By Sonia Odita
On Saturday September 10, 2022 at the Police Officers Mess, GRA Ikeja Lagos, the Commissioner of Police in charge of Lagos, CP Sylvester Abiodun Alabi; a Fellow of the National Defence College (fdc) took journalists back on the memory lane when he reiterated without equivocation, an earlier statement he had made some six months ago during an interactive session soon after he assumed office as Lagos Police boss.
During the session which was his maiden parley with crime reporters, he had emphatically declared that it was abominable for members of the public to corruptly enrich police personnel through bribery for whatever reason. Sounding it loud and clear to whoever cared to listen, Alabi declared that whoever gives bribe to police is as guilty as the police personnel who receive such ill-gotten money. To many Nigerians, this may sound strange as the regime of bribery and other forms of corrupt enrichment has over time been the hallmark of most of Nigeria’s police personnel.
As irksome as it is, the mention of demand for bribe by police officers and men would quickly stoke some ill – feeling from Alabi who strongly believes that any such ill-gotten wealth would always attract negative consequences in the life of those who thrive on it. He would not hesitate to remind officers and men of the Police Force wherever they may be, to always create good will with members of the public who come in contact with them, as survival in their post retirement years would largely depend on the good will created while in service.
Deployed by the Inspector General of Police; Alkali Usman Baba to Lagos in January, 2022 as Commissioner of Police in charge of the State Command, CP Alabi had assumed office wearing the toga of the right man for the job. Policing a state like Lagos is not a tea party as its cosmopolitan status comes with enormous challenges that can easily make or mar the reputation and professional career of a Commissioner of Police, depending on one’s pedigree and ability or lack of it, to navigate the socio-political intrigues that come to play from time to time. Alabi has rightly fitted in.
Born on 31st December 1964 at Ilawe-Ekiti in present day Ekiti State to the family of Mr. Owoeye and Mrs. Alice Alabi of blessed memory, Abiodun Sylvester Alabi hails from Ekiti South-West Local Government Area of Ekiti state. After his primary and secondary school education, he was admitted into the University of Lagos where he studied Sociology and graduated with a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) degree, Second Class Upper Division in 1986. Quite determined to move the stakes higher intellectually, the young Alabi went on to enroll for Masters of Science (M.Sc) degree also in Sociology at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, another prestigious citadel of learning and graduated in 1989.
As a sociologist by learning and qualification, he was quite at home with what a plural society like Nigeria needs particularly with its security agencies. With his mind prepared for the uniform profession, he did not hesitate to seek enlistment into the Nigeria Police Force. With a higher degree, there was no doubt that he was going into the elite category of the Force. So on 3rd March, 1990 he was enlisted as a Cadet Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP). Since he joined the Force he has served in various capacities in the Nigeria Police Force within and outside Nigeria, notably among United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in 2001.
He was mobilised into the elite Police Mobile Force as Unit Commander in August 2001 and in April 2004, he became Squadron Commander of Police Mobile Force Squadron 43 Lagos (Diplomatic Protection Squadron) in charge of the security of all Embassies in Lagos. It is relevant to say that Diplomatic Protection unit of the Nigeria Police Force by its very nature as dealing with diplomatic missions in Nigeria; requires not just operational astuteness of the police but the capability and capacity to intellectually relate with such finesse that meets global standard.
Little wonder, Sylvester Abiodun Alabi could be considered for the leadership of such unit in his own time given his academic background. As the man in charge of all the diplomatic missions in Lagos with respect to security of lives and property, Alabi was no doubt charged with no mean task as any little breach from any of the embassies could be a minus on the credibility of his career. With divine guidance, he was able to hold forte effectively till he was redeployed to some other assignment.
He was demobilized from the Police Mobile Force in June 2009 as a Chief Superintendent of Police after serving for eight years in the Mobile Force. He was subsequently posted to Lion Building Divisional Headquarters as the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in the Lagos State Police Command and later redeployed as the DPO of Ikeja Divisional Headquarters also in Lagos.
As he progressed on his police career, Alabi has attended several courses among which are Junior Command Course, Intermediate Command Course, Leadership, and Senior Management Course. Some of the courses were preparatory to his elevation to higher ranks. In September 2013, he was promoted to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police and deployed to Force Headquarters Abuja as ACP (Admin) in charge of Police Mobile Force.
In June 2016, he was promoted to the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police and posted to Taraba State Police Command as DCP Administration. He was in Taraba for one year and diligently contributed towards ensuring that peace reigned in that state even with the increasing spate of insurgency and banditry in the northern part of the country. In July 2017, he was subsequently posted to Bayelsa State Command as the Deputy Commissioner of Police also in charge of Administration. As a socially distinguished officer quite adept in social relations involving personalities of various ethnic extractions, Alabi’s tenure in Bayelsa was as fulfilling as his experience in Taraba.
In December 2018, he was posted to his home state of Ekiti to take charge as the Deputy Commissioner of Police( Operations) at the State Command. As a time tested officer, he was equal to the task operationally speaking. Incidentally he was serving in Ekiti State when he was nominated for the National Defence College (NDC), Abuja, Course 28 programme. Getting the nomination to attend the Defence College by any serving officer comes as a great privilege as it is not a pedestrian centre of learning. It is strictly reversed for the intellectually prepared and operationally qualified candidates in the security agencies.
It is therefore with great passion that Abiodun Alabi grabbed the opportunity with two hands. At the Defence College, he was meant to take lectures on Higher Defence and Strategic Course and apply himself studiously to the nit gritty of it with a view to positioning himself for greater future challenges both in policing and other leadership assignments in the governance space. He was quite committed and like the astute intellectual that he is, he came out excellently well and honoured with the Fellowship of the Defence College hence he could conveniently add “fdc” after his name.
At the completion of his Higher Defence and Strategic Course at the National Defence College, CP Abiodun was promoted to the rank of the Commissioner of Police (CP) and deployed to the Central Criminal Registry (CCR), Force Criminal Investigation Department, (FCID) Annex, Alagbon, Lagos, from where he was transferred to Bauchi State Command as the Commissioner of Police. As a detribalized Nigeria, Alabi had no problem working in Bauchi State as the Commissioner of Police. His redeployment to Bauchi was his second coming to serve in the Northern part of the country, having earlier served in Taraba as Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Administration at the Taraba State Command.
Commissioner of Police, Abiodun Alabi served in Bauchi till he was reposted to Lagos in January, 2022 to take over from Hakeem Odumosu who had just been promoted Assistant Inspector General of Police and was also on his way to retirement. His posting to Lagos was another home coming as he had earlier served in various capacities in the time past in Lagos. The Lagos environment and the policing terrain were therefore, not strange to him. More so, as a middle rank officer, Alabi endowed with a likeable personality, had in those early years endeared himself to many journalists particularly on crime beat.
His friendship among crime reporters was sustained over the years even when he was posted outside of Lagos. Even though by virtue of his position in those early years, he could not officially speak to the press on any crime related issues, he had maintained such intimacy that lasted till he became a commissioner of police and could now speak authoritatively to the media. This, ostensibly was the reason he could not hesitate to hold an interactive session with members of the Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria (CRAN) few weeks after assumption of office in Lagos.
With a benefit of hindsight, Alabi knew too well that no society meaningfully develops without the media playing some role. He knew well enough also that for Nigerians to be abreast of what goes on, in the policing space, the media must be the vehicle to disseminate every information. He could therefore not do anything less than to embrace the media as partners in progress. In doing so, he would readily make it known that he runs an open door policy which makes it easy for categories of people to relate with him. He gives a listening ear and has obviously been reaping the benefits that come with it, in terms of intelligence gathering.
It is on record that during his first interactive session with reporters earlier in the year, Commissioner of Police, Abiodun Sylvester Alabi, had among other things assured Lagos residents that no rights of Lagosians would be breached by any police officer during his time in office. Obviously aware of the fact that one of the greatest ills of police personnel across various states of the federation is the brazen display of impunity that largely borders on abuse of peoples’ rights, Alabi could not hesitate to declare his aversion for any such practice.
To walk his talk, he has openly aligned with the Crime Victims Foundation of Nigeria (CRIVIFON); a non-governmental organization, in the vanguard of promoting the rights of persons particularly victims of crime, to ensure that Human Rights Desks established at the various divisions of the Lagos State Police Command are still operationally utilized by those who feel their rights have been abused. As a measure of strengthening the human rights regime in the Lagos Police Command, Alabi has fully endorsed the training of more officers and men of the Command in human rights education by CRIVIFON which in collaboration with other civil society organizations have been in the fore front of educating police personnel on peoples’ rights.
In this month of September, 2022 no fewer than a hundred of police officers and men trained by CRIVIFON legal officers would be graduating after completing a three month intensive human rights training that covered various aspects such as the entire provisions of Chapter IV (Fundamental Rights) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution, International human rights documents, Child Rights Law, new Criminal Justice Administration law, Election Security and Code of Conduct for Nigeria Police Force personnel. The graduation ceremony is being co-hosted by the Lagos State Police Stakeholders Accountability Forum which is imminently supported by Commissioner Alabi `
During the maiden parley with crime reporters soon on assumption of office as Lagos police boss, Alabi had also declared that in going forward with effective policing in the state, apart from journalists, he would be working closely with traditional rulers, community leaders and residents to tackle crimes and protect lives and property. Speaking specifically about the media at that event he posited that the media have an important role in shaping the information that would help checkmate activities of the officers, prevent abuse of offices and respect fundamental rights. What he is doing at present, is a confirmation of the promise at that maiden parley with respect to checkmating human rights abuse.
With respect to carrying Lagosians along in policing the state, Commissioner Alabi would readily tell anyone who cares to listen that with respect to the general insecurity in the country, the way out is for all hands to be on deck as security is everybody’s business. He would not hesitate to say that as far as he is concerned, all security agencies in the country are doing their best to ensure that there’s the safety of lives and properties on the land. He would however, contend that we cannot afford to leave security to all the security agencies alone as every individual has a role to play in ensuring that the country is secure by a way of intelligence and information sharing.
He would audaciously inform you that if you harbour criminals and they are unleashing terror in your domain or territory, you are not being patriotic in that regard but if you share the information on time and that allows the security agency to nip them in the bud, it will be beneficial to all of us. So, everybody should be involved in securing the country. According to him, the success so far achieved in Lagos State in the last seven months he has been on the saddle could be attributed to the intelligence gathered from members of the public by the various tactical units like the Rapid Response Squad, Intelligence Response Team and so on.
During his maiden interactive session with crime reporters, about six months ago, there had been the allegation that police personnel attached to the tactical units were not responding timely to distress calls. Alabi promptly promised to strengthen the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) and other tactical units to respond properly to distress calls on time. Gladly, statistics in current time have shown that there is a decline in the rate of various crimes in the state particularly violent crimes, all courtesy of Rapid Response Squad (RRS), Intelligence Response Team (IRT) and Anti-Cultism units.
Statistics released at the September 10, 2022 interactive session with crime reporters at the Police Officers Mess, Ikeja Lagos revealed that between June and August, 2022 a total of 37 armed robbery attempts were foiled by officers and men of the Lagos Police Command. While 35 armed robbery suspects were arrested within the period of two months, 13 suspects were killed during gun duel with the police. No fewer than 32 arms and 78 ammunitions were recovered in the state. while 15 suspected cultists were arrested 55 murder cases were recorded. From the statistics, it is revealing that more robbery incidents would have occurred in the state possibly with disastrous consequences if not for proactive posturing of Alabi’s officers and men.
In keeping to his earlier promise that there would no longer be illegal arrest, illegal detention and molestation of members of the public by police in Lagos, Commissioner Alabi has lived up to his promise as he has kept his watch on Divisional Police Officers and their officers and men who often take laws into their hands to arrest illegally and in some cases illegally detain innocent citizens on trumped up charges. A recent example of his hard stance against illegality in policing was the arrest, trial and dismissal of Corporal Opeyemi Kadiri with Force No. 509745 attached to Dolphin Police Division of the Lagos Police Command.
On August 3, 2022 a viral video had trended in the social media showing Kadiri searching a commuter’s phone and molesting him by the road side contrary to earlier order by the Inspector General of Police. The Corporal who enlisted in the Police Force in December, 2016 was dismissed for gross misconduct and disobedience to lawful order. Even though, there were reactions from some members of the public with respect to the dismissal, the decision had to remain unchanged to serve as deterrent to others. In his maiden interactive session Commissioner Alabi had declared that he would not tolerate a situation where anybody was being molested or maltreated unjustifiably. Alabi who promised that he will make the Lagos police earn the same respect the Nigeria police is accorded during peacekeeping missions, had remarked that “Nigerians have impeccable record when we work with other police in other parts of the world during peacekeeping mission, but what happens when we get home?
As a forthright personae who never bothers whose ox is gored, Commissioner Alabi would want to the pass some blame on the civil populace whom he accused of corruptly enriching the police through one form of bribery or the other. He so much believed that no police officer could force anyone to part with his money, as some Nigerians often believe that they are at the mercy of policemen and they need to give money to secure their freedom, which is not so.
He hates and detests extortion of any kind with passion and his sing song has always been that bail should continue to be free as ordered by police policy. To him, on no account should anyone pay for bail because bail is free but Nigerians do not believe in it. “ Even on the roads, when they did not commit any offence, they would bring out money when approaching a police checkpoint.”
To Commissioner Alabi, it would do police officers and men a world of good for them to make friends, as he so much believes that there are good people who want to be friends with policemen, but many officers do not make themselves available. Without mincing words, the commissioner would say loud and clear that the friends an officer makes during career are the ones one would fall back to, in retirement. He could cite endless examples of how good will would remain a post service catalyst for any officer who cared to do the right thing and shun corrupt practices.
With a background anchored on humility, Commissioner of Police Sylvester Abiodum Alabi has remained a man of the people both as a police officer and as a citizen of his Ilawe Ekiti in Ekiti State. With a clean record of service in the Nigeria Police Force spanning a period of about 30 years, he stands to be celebrated by both the Police Force, his family and the entire Ilawe-Ekiti community. Little wonder therefore that on Friday, April 22, 2022, the Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti Oba Adebanji Ajibade Alabi hosted a special dinner party to honour him. Such a royal decision could only be taken in honour of an illustrious citizen whose achievement can stand the test of time. It is certainly not a pedestrian affair.
So the event came as a classy dinner affair which held in the palace of the Alawe. The occasion had called for celebration. It was a day meant not only for CP Alabi but his family, friends, associates, the Ilawe –Ekiti community and many others. Top dignitaries from across the state, Lagos and Abuja were also present to honour him. The guests included senior police officers, his friends from other security agencies, business community, academia and other social classes. At the event, some of the guests spoke so highly of him, extolling his virtues as upright police officer with a likeable personality that draws friendship across the various ethnic and religious divides.
At the occasion, it was interesting to note that many of the guests were not economical with the much they know about Commissioner Alabi with respect to his generous and friendly disposition. They could not hesitate to openly declare how at one time or the other he had assisted them pro bono professionally or otherwise. Just like what he has often preached, there were testimonies of how he willingly assisted those in difficulty to professionally resolve their matters without asking for any form of gratification. There were praises galore for him from different guests. His refreshing style of policing drew much applause as one guest or another paid tribute to his outstanding achievements so far in modern policing. The testimonies did much to reinforce the belief that CP Alabi is truly a very humble and down to earth personality. He is not an officer that is unapproachable.
As an illustrious son of Ilawe-Ekiti with patriotic tendency and the penchant to uplift others, he has facilitated the enlistment of a good number of Ilawe sons and daughters in the Nigeria Police Force over the years. He considers it a compelling duty to show the light to others and help in taking the position of a destiny helper to many young indigenes of Ilawe-Ekiti in actualizing their ambition of joining the Nigeria Police Force. He has similarly given referrals to others to be engaged in some other places with opportunity. More so; as an elite, he has contributed enormously to the growth and development of Ilawe-Ekiti in several ways and contributing ideas and intellectually promoting the town.
CP Abiodun according to findings never uses his office or rank to usurp anyone no matter what the case may be. His disposition tends towards considering others first before himself in situations that may warrant unhealthy rivalry. This, he has reliably demonstrated over the years in his service as a police officer who considers his followers first. He has a soft heart for the less privileged and has always been there for them and uses his office to defend the defenceless.
These and many more attributes obviously prompted Oba Adebanji Alabi to confer the title of Okanlomo Ilawe-Ekiti on him with his wife being honoured as the Erelu Okanlomo during the 10th coronation anniversary of the Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti on Saturday, April 23, 2022, in Ilawe-Ekiti, Ekiti State. It was well deserved honour that can only be bestowed on personalities with outstanding attributes. Notably, Commissioner Sylvester Abiodun Alabi does not take the title for granted. Besides the conferment of the Okanlomo title on CP Alabi, over the years, he has garnered so many awards and accolades.
As an Ilawe-Ekiti indigene, he obviously knows the meaning and worth of the new title which to him is another addition to duty, to confirm the common saying that the reward for hard work is more work. The Okanlomo Ilawe-Ekiti title is something Alabi has taken with every sense of humility and joy with a strong belief that it would afford him more opportunities to influence the younger generation for the better. He deeply believes that the new title offers him the privilege to mentor the younger people both on the job and in their immediate environment.
As a sociologist, he believes in building strong social relationships that would form everlasting bond particularly in his Ilawe-Ekiti community where the young ones need better guidance and mentoring that would help to unify the indigenes as a people with common destiny rather than promote centrifugal tendencies that would lead to disunity and ultimate disintegration.
As a serving senior police officer, Sylvester Abiodun Alabi like any concerned senior officer, the insecurity situation in the country which seems unsolvable in the past decade at any time may not want to engage in the controversial issue of replacing the current federal police structure with state police as he firmly believes that whether state police or local police, the fact still remains that community policing is part of the policy trust of the current administration. This is in view of the fact that the federal government has approved that the Nigeria Police should ensure that community policing is entrenched in our way of combating crime and that has been done. Policing has been brought to the grassroots by involving critical stakeholders at the community level to assist with critical information and this has made policing quite easy
In a forum few months ago, the police boss had expressed the hope that when you keep having critical stakeholders meeting in the community, constant meetings by way of workshops, stakeholders meetings, and regular meetings with the members of the public and stakeholders in the community, it is a way of building trust. When you keep engaging them and you give room for them to engage you too, you are gradually building trust in such a community, you are endearing them towards you, you are telling them that you are not doing this work alone, you need their partnership, collaboration and corporation. And in the course of doing that, they will have confidence in the police and other security agencies and they will avail them with the necessary information and intelligence needed to do their jobs successfully.
Ostensibly in that light with respect to policing Lagos, Alabi is quite aware of the fact that the number of police personnel in the state were inadequate, but with community/police partnership, the current number could tackle all crimes and criminality just as he believes that the Police Force is committed to accountability, where those with excellent performances would always be rewarded amongst the personnel, and sanctions meted out to erring and unprofessional ones in the performance of their statutory duties of protection of lives and properties.