Mr. Mohammed Ali is the Commissioner of Police in charge of Delta State Police Command. Before his command, the officer, who served a large part of his crime-fighting career in Lagos, held sway in different capacities, including as divisional police officer in many stations, especially in Apapa, and as area commander in Area B, Apapa, and Area C in Surulere, before he was made the deputy commissioner of police in charge of operations, Lagos State Police Command. From there, he was promoted to Commissioner of Police and the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Alkali Baba, who was impressed by Ali’s track record, posted him to Delta State Police Command to take over from the former CP, who was elevated to the position of Assistant Inspector-General of police. Since Ali took over the com,mand, he has not disappointed the IGP and the people of Delta State. In this interview with Philomina Oji ,the no-nonsense police boss discussed issues surrounding the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and efforts by the proscribed group to infiltrate the state, warning that his command would resist any attempt by IPOB and any criminal group to foment trouble in Delta. He also stated that the command did not accept the phenomenon of ‘unknown gunmen’ tormenting states in the South-East and South-South, as the police would unmask any gunman and reveal his identity. Excerpt:
How are you handling the challenge of IPOB trying to infiltrate Delta State?
You have known me too well; we have been friends for over one decade and you know my antecedent. You have known me while I was a DPO. I don’t take nonsense. I was sent to Delta State by the workaholic and no-nonsense IGP, Mr. Alkali Baba, with the mandate to maintain peace and order in Delta State, and on that mandate I stand. Why should anybody or group of individuals come to disturb the peace of the people that the IGP gave me the mandate to protect? I won’t take it. Delta State is not part of IPOB’s agenda, and the people should not be dragged into their useless Monday sit-at-home order. In fact, I don’t know the devil that sold the idea of thinking that my command would take that rubbish from them. They sneaked into the state and started committing havoc, but they met their Waterloo.
How do you know that the ‘unknown gunmen’ were IPOB?
I don’t want to hear ‘unknown gunmen’ in my command. There is nothing like unknown gunmen. In my command, we unmask gunmen and we expose them. Well, one time, before they started committing havoc, some faceless people started circulating some posters, talking of sit-at-home. I warned them to stay clear of the state because Delta State does not have reason to be part of them, but they would not listen. They started attacking police stations and killing my men. Their modus operandi left traces of IPOB. The way they operated and their insignia, comprising of flags and charms and the threat made to enforce sit-at-home in Delta exposed them. They committed a lot of sins.
What are the sins?
They committed a lot of atrocities. On May 24, they killed three gallant police officers at Okpanam, in Oshimili North. On May 18, they burnt four vehicles along Illah Road. On June 5, they shot dead a commercial motorcycle operator and a policeman. They went to Umu-Utu and killed two policemen and carted away two AK-47 rifles. They went to Ashaka, although they didn’t kill anybody, but they torched the police station. They also attacked Akwukwu-Igbo. They attacked my men at Isele-Azagba, after which they attacked Customs officers on duty; chased them into the bush and set their vehicles on fire. I led the rescue mission, where I ordered the Customs officers to come out of the bush. I met the fire burning. That was how they attacked my men at Agbor. My men were just coming down from their vehicle to pin down on their vintage point and they came under heavy gunfire. They gunned down my men and carted away two rifles. Well, we have recovered five rifles and one of those rifles was among the two carted away from Agbor police division. They caused serious tension for the people of Delta but, to God be the glory, they met their Waterloo after a fierce gun battle as we neutralized 10 of them. In fact, the same gang that represented IPOB in Delta State was causing all the havoc in the state.
How has it been since your men neutralized the syndicate?
It was the same syndicate that was really responsible for all the atrocities, pains, tears and sorrow for the people. After they met their Waterloo, we don’t have problems anymore. We are no longer experiencing killings and attacks on police stations. You know that the devil does not rest, but like a baby who says that his mother will not sleep, he also will not sleep. The other day, three of them came to test our might, forgetting that we operate 24 hours. One of them was summarily neutralized during a gun duel, while others escaped with bullet injuries into the bush. I know that they may die in the bush and we have started combing the bushes. Well, if they survive the attack, I have sent them a message, which they will take back to others, that Delta State Police Command under my watch will not tolerate IPOB and their stupid sit-at-home order. I swear, they should not try me, because I am not here to joke but to do the mandate of the IGP, which is to maintain law and order in Delta State.
After the death of the 10-man IPOB gang, we have not had problems. We are only having harvest of achievements. We are now arresting criminals and recovering arms and ammunition from them. My public relations officer is issuing press statements daily. With the statements, you can see that we are doing a lot, but we are not having any more issues with IPOB. They can’t operate in Delta State, because we are ready 24 hours.
The Owoh, Ondo State, church massacre is a pointer that churches are prone to attack by terrorists; what are you doing about it in your command?
Before the Owoh massacre, I had briefed my command about church security. I started by issuing warnings to area commanders, divisional police officers, heads of police formations and tactical units and special squads to guard religious homes, recreational centres and other places during festive seasons, but I later extended the vigil to Fridays and Sundays. I detail plainclothes and covert policemen to religious homes, especially the big churches and mosques. I also deploy my men on any other day the church is doing anything or organising special prayers.
Does a church need to apply for police protection before policemen are deployed?
Not at all, it is an operational order to my DPOs and area commanders that they must not wait for anyone to apply. Whenever on wherever there is a gathering, whether religious, political or social, my men must be there. If the DPOs or area commanders and my special squads are not on ground in such gathering, if anything untoward happens, they will all be treated like accomplices to the crime. I don’t mince words with the operational order. Officers and men of my command know that we are not here to joke. So, they don’t wait for me to remind them that they have to protect churches, especially the big ones, on Sundays. I have told them that terrorists target big churches and gatherings of big populations to tell the government that they are in charge. I don’t want terrorists in my command.
What are the other measures put in place to checkmate criminals?
I don’t need to tell you other strategies, except that we do ‘show of force’ every week to warm criminals that we are well equipped and ready to deal with them. We have also deployed plainclothes and covert personnel to the streets. We also have visible police patrols all over the state. Our informants, members of the public, are doing well. We have built confidence with the members of the public who know that we won’t betray them when they pass information to us.
Robbery and cultism are the major crimes in Delta State. If you are caught for robbery or cultism, you will go in for it. If you engage my men or even me during operation, you will regret it. If you are lucky to escape our superior firepower, thank your God, but if not, you are to blame. If you surrender to us, we arrest you and charge you to court. Cultism is a major problem. We have arrested so many of them, yet they are still recruiting more persons. Parents should warn their children to steer clear of crime, especially robbery and cultism.
What is your message to criminals?
First, I want criminals of any guise, IPOB, unknown gunmen, armed robbers or kidnappers, to know that crime is crime and my duty as a policeman is to fight crime. That is what I am paid with taxpayers’ money to do. It is only a foolish man that plays with his job. I won’t play with my job. I will fight the enemies of the government to finish. Like I told you, we don’t believe in unknown gunmen, we shall unmask them and make them to be known. It is better for criminals to relocate from Delta State or turn a new leaf, if they don’t want to incur my wrath. I want to warn cultists to stay clear of the state. I won’t say, because you are youths, I will condone your nefarious activities. You are causing havoc under cultism.
For the good citizens of Delta State, be rest assured that your lives and properties are well protected. We are working round the clock to see that you sleep with your eyes closed. Don’t be afraid of IPOB’s stupid sit-at-home order. They will never ever succeed in the state under my command. What I need from you is to be law-abiding and to cooperate with the police and other sister agencies by giving us information that will bring progress in the state. Security agencies can perform well only when you give information that will lead to the arrest of criminal elements in our midst. When you give information about unscrupulous people in your midst, you are helping yourself because we will arrest them and remove them from your community. When there is peace in the state, investors will come and invest and people will be employed. No reasonable investor will come to invest in a crime-prone environment. When the atmosphere is good, you people will rejoice, as investors will invest and give people, especially youths, employment. Finally, if you don’t want IPOB to destroy your state, report their activities in your area, report their activities to us. You see people converging in an unholy hours, report to the nearest police station. Don’t keep quiet. So, when you see something, monitor the activities of the people in your vicinity and give us information. Begin with your children and neighbours, and crime rate will reduce drastically.