The imperative of community policing and security in Nigeria
Terrorism remains the worst form of crime against humanity as the bastardly acts are often targeted at a defenceless populations, often for flimsy reasons like drawing attention to a cause or enacting a political change or gaining political leadership.
The world today has identified various type of terrorism: State Terrorism, terrorism rooted in Ideology (left or right), Criminal Terrorism, Dissent Terrorism and Religious Terrorism.
All of these are, however, new to our country until the last two decades when the last two- Religious and Dissent Terrorism, crept into Nigeria, and since then, Nigeria’s peace has been stolen.
Apart of these notable crimes i.e Terrorism and Insurgency other forms of criminality in Nigeria such as the gruesome activities of the Fulani herdsmen, Ritual killings/Murder, Kidnapping, Gang violence, Rape etc. call for urgent concern as they constitute gross impediments to the growth and development of the Nigerian Economy and its role as the main hub of Economic activities in the West African sub region.
Nigerians have advanced several reasons for this state of affairs ranging from high level unemployment to acute poverty in the land, ill equipped Police Force, ineffective Policing or what our revered traditional ruler the sultan of Sokoto referred to as the collapse of internal security architecture. Quite frankly the solution to all our several security challenges lies in our adoption of community policing as the methodology of Policing.
What is community policing?
It is a collaboration between the Police and Community members that identify Security challenges in their Neighbourhood/Communities and proffers workable solutions. As against the Traditional Policing method, Community Policing offers a way for the Police and Community members to work together to resolve problems that exist in their communities.
Underpolicing and associated problems
Nigeria is grossly under policed. With a Population close to 200 million policed by the paltry sum of less than 400,000 policemen, we have an abysmally low ratio of over 1/500 Policemen. In between this figure is the number of Policemen attached to Government officials, Political leaders and Elite groups. You can imagine how many Policemen in actual fact are devoted to Policing of the general populace.
In most developed countries today the Police have found out that crime control tactics needs to be augmented with Community Policing strategies that prevent Crime and reduce the fear of Crime in the neighbourhood.
Fear of crime is a significant problem in itself. A highly visible Police presence will help reduce fear in the neighbourhood. By getting Community members involved, the Nigeria Police will have more resources available for crime prevention activities instead of being forced into ‘an after the fact response to crime’ that we have been experiencing.
History of VGN
The Vigilante Group of Nigeria is the foremost Community Policing Organization in Nigeria. It is an NGO founded around the concept of ‘Vigilante’. The word ‘Vigilante’ is a universal word that refers to people who respond to growing crime rates and insecurity in their communities and decide to keep watch and Vigilance in order to protect lives and property.
VGN was registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in 1999 in the area of Public -Security. As a National Organisation VGN is -present in the 36 states of the Federal and the Federal Capital Territory. Our men are well on ground in the 774 Local Government areas of Nigeria. The founder and the Commander General of VGN is Alhaji Alli Sokoto.
The Objective of VGN is to promote Community Policing, Crime Control, prevention and protection of lives and property in Nigeria.
Reason why VGN is best suited for community policing in Nigeria:
1. VGN of all military and paramilitary Organizations in Nigeria is the only one that has its men domiciled (living and working) in their areas of operation . All others have their men posted as ‘strangers’ in their areas of operation. VGN men are bonafide members of their communities. They therefore understand their bits as they are familiar. With the terrain, topography and demography of their communities. In addition they know the culture and understand the languages of their areas.
2. The concept of centralised management of the Nigeria Police Force where officers and men are posted from one geographical location to another hampers crime fighting efforts. The Police are isolated from the Communities and so do not have access to pertinent information. VGN will readily fill the void between the Police and the people. They will assist in getting intelligent information that will enhance proactive policing.
3. We mentioned that Nigeria is grossly under policed. Under policing creates the fear of crime. This is a significant problem of its own. VGN has over 5000 men in each state
This form of policing differs from traditional policing methods:
1. It provides expanded outlook on crime control and prevention. While, crime control and prevention remains the central priority to both, in Community Policing the Police and the Community members become active members in addressing the problem of crimes / insecurity, disorders or neglect which can include gang activities, abandoned Houses/ware houses, abandoned cars/vehicles, bushes in neighbourhood which can serve as (criminal hideouts) and subcultures etc. These are activities that may not be defined as criminality in the early stage but will later metamorphosed into criminality like the Boko Haram. As the link between the Police and Community members is strengthened the partnership will be better able to pin point and mitigate the underlying causes of crime.
2. Community policing creates a new emphasis on making Community members active participants in the process of solving Community Security challenges. The partnership between the Police and Community members is hinged on mutual trust and confidence.
Gap between the police and the people
According to Robert Peel the founder of London Metropolitan Police Force., ‘The Police are the Public and the Public are the Police.’ However the lack of mutual trust and confidence between the Nigeria Police and the Nigeria Public is embedded in the history and dynamics of the Nigerian Police Force.
In the Book “The Police in Modern Nigeria” by T.N Tamuno (1970) published by the University Press Ibadan, he provided very rich insights into the problems of Policing in Nigeria. This is further collaborated by Professor E.E.O ALEMIKA (1993) in his ‘Colonialism State and Policing in Nigeria’ where he says that between “1861-1930’ when Lagos was Colonised several Police forces were established, organised and maintained by Colonial and post-colonial Government primarily for other maintenance that engenders repression, a culture of impunity, corruption, incivility, brutality, lack of transparency and accountability. According to him, it is necessary to identify appropriate and reliable policies, programmes and measures for transforming the Nigeria Police Force into a Peoples Police.
In a nutshell this is the reason why the Nigeria Police Force is largely estranged from the people. The Lack of mutual trust and confidence between the Police and the People is grossly responsible for the lack of pro-activeness. The reason why the Police Is starved of pertinent information required by them for pro-active Policing. Again the social distancing of the Nigeria Police Force from the Public/Community members is also reinforced by the posting of Officers from one geographical location to the other, most times from their communities of origin to where they become partial/total ‘strangers.’
The Federation, by getting VGN men involved in policing the Nigeria Police will have more resources in crime prevention activities. Community Policing does not imply that the Police are no longer in authority or that their primary duties of preserving law and order are subordinated. However Community Policing in VGN perspective will enable the Police tap into the gift, expertise and the resources that exist within the neighbourhood Communities which will help to release the Police of some their burdens.
4. On the void created as a result of lack of mutual trust and confidence between the Police and the people, VGN will fill that void. When VGN is incorporated into the Security Apparatus, they will serve in gathering security information for the Police to be more proactive in their policing efforts. This symbiotic relationship between the Police and the VGN could rob off the Police positively by way of improving the image of the Police before Nigerians.
5. Securing lives and property i.e Security is capital intensive. Again Security is related to man’s state of wellbeing. A man cannot be said to enjoy a state of wellbeing when his or her security is under threat. Nigeria may have to commit more of her resources to ensuring the security of lives and property of her citizens. The inclusion of VGN in the Security Architecture may also involve the engagement of so many of our idle hands across various communities out of the streets. What this implies is that the energies of these youths will be positively redirected from idleness/criminality to more patriotic and productive endeavours like that of the security of lives and property of their respective communities.
Ayisire, the Deputy State Commander, Vigilante Group of Nigeria, Lagos State Command, presented this paper at the AIS Security Conference with the theme “The Changing Face of Terrorism in Africa,” held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs in Lagos.