Mr Fatai Owoseni, a retired police commissioner, is Special Adviser on Security Matters to Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State. In this interview first aired on Arise News, Fatai speaks on Tuesday’s dusk explosion in Ibadan which claimed at least five lives, injured 77 and wrecked several houses across the state capital including those belonging to the government.
The explosion, which happened in the Bodija area of Ibadan and triggered by explosives said to have been stored in a private residence by suspected illegal miners believed to be Malians, was heard in many parts of the metropolis. Only last Friday, the management of a hotel near the explosive site claimed a top staff member died of shock from the blast. Owoseni speaks on the tragic incident. Excerpts:
How did people stockpile explosives in residential areas and security agencies in the state were not in the know? Are there not supposed to be regulations on explosives and storage? How did they do it and security agencies did not know? And have you identified the landlord of the affected house? Also, we understand that some of the neighbours knew what the building was being used for.
What is the government doing to ensure that people don’t harbour explosives in residential areas?
First, things that have to do with mining are on the Exclusive List and, of course, in this country, that’s part of the reasons people are calling for restructuring. You must give states some obligations to monitor these things, but when you intervene, they tell you “we got our licence”. I can tell you that for the past two years, His Excellency, Governor Makinde has been engaging the Federal Government with regards to mining. The illegal mining business in Ibadan, around Ojoo, is populated by foreigners and, when you go there to do any operation, either as the police or other state apparatus, they will show you the approval which they have gotten from the Federal Government.
I want to think that it is the kind of engagement that Governor Makinde had with the Federal Government that made them to divest power to say that international mining markets will be created in four locations across the country, and because of the push, they gave Ibadan one of the international markets. With regards to how these things happen and people don’t know, some people have even said “we reported before”.
How does government ensure that this kind of disaster does not happen again?
Like, I mentioned earlier, government won’t know if people don’t give information. People are saying that they reported this before. Why is it that it is now that that information is coming out? Secondly, if such a thing has been reported, it cannot just be wished away, they have very strong landlords/residents association at Bodija where this incident occurred. All these people that are talking, did they even bring this to the notice of the association? Like I said, when you have such people living in such area (landlords/residents), you can’t take them for granted and whoever has reported it must have brought it to the attention of the association.
The landlords/residents association also has a collective obligation to get any criminally minded person to understand that what he or she is doing is dangerous.
It is only in Nigeria that we pay little attention to security issues. Moving on, people have come to say “there are other locations in Ibadan”. It is just now that this happened that people are saying that. With the interaction Governor Makinde had with security agencies in the state, we have created avenues for people to come up with credible intelligence that can be checked. The Department of State Security, DSS, has done some work before…
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Can you share with us those avenues created for people to send information?
There are telephone lines which I will not be able to divulge now but we have what we call ‘Citizens’ Enquiry Number’ in the state, which is 615. They don’t need to know you because, through this number, we have received information about things happening in the state before which the governor used to resolve issues. We have been having face-to-face interaction with communities and adjoining streets who say “Oh! We fear that some people beside us might be doing the same thing”. Some people have been calling to say, “We suspect such things might be happening”, in their areas. So, we have been interfacing with them and have given them other numbers, even online. What we just need is for us to be vigilant. It is an ongoing thing.
What are the next steps you are taking to stop illegal mining in Oyo?
It is a collective effort. Like I told you, mining issues are under the Exclusive List. I can say what our governor has been doing; an Executive Order has been signed where the governor drew the attention of the Federal Government to the fact that the negative impact of mining is felt by host communities and their states. So an Executive Order was issued towards the end of last year to protect the environment. Nigeria is one kind country. I can tell you that with my 35 years experience in the police, we have so many laws without the wherewithal for enforcement. When you talk of leadership and enforcement, citizens must also know that they have the civic responsibility to comply with the laws. Nigerian is probably one of the most difficult countries to enforce laws.
There are things we do and we do not know that they are against the law. We also need to upgrade the capacity of our security operatives. You don’t enforce a law you do not know. As I mentioned earlier, the Explosive Ordinance Law, you will find out that some of the people wearing uniforms have not heard about it before. Again, proliferation of agencies is what is leading to security challenges. When you duplicate roles, you make some agencies redundant.
There is also the possibility that the agencies may not know what to do, leading to poor coordination. We have a lot to do with regards to security in this country. This is just little part of it. And the state government is aware of that. You need to know what Oyo State (government) has been doing about illegal mining, constantly raiding, clearing the bush up to Niger State. If we have not been engaging, a lot would have happened in the state.
What is the update on fatality?
We have five dead, 77 wounded.