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Opinion: Community Policing to Combat Insurgencies in Nigeria

Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi

By: Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria

Nigeria has been facing series of insurgencies and common crimes with a very significant rise in this democratic Fourth Republic. The type of crimes on the rise in Nigeria would include kidnapping, armed robberies, killing for rituals, baby factories and general child trafficking, religious and political insurgencies, and many others. Community policing as a crime management philosophy may be pursued for the complex Nigeria societies that is multi-religion, multi-tribal and unevenly developed. Community policing would combine the efforts of the law enforcement agents with civilian volunteers. By making police officers and community members allies in the fight against crime, community policing can help to create a more cohesive policing policy as well as a more transparent and accessible law enforcement programme. In fact many scholars have suggested that a community policing framework may be a more successful tool for crime prevention and reduction than traditional policing methods. In the traditional framework the Nigeria Police, in combination with all other arms of the law enforcement agencies, is in charge.

Nigeria's police boss, MD Abubakar

Nigeria’s police boss, MD Abubakar

There has been a disconnection, loss of focus and lack of coverage in the performance of the Nigeria Police to prevent or reduce crimes in Nigeria. For example who should have put down the Boko Haram insurgency from the beginning? Inability to give a direct response at any time may have led successive Nigeria governments to introduce new arms to the law enforcement for particular set of problems. Today Nigeria has several layers of agencies but the job is yet undone and political and religious insurgencies are on the rise. The current debate is possibly the introduction of an independent State Policing System. We would remember that the Nigeria police was the combination of the regional and the native authority police forces. The Nigeria police force has grown rapidly, since 1963 when they came to being, in number, training and even in equipment. The problem of the Nigeria Police, if any, is a Nigeria factor and not lack of education or information. A few advocates of State Police use current situations like the happenings in Sambisa Forests in Borno State and saying that if only the officers sent there were from that state they would know all the hideouts. The current Nigeria Police Forces has enough of Borno State origin that if they were to be deplored to their state the budget of the state may not support them.

Our problem with independent State policing system in Nigeria remains the same argument we had made against creation of economic and political unviable states, which most Nigerian States have turned to be. It has come to the open that Boko Haram is bigger than Borno State because the state has shown inability to suppress the Islamic sect from onset. That is Borno is not qualified, (by my own judgment), to stand as a state because it has been unable to function minimally as a State should. A state must be economically, militarily and administratively viable. Secondly a State police is always in the complete control of the politics in the state and could be injurious to our collective union. The local politicians within the state would pocket their local police force. Does one need a visa to travel from one state to the other, for example? We must value our common co-existence even when the fabric of it is being destroyed and broken by ill conceived motivations from different quarters today. Thirdly States that look always to Abuja cannot be asked to add the salaries of 5,000 additional staff to police them. The whole concept of state policing robs on resources control, revenue generation, level of independence of each state, and our unity. You may think that your state is rich enough today but you also need to think of capital flights the state may suffer immediately we begin to disintegrate.

Therefore we could find several reasons why community policing strategies could be plausible and gaining momentum in many parts of the world. The reasons would include the type and level of crimes that are on the rise, the economic woes that often significantly reduce the capabilities of a police force, making them less able to manage crime on a comprehensive basis. States are most often less economically buoyant than their federal powers. The spread of religious insurgencies, political thugs and mayhems, drug trafficking, kidnappings, cultism and gang activity throughout all levels of modern society has led to a major call for help from community members, since they live on the ground floor of the situation. Additionally, the predominance of households where all parental figures are working full-time jobs has created a large population of unsupervised youth, an issue which may be managed, in part, by a strong and active community. Youth unemployment is going to remain a major part of political and social insurgencies from year to year unless the problem is solved.

In most communities neighbours know each other even by names. Moreover, while the federal police force may be excellent at fighting crime, it may take the efforts of an entire community to create effective crime prevention programmes; by working together, both law enforcement and civilian efforts can be combined to create a wide-ranging strategy that both reduces and prevents crime. In fact what is ongoing in Borno state of Nigeria is a combination of pockets vigilant groups and Nigeria law enforcement. We have similar ones in the South West of Nigeria call OPC. Any law enforcement, private or public, that is not registered constitutionally is still illegal no mater how useful and effective their efforts. We could push for their recognition by the law book.

The beauty of community policing is the fact that it is both a problem solving and a partner at work with government. Partnership is the relationship created by police and civilians working together; by forming a bond of mutual goals and proving a willingness to listen and respond with action, police and community members can create a reservoir of trust that may be necessary in difficult situations. By partnering with the community, law enforcement stands to gain inside information about criminal activity that may lead to important busts. The community can also gain by getting to know the police force; a bridge of trust may help reduce a natural suspicion or fear of the police, and lead to community-created crime prevention programs that are backed by the efforts of the police force. At present many people in Nigeria believe that the Nigeria police are neither their friend nor an organization to be trusted. For example if your car should break down in the bush seeing a police post near by is not a relief. The Nigeria Police would be thinking that the unfortunate driver must have stolen the car; there is some accumulation of mistrust. We need to be genuine partners especially to combat growing crimes like suicide bombers, Boko Haram and many unfolding ones and building the police for the people not for the politicians.

The whole essence of policing is to create and manage a community environment that is conducive for the rich and the poor, men and women, young and old. It is a public relation scenario but consisting of a heavy dose of crime control. It is a problem solving between neighbours, partners, and the entire community. This problem solving is the process that law enforcement and neighbourhood members go through in order to identify, target, and solve criminal problems in the community. We already have village heads, religious leaders, community leaders in Africa involved in problem solving when those problems are still within their level. When the problem is beyond the community the police and the community members should still be equally involved. By creating a working model in which both sides can help each other, community policing can help establish a cycle of trust and communication that can significantly reduce crime levels in a State over time. By building mutual trust and communication between the police and the community it should be possible to create a vehicle that can pilot the community through any level of insurgencies.

Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi, ipinyomira@yahoo.co.uk or/and raipinyomi@unilorin.edu.ng


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