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By Bianca Iboma
Oriyomi Oluwasanmi Titilayo, a Superintendent of Police and the Divisional Police Officer, Ilasamaja, a Lagos-suburb, is no stranger when it comes to cracking serious crimes. She led a team of police officers to arrest some illegal dealers of petroleum products recently, in Lagos.
She has also handled sex-based violence and rapes cases on adolescents or children which she said are traumatic. According to her, it is sad when women go about trying to get their livelihood, only to get back home and find out that their little girls have been raped and abused.
In this interview, SP Oriyomi, said that culprits of rape cases and violence against women and children should be made to face the law squarely. She condemns a situation where the culprits are left to walk the streets freely. She also spoke on youth restiveness as well as how women can effectively balance career and family life.
Most Law enforcement organisations are male dominated professions. How do you cope leading men?
Women naturally are good at whatever they set their minds to do. The police is a male dominated but as a female if you want to rise in the profession, you must earn it. When we were in the training school, the men were not given a different training. We attended the same exercise and were not trained differently. Although, female police officers face fewer complaints from the public service than men. They don’t unnecessary resort to use of physical force when arresting somebody.
When you discovered the illegal wells housing crude products at Ilasamaja, in Lagos, did you act on any intelligence information before the suspects were nabbed?
I want to say that I never had any information prior to this discovery. We usually go on patrol. On one occasion, after returning from the patrol, I wanted to retire to the office for the day at about 2.00 am. I decided to patrol Ilasamaja area with my men since we hadn’t done it. They did not oppose my suggestion.
We moved around Ilasamaja and got to the interior. While we entered the hinterland of the community, I noticed an elderly woman fetching water so I told my men to dim their light and we watched her from afar. While she fetched the water, I was wondering what type of water could such an old woman be fetching at that ungodly hour. We drove close to her and I got out of the car. I asked her what she was doing and why she was polluting the water because I saw her throwing something inside the well.
She said that she didn’t want to fetch water again. I moved closer to smell the supposed water. Alas! it was smelling kerosine.
I asked her to open the well. She did and what I found, was raw diesel that has not been mixed. I opened about 11 wells at that environment so I went back to change my clothes. I returned disguised as a prospective buyer. My intent was to get other people involved arrested. That was how we discovered that almost all the houses in the area have water wells turned into oil wells from which they ran their oil operations. We also discovered that they had pumps which were connected into the wells.
What are some of the challenges that female police officers face in this working environment?
This is a male dominated profession. Women’s advancement in the corporate workplace has taken significant strides for some years now. Despite an increased presence of female employees in mid-management positions, executive positions continue to be male-dominated positions, of which the police organisation is not an exception. Women are under-represented in areas of governance, directorship and executive leadership.
Strong women like late Dora Akunyili didn’t just achieve it without making moves. They were able to achieve milestones because of the investment they made. Time, resources and energy were part of the things they had invested that yielded positively. They did not put money forward in front of what they were doing. Their passion took them to the great height.
Most women do not have passion for the job they do. Circumstances took them there. The promotion of women to occupy leadership positions depends on them. Women are still marginalised.
In your capacity, what would you say to girls aspiring to be officers who may want to attain your position and even play your role?
It is certainly great to rise and become a female Divisional Police Officer. However, it also requires a lot of hard work, especially now that I am a female leading a division. However, leading a division comes with many challenges. Nonetheless, my background has also prepared me to be able to interact and successfully manage the many situations.
As for other young females who have such aspiration to attain leadership positions, the sky is their starting point. They can reach whatever leadership position if they are destined by God. Hard work is another virtue that is needed. Anybody can be Divisional Police Officer. I am not more special that the other people. It is just my willingness to work hard, commitment, my passion for the job and the grace of God. I have a lot of support from my husband. That is what makes it so much easier.
I also have a team that is very supportive. The officers working with me in this division have really encouraged my effort. If they don’t support me, I will achieve results but the pace of my achievement would be slow. My team is great.
Your mandate as Divisional Police Officer in Ilasamaja police division will not last forever. If you were to leave now, do you think the team of police officer polices in your division can effectively take up the policing role in that division.?
My team is willing to engage and to be more effective with the job but, there are so many limitations. We have done a lot of training like capacity-building in that community. Ilasamaja community policing has been very effective but there is still more to be done.
My view is that there is a little bit more to be done and also to give them the opportunity to perform their duties effectively. The issue of whether or not I will leave the division is not in my hands. That will be determined by my superiors. As a police officer, I should always be in a ready position. We always have contingency plans on how to react in every situation.
For now, I think we are doing well. we are cooperating well. We now have interaction committees which was introduced to make our work effective. Community policing has really aided our efforts.There are certain undertakings in terms of priorities.
We still have a lot of work to do here like training programs for the youths. I also intend to embark on an enlightenment campaign next year for the youths.
As a woman, cases of rape are brought to you, especially when it involves a child of about 6-10 years. How difficult or easy, is it for you to deal with violence based on sexual assault?
Sexual based violence cases on adolescent or children are so traumatic. The culprit must be brought to book. Sometimes, it occurs within families, which makes it even more difficult to deal with them.
In Ilasamaja before I was posted to the division, there was this serial rapist who was always released whenever he was caught. Today, the story is different. When I think of the traumatic pains this victims go through, he had to face the law because I transferred him to Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) to deal with it.
It is sad when the women go about trying to get their livelihood only to get back home and find out that their little girls are raped and abused. To make matters worse, the culprit is left to walk about the streets freely. It is not right. Once you commit a crime in Ilasamaja here, whether it is cultism, rape, robbery or any vice, we parade you in the community so that everyone will see you.
Abused females tend to be traumatised and for children, it is pure wickedness. We try to protect families and children. We are working out a solution where crimes will be at the barest minimum.
You were given an award recently by Crime Reporters Association of Nigeria (CRAN). How do you feel receiving such an award?
Firstly, I dedicate the award to God almighty because he is the one who has endowed me with the grace to effectively discharged my duties for me to be recognised. This is the second time I am receiving award from this association based on merit. I never knew them but they were able to identify me when I was in the traffic at a time and now as a DPO. They were excited about my effort to chase out cultist and cult activities away from Ilasamaja.
Ilasamaja was an abode were all sort of crime was committed and the residents lived in fear but today, it is safe that effort is appreciated by the people.
As a Divisional Police Officer, what would you say to other women or female police officers in order to motivate them to do undercover operations like you did?
Policing is about the passion to serve the people. There is a lot of gratification you get when you see that you have made a difference in another person’s life. I would like to urge the women to take up the challenge, and come out and do investigative undercover job so that together, we can achieve sane environment that is crime-free.
There is a need for more females to join the police. If we have more women that are passionate about the job, I think their multi task nature will help in achieving more in the activities of policing in the country. I am not saying the male police officers are not working.
It is a male dominated profession. What is required is commitment. I know that sometimes people feel that it is difficult. For women to rise to leadership position, they must work twice or trice as hard as the men. Unfortunately, many are scared to prepare and take up this positions of leadership or decision-making roles. Everybody can make a mistake. What is important is learning from your mistakes and the courage to move forward.
You are a police officer, wife and home keeper. How do you cope?
Every thing should be planned. It is true that women are multi-tasking in nature. It does not guarantee you to misbehave in the home and think you can be successful. Your first success in life as a woman should be managing your home. How you excel career-wise is secondary.
As a career woman, if your home suffers, it will show on you. Your success in the work place is irrelevant if your home front is in shambles. I don’t have domestic help. I have three children. I spend time with my family no matter how busy I am. My husband is a pilot. My kids are still young and so, even while at work, I still monitor them. I take care of them no matter how late I get home. I make food for my family that will take them for a day.
A woman should know how to conveniently combine her home and her career. It is not all about career. The family should not be neglected.