Unlike Governor Okorocha who has an infectious smile and readily shows off his white teeth; the Commissioner of Police Muhammad Musa Katsina doesn’t smile easily, especially when in uniform.
In fact, he looks stern when his office is crowded with people making one petition after another, when he’s pondering over the crime rate or considering the number of teenagers in custody for serious offences, including kidnapping.
Meeting Katsina for the first time, you’d wonder if he ever smiles. But wait until the dark uniform is replaced with a bright caftan and the 54-year-old strikes a more relaxed pose. Then, he’s smiling, laughing, quoting his favourite Chinua Achebe and singing a hymn or two in remembrance of his primary school days in a Catholic institution.
But the top policeman doesn’t give away anything, even in his happy hour. He can share how he’s policing Imo state but not how he’s catching the criminals. The Commissioner also won’t say much in connection with the nomads invading farmlands in Irete with their cattle and terrorizing villagers in their own backyard.
All the police chief would say is that he is aware of the “menace” and doing something about it. He disclosed that a man is receiving treatment at a hospital as a result of a clash but doesn’t say if an arrest has been made.
Regrettably too, the commissioner doesn’t give the impression that the problem would end soon. When, however, he told Face2Face, later in the interview, that his hobbies included farming – animal husbandry to be specific, Face2Face asked him if the cattle in question were his. He shook his head, broke into laughter and exclaimed loudly, “not my cattle!” Some of his officers in the room also burst out laughing. Even then, the Ghanaian-born policeman would not say anything more.
“Are you a good policeman?” Face2 Face tried again.
“I cannot tell you that. It’s not for me to say; I leave that to posterity,” he said in a gentle voice, while reaching out for two phones wailing simultaneously by his side, trying hard to interrupt the conversation.
He hands them over to officers and continued:
“We’re all learners still – we’re learning to fight crime; we are all learning from our IG, he is the master crime fighter,” he added.
Speaking about fighting crime, it was the desire to fight crime that drew young Katsina, who bears the name of his State, to the police force. Although his parents were business people traversing the west coast of Africa and plying their trade, the youngster’s passion was different. That passion was crystallized at age 14 when he witnessed a duel between the police and armed robbers on the road to Sokoto from Katsina.
“We came across a holdup. We never knew what was happening, our vehicle stopped. Later, people were frightened and saying there was robbery in front. That was the first time I heard gunshots – papappapa – gun fire everywhere. Then, all of a sudden, some gallant policemen came in a land rover. I watched the way they came down from the vehicle with agility and tip toed… While we were trembling like dry leaves in the desert, they were moving with all sense of courage and stamina. They engaged the robber and the gun fire soon subsided,” he recalled, with satisfaction.
“We saw vehicles moving again. I was afraid but I was also curious. When we reached the point of engagement, we saw that some of the robbers were arrested, handcuffed and some had blood stains. From then, my love to be a force man became defined in the sense that of all the uniforms, I now wanted to be a policeman – that was the dream. I wanted to be the man in black. The desire, like a burning flame, was to help mankind. This has also shaped my course in the force and I made up my mind to become an exemplary police officer with determination to fight crime and contribute my quota towards peace in the society.”
Katsina who became a policeman in 1986 said he has encountered worse situations in his career, than the one he witnessed as a boy. The Commissioner noted that today’s criminals are more dangerous because they use more sophisticated weapons of mass destruction.
Asked what he thought about the Boko Haram terrorists, he shook his head and responded:
“I feel very sad. I wish this thing never happened in my life time. But since it has, I also pray I will live to see the end of it,” said Katsina who considers his state as one of the most peaceful in the land.
A graduate of Management Science from the University of Sokoto now Usman Dan Fodio University, combating crime is Katsina’s primary assignment as a policeman. He is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that all criminals in Imo are smoked out of their den.
The diligent force man has his strategies laid out and his partners chosen. However, a big hole in his head is juvenile criminals. He said too many young people are committing heinous crimes.
“Now, we have 13 and 14 year-olds involved in heinous crime, so where are we heading? I am alarmed; I am worried. Most of them are from broken homes. They are too young so we can’t mix them up with hardened criminals. So I spend my own little money to create a sort of rehabilitation home for them and then we also engage the services of the church for counseling,” the father of ‘many children’ said with compassion.
The Commissioner and his men have continued to battle kidnapping and armed robbery, the two most serious crimes in Imo state. Regarding Kidnapping, the police boss warned that house owners should no longer leave their properties unoccupied or they become hideouts for criminals, especially kidnappers.
“People should be careful of abandoned properties. They exist everywhere. There was a recent kidnapping case at Mbaise, they first took the woman to an abandoned building nearby. When they realized the amount of pressure mounted by police, they had to take her to another unoccupied house owned by a professor… People are advised not to leave their buildings unoccupied. At least put a security guard there to look after it. Because of the rainy season, kidnappers hardly carry victims to the bush now,” he hinted.
On further reflection, Katsina said the most serious crime when he came into the state seven months ago was kidnapping. It hasn’t changed much but the structure has.
“What we’re now experiencing are the activities of local miscreants. When I came on board, there were international kidnapping, inter-state kidnapping and local kidnapping. We fought the first two and today they’re gone… But the problem now are local people, boys living in the neighbourhood,” the diligent crime fighter explained.
Katsina expressed gratitude to Imolites for backing his anti-crime mission. He said the people have been co-operative, making his job easier. But the no-nonsense policeman has strong words for anyone aiding and abetting crime.
“If you are aware that a criminal is in the neighbourhood or lurking somewhere in the bush and you fail to inform the police, I will pick you too as an accomplice,” he warned.
He also has a word for young people wanting to join the police.
“Come in for the love of it and not as a last resort. Come if you’re courageous, incorruptible and firm – so that Nigeria will be better.”
Let’s hear that again Commissioner.