By AYISIRE EMMANUEL
NIGERIA with a population of about 160 million people has a Police Force of less than 300,000 men. The abysmal ratio of one poorly motivated policeman to over 500 disgruntled and discontented Nigerians is pitiable and a far cry from the average.
The fact that our country is grossly under-policed is just a facet of the multi-dimensional structure of the constraints that affect efficient policing in Nigeria.
The historical root of the Nigerian police as a colonial force of oppression of the people has made it absolutely impossible for the Force to transform into a people friendly outfit. Worse still is the fact that it is almost impossible for the Nigerian police to break down the barriers of apathy and mistrust that have characteriszed the relationship between them and the Nigerian public.
Mutual trust is the prime value that should form the bases of the partnership between the police and the public. A firm foundation of trust enables the police form a close relationship between it and the people that will produce a result -oriented policing. No wonder Sir Robert Peel, founder of the London metropolitan police set a number of principles one of which is that “……The police are the public and the public are the police”.
There is no doubt that for a number of reasons, the Police in several third world countries including Nigeria have lost sight of this fundamental relationship as a central organising concept for police service.
The concept of community policing is an attempt to revive this principle. The central feature of it is the acceptance of the fact that the police is no longer the sole guardians of law and order as in the past. There is the need for a genuine police-public collaboration with members of the community becoming active allies in the effort to support and enhance public security and safety.
The Vigilante Group of Nigeria is the first systematic effort to galvanise a broad based grass root Community Oriented platform for Nigerian Public partnership and collaboration in the area of security.
According to Ali Sokoto, the founding Father and National Chairman of Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN), his vision is that every family or household should be security conscious enough to keep watch over the next door neighbour. VGN is firmly established in all the 774 Local Government Council Areas and the 36 states of the Federation including the FCT, Abuja. Registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission in 1999 as an NGO, VGN exist in all nooks and crannies of Nigeria as a vanguard of patriotic men and women, whose sole objective is to assist the Police in securing lives and properties in their respective Communities.
There is no denying the fact that the level of crime has changed in Nigeria; from illegal drugs to rape, gang violence to murder, burglary to armed robbery and kidnapping to terrorism.
The nature of crimes like kidnapping and terrorism cannot be adequately tackled by the present conventional Police structures and modus operandi. Even the concept of centralised management of the Police Force has only helped to isolate it further from the public it is serving. In many cases, Police officers posted far away from their localities are ‘strangers’ in the community where they serve. It has been commonly observed that these “criminals” are not ‘spirits’, indeed they are not. However only bonafide members of the communities can understand their environment, terrain and even identify and monitor suspected ‘strangers’.
Pertinent and useful information will not be forthcoming from the public where the Police is perceived as total ‘strangers’ and the relationship of mistrust and suspicion persists between them and the public they serve.
The argument is not to support the proponents of State Police. In fact, any student of Nigerian history will allude to the fact that the call for State Police like that of ethnic militia is a call to anarchy and the total fragmentation of the Nigerian Nation. Consequently, Police /VGN partnership and collaboration is the panacea to our present security challenges.
All well meaning Nigerians including the Federal, States and Local Governments should assist VGN in bringing all mushroom vigilante groups and neighbourhood watchers under the umbrella of Vigilante Group of Nigeria for easy organization, direction and co-ordination to achieve a crime – free society.