Hon Abdul Razaq Balogun, a three-term former member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, is the Executive Secretary of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund.
In this interview with The Gazelle News.com’s team of DARE OJELADE, NURUDEEN YISA & ADEWALE OJELEYE (PHOTO), he speaks on the activities of the Trust Fund and how it is impacting positively on the lives of Lagosians:
Q: Let’s start from the stakeholders programme on security the agency organises annually, what is the basis for it?
A: The Security Trust Fund is an organisation that is very transparent which dealings are based on confidence and trust repose in the staff by donors. We are a donor agency. We believe that when you receive donations or support from people, it becomes imperative for you to render your stewardship. This builds confidence in the donors which makes them comfortable in giving further support for the agency.
The Stakeholders programme is thus a yearly event where we render our stewardship.
It’s also an opportunity for the Governor to set his agenda on security for the coming year, and opportunity for the stakeholders to interact with the Governor on issues of security.
The programme is also an avenue for us to render our financial records for the year. At the programme, our external Auditors present our financial records and this gives the stakeholders the opportunity to analyse how we are spending the money put in our trust.
Q: You spoke about auditing, does it mean the account of this organisation is audited every year?
A: It is audited every year, and I made bold to say that I would like to see any government agency that has an audit report up to 2019.
Our audited report for 2019 presented at the Stakeholders programme and it was done by an international organisation. That is also very instructive that we know we paid huge money to the auditors, but again that also is builds confidence, because we know the books are not cooked.
These guys have a huge reputation, they are all over the world and so we believe that when they audit our organisation, they also confirm our transparency and how judicious we applied the resources at our disposal.
Q: When you became the Executive Secretary of this organisation, what were the challenges you faced?
A: I think I met an organisation that was quite structured, because my predecessor as you know: a lawyer, former Solicitor-general of the state, a former Commissioner; he handled this organisation in a manner that it was easy for me to fit in, because everything here that I found were quite transparent.
It was easy for to me see the files he had worked on and for me to continue where he stopped. Again what I did when I got here was that majority of the vendors they had engaged, ninety-five percent are still here today, because I don’t believe in changing a team that works, because you will have to start all over again. For me, I met a very organised organisation, particularly knowing that there was no organisation like this that was created in this country before.
He started it from scratch, and he handed over to me and to a new board, up till now we still have a very robust relationship, and we still contact him from time to time.
Q: From my past interaction and contact with you, you are also an organised person. I want to ask you this question, you are a former lawmaker, how has this impacted on you in this new assignment?
A: It has impacted positively on me, as a former lawmaker, and a Principal Officer for 12 years.
If you follow my antecedents, you will also know that I was quite active in the House of Assembly, so when I came here, I was well prepared.
Incidentally, the Security Trust Fund Bill was the first Law we passed in 2007, at the beginning of the tenure of Governor Fashola.
By providence again, I came back to now head the organisation. So when I came here, all those principles behind creating of the trust fund, I started putting it to bare, and ensuring that we must continue to justify the creation of the trust fund. We’ve been able to let the whole world knows the importance of this fund and 13 years after, we are happy that other states of the federation have been coming here to understudy us and some have started replicating it in their states.
Q: How has the organisation improve security in Lagos state?
A: First of all we must understand why this organisation was created, we are not a security agency, neither are we police officers here. Our job is to intervene, to assist the security agencies. And like I said earlier, it is clear to me that without this trust fund, the is no way that Lagos will be like this today.
Let us cast our minds back, before 2007, before the creation of this fund; nobody could move round, agitation here and there.
This fund was created to provide assets for security agencies and assets are one of the most important aspects of policing.
You can’t ask a man to go and police the city without vehicle, you can’t ask a man to go and protect you in a violent incident without providing him with ballistic vest to protect his life, you can’t tell a man to protect you without giving him a good welfare system, a system that will boost his morale, a system that he will believe that it is worth risking his life to protect all of us. This we have done over the years in Lagos state.
There is no state, before the #EndSARS protests which took place in October, as populated and busy but as safe as Lagos. You will see police personnel everywhere because we have been supporting them; they also believe that to whom much is given, much is expected, and I think the security trust fund has played its role efficiently well.
That does not mean that we have reached where we want to be and this is a question of resources.
Security equipment is very expensive, it’s capital intensive, it’s foreign exchange based. With inflation in our society today, you will agree with me that what you could buy in 2007 for N1 million is probably now around N10 million in 2020. These are some of the issues. By and large, we have been able to play our role well.
Q: When you came in, how did you improved the donation drive of the fund?
A: The model we practice here is a voluntary donor system; I think the model is deliberate, so that if you see a system working, people will voluntarily key into it and play their parts.
We have always appeal to Lagosians, not corporate organisations alone, you and I as individuals, we are blessed with a huge population here in Lagos, we are blessed with men and women.
We are saying that people should be able to voluntarily donate to the trust fund, because you see what we are doing and we are transparent in all our dealings.
We know that security and prosperity run together, we can’t afford to toy with the two. A state government that is going to prosper cannot afford not to have a good security system. So we try to reach out to lots of donors, some have keyed in, some are depending on others who have been very consistent, which I think is very unfair, because some people cannot be consistent over the years and you benefit from it and don’t do anything about contributing your own quota. I think we just continue to be persuasive and continue to reach out to Nigerians, 21 million Lagosians is huge. One million people donating just a thousand naira is N1 billion, now imaging ten million people donating N1 million each. It tells you that we have the potential, but the thing is we should not look at this figure alone, because we are not all about cash alone. There are so many things you can donate to help our security agencies, you can offer to train them, develop information and technology application for crime reporting, you can decide to provide their uniforms if you wish, you can decide to donate vehicles, you can take care of the communication system. We welcome all that. So it’s not a question of just money. We are saying that everybody must key into this project.
Q: Year 2020 is a year of various happenings: #COVID-19 Pandemic #EndSARS Protests among others, how has these affected your operation?
A: Of course, it has affected us dismally. For the first time in 13 years, our donation has been almost nothing this year. We have not been able to attract any meaningful donation. But you see, some experience here, and that’s why from the model of this organisation, I can speak categorically that with meagre resources we can move mountains because our responsibility has not stopped as a matter of fact, it has increased.
The wear and tear on our vehicles during the #COVID-19 pandemic and #EndSARS protest was huge. And within one week after the whole incident, we have been able to put a lot back on the road. So, the mandate is clear and the application of these resources is also very clear, even though every day that you spend these resources, what you could buy for one naira, has become five naira now. You are looking at the figure and it is depleting. But we believe strongly that with the town hall meeting that we have done, and with appeal to Lagosians, we will still be able to get some resources.
Yes, the pandemic and #EndSARS protests have really affected us negatively, but again this is the time for all of us to join hands together. Like I said it’s no longer state matter anymore, it’s no longer my issue anymore. It’s an issue for all of us, and we should look at it from that perspective, that it is about we and not them or they. Because as I speak to you now, 46 police stations were burnt in Lagos state, almost 60 vehicles were burnt. We lost about two or three Armour Personnel Carriers, and one of to replace the APCs is about N250 million per vehicle. And we lost two or three during the protest. I can tell you that Lagos is the only state that has up to 40 of these vehicles. Some of these have been acquired since 2008 that is about 12 years ago, but because of consistence and continuous maintenance we have been able to keep these assets.
But we are saying that as the city expands and the state expands and as we continue to increase in population, we need more resources. So, it is in our collective interest that we should not continue to pass the bulk.
Even though the corporate organisations we are talking about have done a lot, Lagos state still remain the highest donor here, 75% of the donation is from the Lagos state government, including the local governments. So, it’s not as if the corporate organisations carry everything, the state government is still the major and biggest donor. It’s just that they only donate in kind and not in cash.
Q: Is this agency also attracting donation from international agencies?
A: No, we have not been able to do that, because security is a very sensitive aspect of our lives and economy, and it is a social responsibility, that’s why a state government can charge you for building permit, parking and so on. It will be difficult for them to charge you for security or fire service directly like that to protect you, because these are social responsibilities of the government. How do you justify a state government seeking security assistance from foreign governments?
This is usually done at the national level in form of diplomatic collaboration between two countries but not at the level of a component of a particular country. This is because security is under the exclusive list and solely under the watch of government at the national level.
Q: Between now and the next three or four years, how do you see this agency?
A: I see this agency shedding some weight hopefully, because if you have the creation of a police trust fund, and with the agitation of Nigerians about a better policing system, you would expect now that moving forward, our police officers will be more compensated, well trained, there will be more men to police the state, there will be more equipment and support system for them to work with. And so you will expect that what you continue to do there will be many to support. What is that support? For instance, see the police college; I know a bit about it because I do my daily exercise in the compound, and I look at the whole barracks and say this is not very difficult to maintain if you have a system that is running, for instance, let’s hire a facility manager to run the barracks like we do in a lot of establishment. When you hire a facility manager, he does the appraisal and come up with a plan to say on a monthly basis, we will be cutting grasses, two year basis; we will be painting this building, 6 months we will be changing the bulbs and so on probably you will vest the resources with us, and we manage for you, because if we manage for you we will do the needful, and of course you will see the result.
So, I see a situation where things will get better in this society, and the security trust fund will continue to exist and will continue to play that supportive role because ultimately like I use to say, Nigerians are not really concern about who does what. So you are driving on Awolowo road and the road is tarred. An average Nigerian doesn’t care if it is a state or federal road, just do a smooth road for us and let’s pass. It is we that run the affairs of the states that understand that this is a federal or state road. So, this is the whole idea, that I foresee a future that things will get better.