One of the major challenges which stared Oyo State governor, Abiola Ajimobi, in the face at inception in 2011, was how to bring the state back to the path of sanity and ensure the security of lives and property. This became imperative in view of the apparent collapse of the security apparatus, culminating in total breakdown of law and order in the pacesetter state. Before the advent of the administration, Oyo State had become a state of bedlam, with stories of wanton bloodshed always in the news. Ibadan, the state capital, was a fiefdom under the firm control of some political merchants, with motor park touts, political jobbers and unsuspecting youths as willing tools to unleash terror on the residents of the city. The situation became so deplorable that legitimate businesses were threatened and those desirous of contributing their quota to the development of the state fled.
It is an incontrovertible fact that security is sine qua non to good governance. Indeed, the primary responsibility of government is to ensure security of lives and property, as enshrined in the nation’s Constitution. Thus, there cannot be said to be government except it has ensured that a secure environment is put in place. Indeed, the moment a government is unable to provide security for its people; it ceases to be so called. It was in realisation of this, coupled with the fact that it would be extremely difficult to bring the development the state had been yearning for without peace and security, that the governor put security in the front burner at the inception of his administration. To achieve the developmental stride, Governor Ajimobi came out with a development blueprint or pyramid of development, the fulcrum of which was security and safety.
Consequently, he launched a joint security outfit codenamed ‘Operation Burst’ to tackle the inherited security challenges. He equipped the outfit with state-of-the-art communication equipment, a fleet of patrol vehicles and Armoured Personnel Carriers, to enhance its operational efficiency. As a further demonstration of his commitment to the restoration of peace, the governor inaugurated the Oyo State Security Trust Fund (OYSTF) in July 2012. The move was meant to bring in stakeholders to partner government in raising funds for the security of lives and property of the citizens. The inauguration ceremony was graced by eminent personalities from all walks of life, including a former Governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Tinubu; renowned industrialist, Mr. Oba Otudeko; the late Aare Musulumi of Yorubaland, Chief Abdul-Azeez Arisekola Alao; Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III; captains of industry, heads of banks and other private organizations. They all contributed their widow’s mite towards the new security arrangement being put in place then.
Although the OYSTF recorded modest success in its operations, judging by the restoration of the desired peace and sanity into the land, the governor still felt the need to strengthen the outfit. Thus, the governor inaugurated a new board for the outfit on August 4, 2017 and appointed a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Chief Adebayo Adelabu, to head the new board. The board was given a mandate to rev up the activities of the OYSTF by waging total war against criminal elements across the state. This was done the same day the newly reconstituted ‘Operation Burst,’ was inaugurated at Idi-Arere in the heart of Ibadan. Prior to the ceremony, the area was being held hostage by ‘One million boys’, a group of criminal elements terrorising some parts of the metropolis. The security outfit was then fortified with officers and men of the Nigerian Army, Navy, Special Response Squad of the Police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, as a way of renewing people’s confidence in its capacity and capability to combat crime and criminality.
While describing both occasions as a milestone in his administration’s efforts at stamping out all forms of violent activities in the state, the governor vowed that things would take a different turn following the development. And indeed, things took a different turn as Ajimobi put in place what he called the “Safe City Project”, a holistic programme designed to enhance the security apparatus of the state in terms of logistics and technical capabilities. It was also targeted at nipping crime and criminality in the bud, especially in major townships.
Through this arrangement, government has installed Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras in some black spots and business districts in Ibadan metropolis. This is being complemented by the introduction of call centres and toll free lines through which security agencies would receive useful security information from members of the public.
The Safe City Project also included what the state government called “Light Up Ibadan.” Already, a large expanse of land had been set aside at the Trans Amusement Park in Ibadan for the sighting of solar power for the project, which, according to the Executive Secretary of the Oyo State Security Trust Fund (OYSSTF), Mr. Femi Oyedipe, would gulp about N750 million. He said that the project, which would be done in phases, had received a boost from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through the donation of N50 million, while some commercial banks had also assisted government with the sum of N250 million.
In furtherance of its safety and security agenda, government is also looking into what it called a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement in security funding which would involve collection of security levy from business premises, filling stations, churches, mosques and other corporate organizations in the state, with an estimated income of about N2b annually.
While justifying the introduction of the security levy, the governor said “supporting security agencies, especially the police, through donation of funds and materials is not peculiar to Oyo State.” He cited the case of the South African Police Service, which he said, pleaded with members of the public few months ago to donate their dogs to the force for the use of its canine units. Ajimobi also mentioned the New York Police Division, which has a dedicated website for donation of money for the prosecution of cases through the New York Police Foundation.
The OYSSTF Executive Secretary said that collection of the security levy had already begun in four local government areas of Ibadan, namely: Ibadan North-East, Ibadan North-West, Ibadan South-West and Ibadan North, adding that the response rate from the affected bodies had been encouraging. The levy is expected to complement the one per cent security tax, which had earlier been introduced on all the contracts executed on behalf of state government.
Given the foregoing, there is no doubting the fact that provision of safety and security is at the heart of the Ajimobi-led administration. However, the current concept of PPP, leveraging on the symbiotic relationship between the public and the private sector in security funding appears to be the only way of addressing the ever-increasing security challenges. Besides, a well-coordinated security arrangement is also required for a crime-free state that would guarantee development and attract investors to the state.
Sadeeq is Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Oyo State on Media (Print)