Dr Lionel Von Frederick Rawlins is a former United States marine, a forensic criminologist and also the Chief Security officer at American University, Yola. The institution is famously owned by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
In a recent interview with Vanguard, Rawlins discusses everything from insecurity in the North (Adamawa included), training the militia at American University, and how alQaeda and alShabab are assisting Boko Haram to wreak havoc in Nigeria.
Who is Dr. Lionel Rawlins?
Dr. Lionel Rawlins is a small boy from St. Kitts, a small island in the Caribbean. You have to always remember that because I am proud of my country. Being here, by the way, in Yola, Nigeria, makes me feel at home because everywhere I look, I see people who look like the people of my country.
What is your background like… educational and otherwise?
My background essentially is more military than anything else. I was a US marine for many years and I was recruited for intelligence and went to work for the US government. Between being a marine and my subsequent jobs, I was able to develop and learn a lot of things, a lot of skills relating to the military.
That is where I got most of my stuff from. Now in terms of education, I have been lucky and blessed to go to school and studied a variety of subjects. I have a degree in criminology, forensic science as well as business management with focus on leadership.
So what brought you to the American University of Nigeria?
When Professor Margee Ensign became the President of AUN in July 2010, she realised that the security situation here was not so good, it was not as bad as it is now, but she was able to see that things may deteriorate and she felt that the security outfit there was not adequate to protect her, the students and staff as most of the officers at that time were outsourced.
Most of the security officers could neither read nor write; they were poorly paid if they were ever paid so they were easily corrupted by students, faculty and staff. The President noticed that and called me to come and take a look and see what we could do.
I came several times and in the end, I told her that we needed to do something revolutionary, something that had never happened before, that is, to create a private security force for the university; this was unheard of in Africa, it had never been done because everyone outsourced, you hire people.
When I brought it up to her, there were some people who did not want it but, in the end, she decided that was what she wanted and she listened to me. The plan was that I would train the personnel, turn the outfit over to the university and go back to the US but after I finished training 350, I had to stop to make sure that it is working. It took three years to make sure that it is working.
Right after that, the Boko Haram attacks started to take place; so my time here was more than in the US. I found myself spending more time in Yola, than anywhere else and that is why I am here. And then the place started growing.
Read more interview here