Nigeria: Community Policing Is Badly Needed

Secretary to Government of the Federation Mr Boss Gida Mustapha last week inaugurated a 14-man committee on community policing. Chaired by Dr Amina Shamaki, a Federal Permanent Secretary, the committee is charged with the task of reviewing a study on insecurity done by the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies [NIPSS] with the title "Presidential Parley Report."

While inaugurating the committee, the SGF listed the causes of insecurity in Nigeria to include poor policy linkages, multiplicity and poor implementation of policies, centralized control of the police force, weak monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Others that Mustapha itemised include poor application of technology and innovation, absence of integrated database to aid internal security management, poor budgetary allocation to the security sector and lack of confidence and trust in the country's security agencies.

The SGF acknowledged that as a result of insecurity, Nigerians have been clamouring for the return of State Police. He said, "The agitations have not abated since the coming on board of this administration and not even the resources deployed into tackling the various hydra-headed security challenges in the country coupled with the high level of successes recorded by this Government so far, has succeeded in dampening the agitations."

Government has taken the right step by the inauguration of the committee on community policing. It is a known fact that there is disconnect between the Nigeria Police Force and various communities that make up the country. This is because, as identified by the SGF, Nigerians do not trust the police with useful information about the activities of criminals and masterminds of crimes. Because those who commit crimes live in communities, the people can identify them. A classic example of how successful community policing could be is the situation in Borno State, where the establishment of the Civilian Joint Task Force turned the tide in the country's counter-insurgency strategy. These young men knew members of Boko Haram and they effectively supported the military in arresting and flushing out many of them from Maiduguri.

In the same vein, traditional rulers usually get information about those who engage in criminal activities in their domains. They debrief Village Heads, District Heads, youth groups and leaders of religious organisations to gather facts about criminal elements among them. The police would need to work closely with traditional institutions if they are to arrest crime. Most times, these rulers are helpless even if they know those involved in criminal activities in their domains because they do not trust security agencies well enough to give them such intelligence.

We call on the committee to do a good job by fashioning out good policies and measures that would help the police to earn the confidence of the people. The police cannot succeed in reducing or eradicating criminality in the country unless they get the buy in of various communities. It is as a result of the failure of the police to tame insecurity that vigilante groups have sprung up in all parts of the country, aiming to do the job of the police, but many of them do it wrongly. Some communities have taken measures that inch towards self-help, taking the law into their hands and even carrying out extra-judicial killings because they do not believe in the current security and judicial system. This is very unfortunate, and such trend should be reversed as soon as possible.

The reality in Nigeria today is that the current security architecture does not provide security for citizens, especially those who live in rural areas where there are hardly policemen. In their recommendations, this committee should strongly come up with practical steps to protect rural communities from the activities of bandits, kidnappers and armed robbers who operate freely without fear. All options should be looked into critically, including an improvement in the application of modern security technology and establishment of state police.

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