels, namely, low level, middle level and top level so that they can be on top of their job; but because of the neglect over the years, they have not been able to live up to expectations.
But I do have hope that things will change because we have no choice, we have to provide internal security for the nation. It is also strange that in this decade, we are just installing the security gadget of this nature for the first time, it is strange. But it will show you that people are thinking; they ought to have done it a long time ago.
The police force needs many other things that can make them more efficient and responsive to Nigerians. They are just working without a means. The problem is legion and yet a lot is expected from them.
I see the problems because of my background and I cannot hide it that we need to support and encourage them. Out of nothing, they are trying. I really praise them. They go on foreign assignments and they excel. That clearly shows that if we give them the tools to work with, they will serve us better.
But because of other compelling needs, sometimes, they don't get the kind of funding they ought to get. But since President Jonathan came on board, he has been very supportive of the police with the procurement of helicopters, Armoured Personnel Carriers etc.
By the time this equipment is being put into use, the police will be more effective. Once the training aspect becomes more regular locally and internationally, the police will be better because criminal are becoming more daring by the day particularly, in the area of terrorism.
We have to approach it with more vigour, gather more intelligence and add international dimension which means we have to expand our horizon and use it to get what is needed to fight it besides looking inwards. All these will bring about improvement in the police.
Nigerians believe we don't have enough police personnel to protect lives and property going by the United Nations template.
Well, you would have noticed that the police conducted some recruitment recently. There is a need to do more to improve on it.
But in my way of looking at it, they have to bring about quality. It is not just increasing the number but to bring about quality training, people who are science-oriented and can use technology to understand the 21st century policing.
Since the police force is essentially there to carry out law enforcement, there are technicalities required to do that because things are changing. We want to bring youthfulness to police so that they are more active and more agile and the intellect to be able to comprehend government and how to tackle criminality at all times.
I appreciate the fact that we need to increase the strength of the police, but it should not be the starting point. They should go on aggressive training. They should also gradually phase out the aged so that they can be able to confront the daring criminality that is ravaging us. But it is something that has to be handled with care.
At the end of your tenure, what would you like to be remembered for?
I will want to be remembered for bringing about professionalism in the police and to see that the police force is firmly with the masses. The relationship between the police and the masses must be improved upon.
I want to see a much more responsive and responsible police force that is friendly with the people they are supposed to serve and protect. They must be civil and polite enough in order to gain the confidence of the people to assist them with information.