Insecurity: Abuja residents resort to vigilante services
We are on top of the security situation, say FCT police
Worried by insecurity in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), many residents have resorted to engaging Vigilante groups to secure life and property.
Their fears were heightened by last month’s alert by the United States Embassy on an imminent security threat in Abuja.
The alert caused panic among residents within the capital city, which caused some outdoor and indoor recreational centres, schools and public places to shut down temporarily.
Residents who have lost faith in the security network of Abuja told The Guardian they quickly went for vigilante groups because they are swift in terms of response to emergency situations.
These groups are made up of locally trained youths who deal more with domestic crimes in society.
Some of the areas with a high presence of vigilante groups are within Kubwa Phase IV, Neparoad, Pipeline extension and Byazhin.
Other localities like Kuje, Bwari, Duste, and Gwagwalada also have organised committees to see to the smooth running and funding of these Vigilante groups.
A leader of a vigilante group within the area, Ahmed Isah confirmed that the threat has also forced vigilante groups to beef up security in their areas of operation.
He said: “Before the threat, we shut our barricade by 10:00 p.m., but now we do it at 9:00 p.m. We have more locally made guns, arrows and daggers and are more alert than before. These objects on my body are fortifications to give me a clue when there is danger around. We’re ready for any criminal. This is our paid job and we do it with all of our hearts. We have also advised residents within this locality to avoid late-night movements. Our dogs and men are always on the lookout.”
A school teacher, Kalu Christian said: “Yesterday, the vigilante men in my area caught some boys suspected to be armed cultists. These boys are the masterminds of petty stealing around the area. They also serve as informants to terrorists. They were beaten and handed over to the police. The vigilante groups are doing a great job even without government support.”
Another resident, Shola Aremu, who claimed to be the security coordinator of an area lauded the vigilante group for its proactive approach to curbing domestic security issues.
He said: “I coordinate my neighbourhood’s vigilante services. Each household pays N5,000. I won’t reveal the location for security reasons. The successes of the vigilante group in my area are numerous and commendable. They have their dogs at the entrance and exit of the area. These young men are honest in their dealings. Without them, we won’t sleep with our eyes closed. Since the security threat came up, they have even increased their numbers and beefed up security in our area.”
But, Precious Jude, a computer scientist has a totally different view. He believes that the vigilante groups may also have a hand in the insecurity in Abuja.
He said: “Security leads to conspiracy. If these men are later sacked when everything comes to normal, they can conspire to rain terror, to ensure that they will be hired back. They are not trained with the state of the active equipment. They can’t fight terrorists who have even better weapons than Nigerian security agencies. The government should step up and perform its primary duty of protecting its citizens.”
For a butcher, Ahmed Khalid, the services of the vigilante groups come with a high cost, especially at a time when many families cannot feed.
“Most of the vigilante members are my brothers, but they charge too much. Things are expensive these days. The government needs to come and do what is right in addressing these security issues. An internal dispute can also arise among these groups and they can fight themselves, this too can add to the rising insecurity. It is not the people that should pay for security, it is the government,” he lamented.
Meanwhile, a security expert and partner at NexTier, Dr. Ndu Nwokolo, said the resort to vigilante groups in Abuja is not just a response to recent threats, but a fallout of rising criminality in the country’s capital.
According to him, the rise in crime is as a result of the influx of many unemployed and unskilled young people from many parts of the country, especially from the North West, North- Central and North East of the country, as result of terrorism and banditry.
He said: “These young people who were mainly farmers have abandoned their farms because of bandits and on getting to Abuja, they are unable to fit in as they are unskilled and unemployable. Some have taken to robbery and other forms of crimes. Some also became commercial motorcyclists (Okada riders) or tricyclists.
“However, the ban and restrictions by the area councils on Okada operation mean that their sources of livelihood are limited and some take to armed robbery.
“With such threats, streets and neighbourhoods have to make provisions for their security, knowing that state security agencies (the Nigeria Police Force and the Nigerian security and Civil Defence Corps) do not have the manpower and equipment to respond to their needs or distress calls.
“Incidentally, the rise of non-state security providers like vigilante groups is a sign of development, even in developed countries, security is no longer an exclusive right of the state.
“Finally, there are differences between Vigilante groups and private security companies/ providers.
While Private security providers or companies are regulated by NSCDC, the vigilante groups, like the Buzu groups that parade most streets in Abuja, especially in the Suburbs, are not regulated or controlled by anyone. This could be dangerous in the long run, but for now, there are no alternatives”
Executive Director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre(CISLAC) & Head of Transparency International (Nigeria), Auwal Ibrahim Musa(Rafsanjani), said the primary and constitutional purpose of government is the security and welfare of the people.
“At the Federal and state levels, the government must be seen to be prioritising the security and welfare of its citizens as provided for in Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
“Following the security alert by the United States of America and other advanced nations, and failure of government over the years to deliver on its constitutional responsibility to secure life and property despite several promises made, citizens are left with no other option than to resolve to self-protection.
“Citizens no longer depend on the Nigeria Police Force to address their security needs. This is because the police are under-resourced and overwhelmed by the magnitude of security demands internally. They lack the capacity to relate with citizens professionally, thereby forfeiting their cooperation and trust. This is the reason citizens resort to hiring the services of vigilante groups.
“Local vigilante groups can be deplored particularly in the suburbs and communities. This is because they understand the terrain better, they relate with the people effectively and are capable of providing the needed intelligence to address security challenges speedily. However, they must not be left to work in isolation, they must be supervised by the Nigeria Police Force. “Government must be intentional about restructuring the internal security architecture of the nation to allow for more effective policing,” he said.
On her part, spokesperson for the FCT Police Command, Josephine Adeh said: “Residents have before now used the vigilante groups for their basic security needs like guarding their houses and manning their gate. The FCT is safe and the Police are on top of the security situation in the territory. I advise residents to take security measures to augment what the police have put in place.”