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EXCLUSIVE: Read what Ogun Vigilante boss says about controversial Fulani herdsmen

State Commander, Vigilante Service of Ogun State, VSO

State Commander, Vigilante Service of Ogun State, VSO

The Vigilante Service of Ogun State, VSO is a grassroot security organisation setup in 2011 by the Senator Ibikunle Amosun led administration to compliment the efforts of other security agencies, most especially the Police towards satisfying the security needs of the people of Ogun State. Speaking with IMPACTLINK MAGAZINE in an EXCLUSIVE interview, the new VSO State Commander, Soji Ganzallo speaks extensively on the latest direction of the Security organisation, its partners and their roles, VSO challenges and most especially the security threats the proposed controversial grazing reserve creation bill posed if enacted.
Enjoy the excerpt:


As the new Commander of Vigilante Service of Ogun State, what are the new ideas you’re bringing on board?

The Vigilante Service of Ogun State, VSO is a grassroot security organisation established by the Ogun state government to compliment the efforts of other existing security agencies, which include: the Police, Department of State Service, DSS, Nigerian Army, National Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC and others, to satisfy the security needs of the people of Ogun State.

VSO has its men and officers throughout the state including the very nooks and crannies. We are part of the people and live among the people; we have the same cultural background; we know them and speak the same language. We know the terrain because we are sons of the soil.
If there is any problem anywhere, the vigilante officer is saddled with the responsibility of looking through the situation and fishing out the criminal. Most times we have been very successful. I can tell you authoritatively that we succeed at 90 per cent of crime cases we’ve been able to burst.

As the State Commander of VSO, henceforth, we are not only focusing on bursting crimes, discovering culprits or investigating already committed crime. We are looking at crime prevention. We want to be proactive and nail crime at the board. We want to make sure that we prevent crime before it is actually being perpetrated. This is our focus now and that is what we are doing, we are moving round to take care the security needs of Ogun state.
vsoAre there strategies or programmes VSO putting in place for crime preventions?

Yes, we have been moving from one community to the other since I became VSO Commander. We are creating awareness through what we called the ‘Unified Security System’. This system that we are putting in place is to ensure all the communities in Ogun State have VSO units. The assumption of this is that when we have VSO in every Community Development Area, CDA, VSO will be everywhere in the State. When our CDAs are peaceful, definitely the State in general will be at peace in terms of security, since State is made up of these communities.

Aside from this, we are going to Primary and Secondary schools talking to the pupils and students in the language they understand on the need for security and things they must know to ensure their safety. Just like when we were young and our parents do tell us not to take candy or money from strangers or anybody as a child. We are creating this awareness in primary schools and also going to secondary schools to campaign against cultism, because we have realized that these days cultists are in secondary schools. Our high schools are now different from what they use to be. Principals and teachers always express fear during end of the year parties and this is not suppose to be. These are children that will leave secondary schools, move to tertiary institutions and improve on the criminal acts they have cultivated in secondary schools.
So if we have this solid foundation across the state in terms of security awareness, then generally the society at large will be at peace. These are the things we have neglected and we need to restore it to curtail crime. We know crime cannot be eradicated but we must try our best to reduce it to the barest minimum.

What roles are other security agencies playing in this security awareness programme?

I can tell you emphatically that the Police has being very wonderful. As the Commander of VSO, I have a very cordial relationship with the State Commissioner of Police and the management team of the Ogun State Police Command. On the grassroot security system, we have all our DPOs on board, they are involve, if we are going to any community to address them, we make sure that the DPO of that area is present to give a sense of beyonding to the people and also let them realize that their security needs are taking care of.

I became the VSO Commander on May 12th, 2016 and since then we have started the programme and Police’s cooperation is beyond imagination.
Funding is our greatest challenge. We have no money. The state government is trying its best, paying the stipends of our officers. We are trying our best too now to make sure that we contribute to the state purse through the security guard department of the VSO which we have just established. We are optimistic that when we do this, it will be easier to table our request whenever we need government’s assistance.
Aside this, we are appealing to public spirited people to come to our aid because security is every man’s business and it cannot run unless it is being funded. Our patron vehicles and motorcycles need to be fueled and maintained. Filling stations can be of assistance by donating liters of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS to us. It will go on a long way.

Do you consider approaching organisations if they can adopt this as their corporate social responsibilities?

Yes, we are working on this. We will write companies in the state. The success of their businesses rely on the safety of the State. If Ogun state is safe then their investments is safe. Even, more investors will come in and the existing ones can actually beat their chest that their investments are safe.
As a grass root security personnel, what is your opinion on the recent controversial grazing reserve bill presently at the federal house of assembly?

Sincerely, I must tell you that we have had series of sleepless night on the issue of these Fulani herdsmen. The havocs they usually unleash on our people are unexplainable. Sometimes, they release their cattle to eat up farms’ produces, destroying their farms and all sort of things. Any time these poor farmers complain or challenge them, they always receive a terrible attack from the Fulani herdsmen. Some of the farmers had been killed, their women raped and even sometimes we have seen herdsmen coming to the road while rearing their cattle and stop vehicles, rob travelers and at times kill people.
From our records, we have arrested so many of them and handed them over to the police. The issue of grazing reserve for Fulani herdsmen or for herdsmen so we don’t narrow it to Fulani alone. They have presidential committee headed by Major General Nzeh. He came to Ogun state and also gone to several states across the country. He confided in us that none of the states actually welcomed the grazing reserve idea.
The challenge is that the herdsmen are dealing with host communities ruthlessly now without any land of their own, by the time you give them a land that you called grazing reserve which they legally owned what would they do to our people? So, most States have agreed on ‘NO TO GRAZING RESERVE’. Federal government should make provisions for cattle ranches instead. It can be very expensive but they can form themselves into groups like cooperative societies.
Grazing reserve will take large hectares of land. So where do you move the settlers to? I can tell you authoritatively that in Ogun state, we say no to grazing reserves.

Does VSO accommodate non-indigenes of Ogun state?

Of course, VSO membership or being an officer of VSO is not restricted to Ogun state indigenes. You might be from other states and work with us. We have people from Oyo, Osun, South-East States and even Fulanis from the north.
The Fulanis among us have being very wonderful in assisting us to handle most of the Fulani related crimes.

Who is Soji Ganzallo?

Soji Ganzallo is not a Mr. and is not a Chief. Soji Ganzallo is a security person. I have been into security for over two decades. I am a grassroot security specialist and I had my training here in Nigeria and overseas. I had my primary school education in Ibadan, Secondary School in Iseyin, Oyo state before I came down to Ogun State polytechnic, now Moshood Abiola Polytechnic and later Olabisi Onabanjo University, where I studied public administration.

Where do you see VSO in five years from now?

In five years time, well, I will still be active in service. Then, we will be seeing the result of the foundation we are laying now. I can tell you that Ogun state will be the state that other states will be aspiring to beat in terms of security. I won’t do that alone, I have a formidable VSO team working with the Police, DSS, Nigerian Civil Defence and other agencies, we are going to be at the forefront of a safe state.

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