By Augustine Ehikioya
The new Vice President (Africa) for the global crime organization, INTERPOL, AIG Garba Baba Umar, has assured that the insecurity in Nigeria and Africa will be a thing of the past if the organization’s data are properly harnessed.
According to AIG Umar, who is also Head of INTERPOL National Central Bureau (NCB) Nigeria, his organization has criminal data on banditry, armed robbery, terrorism, kidnapping and many other transnational crimes.
The newly elected first Nigerian and African to become the Vice President of INTERPOL, spoke in an exclusive interview with Security Watch Africa (SWA).
He said “Prior to my posting here, not a lot of Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) know about the tools of INTERPOL, what we can do and how we can help. We serve as catalyst in making the jobs of LEAs easier.
“That is why when l came on board, I tried to reach out to all the Law Enforcement Agencies in Nigeria, including the military so that they can come and see what we have and seek for our assistance in making their job easier.
“You know we have 18 criminal databases, the best in the world, well encrypted. It has never been infiltrated by any organization in the world. We have records that speak volume of criminal data, banditry, armed robbery, terrorism, kidnappings and a host of transnational crimes, proliferation of small and light arms. All these are data that we have,” he said.
He went on “If you steal a rifle from one country and you want to traffic that rifle to another country, we can trace it. We have the records in our data base. If a terrorist that wanted to get into another country, we can inform that other country that expect so so and so person and we give biometrics, the information about that individual and he will be apprehended.
“Or a person that was carrying contraband or illicit drug, we intercept and give information to law enforcement agencies, either the Navy or the NDLEA, they intercept. And we work together to make sure we reduce the ill flow of illicit drugs, drugs that kills the minds of our youths, destroy their future and make life meaningless to them.
“So we try to make sure that the INTERPOL comes to the aid of LEAs to carry out their jobs successfully. And I think, so far, so good, the Nigerian National Central Bureau under my leadership with the support from my Inspector General of Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba, we are doing well. And the Ministry of Police Affairs is doing well by encouraging us to do more.
“I think by now, all the law enforcement agencies are aware of the capabilities of the INTERPOL and that they are reaching out to us in making their jobs easier.”
Specifically on terrorism activities in the North East, and other crimes in the country, he charged the military and other security agencies to always get the biometrics of arrested criminals and details of the recovered weapons in order to trace their country of origin or manufacture country.
He said “You see look at the North East part of Nigeria, our border with Chad, the terrorists come in, strike and go back. And the military are doing well and the other security agencies, they fight them, they recover arms.
“We have to take biometrics, information on those arms. Get the history, the genesis, where are they coming from? Who manufacture them? These are part of what the government can use as a policy to take it at the diplomatic level, after giving them information, that is what INTERPOL is all about.”
He said that he plans to interact with other countries in the African continent to encourage them to use INTERPOL databases in order to check insecurity is the continent.
“That is why I want to reach out to African countries so that LEAs can come together, share intelligence, share information that will reduce crime and criminality.
“Because when you have data of where arms and personnel are coming in, you will be able to prepare and you will take it at the diplomatic level. And that’s what I intend to do as the Vice President of INTERPOL for Africa to bring this to bear on all the countries, to explain, to give information, intelligence where these arms are coming, where these terrorists are coming.
“Any arrest, I will make sure we have the biometrics and even if they escape they can’t hide because the world is like a mirror, it is a global village, you can’t hide. Everyone is gonna see you. That’s how the information I have on my system will be shared to member countries,” he added.
Asked if his office has the capacity to achieve this, he said, “INTERPOL has the capacity and I think we have the political will. I would not have been put forward if the government is not willing to assist.
“And the Nigeria Police, I assure you, under the leadership of IGP Usman Alkali Baba, is willing to assist me to make sure that all my plans, mission and vision come to fruition because I intend to push. I will push. I’m never a failure, I’m a bulldozer and I’m going to bulldoze with information, with intelligence. We have the tools. It’s just to tap these tools, to utilize these tools.”
When reminded that he may have challenges with some countries in Africa who are under the control of some western countries, he said, he will exploit every opportunity to expose any crime cover ups.
To this end, he said, he is ready to table any such case at the Executive Committee of INTERPOL, being a member.
“The western world that controls them are members of the 195 countries. I will challenge and bring it to the board. And that’s why we have the Executive Committee members, I’m a member of the Executive Committee of the INTERPOL
“We will bring it to the table, we will challenge the country. Why are you doing this? Why are you allowing crime to happen in this area? Why are you putting your hand in this? Remove your hand or we will expose you.
“And when we shout, the world will hear and policies can change. It is only when you keep quiet, you don’t talk and things happen. I don’t intend to go into the system and keep quiet. I intend to shout the interest that I receive,” he said.
Stressing that the INTERPOL is open to Nigerians, he explained that they must go through the Nigeria Police Force.
On how Nigerians on the street can benefit from his services, he said “We have channels of communication. We receive lots of intelligence from other countries concerning Nigerians that must have committed crime. And we also receive complain from Nigerians.
“They write direct to the IGP, the IGP will minute us or they send to the DIGP in charge of Criminal Intelligence and Investigation, and he sends to us and we work on those.
“This is how we have been saving so many things. Let me bring to the level of Nigerians, if your vehicle is stolen, and you report to the Police station, Nigerians should know that they should insist, tell the Police post or the Police division of whatever, please send the information to INTERPOL.
“Because when you send to the INTERPOL, immediately we put it in our system. Anywhere the vehicle is taken to, even if it is sold, it can be recovered because the information is circulated among the 195 countries.”
He added: “Nigerians, we are appealing to them, the INTERPOL is open, the only thing you can’t walk to the INTERPOL and say I have complain, we are not like Police station. But you can write your petition and submit to the office of the IGP or the office of the DIGP.”
For him to succeed on the job, as far as Nigeria is concerned, he said there is need for Nigerians to provide relevant information.
“The most important thing that we need from good citizens is intelligence, information. Gone are the era of where someone will say I don’t want to go to the Police, if I give them information, they will use it against me. No, we have a new brand of Police, officers are discipline, your information are so confidential and it’s treated as confidential.
“We have received series of information from colleagues, from Nigerians and we use it in order to make sure that everyone is carried on board. And you will see the result.
“So my appeal to Nigerians, don’t feel shy, the NCB, Abuja is willing to accept intelligence from all individual and we will make sure we treat them extremely confidential. And we will deal with the situation the way it is,” he stated.
On his election, he expressed appreciation to President Muhammadu Buhari, for nominating and approving his nomination to contest for the number two global position.
According to him, he saw the election success coming because the International Community have accepted the National Central Bureau, Abuja because of what it has been doing.
“Take for example, in terms of cyber crime, we are one of the best NCBs in the world. We have made so many arrests of cyber criminals, we stopped infiltration and hacking of government and parastatals, private, as well as financial institutions.
“So for me, when I was elected the Vice President, I looked at it, what is in it that we need to do, it is a success, it is an honour to be number one in Africa and number two in the world, at the global village.
“Don’t forget I’m the only candidate that got 98% support, that’s encouragement. I was voted by 195 countries, bigger than the United Nations, the United Nations is 192,” he said.