One of the constitutional obligations of the Federal Government of Nigeria is to protect the lives and properties of Nigerians.
Consequently, the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) was established in 1930 to assist the Government in executing the aforementioned duty, particularly in civil environments.
Unfortunately, the Nigeria Police Force only has approximately 400,000 Police personnel to protect over 200 million Nigerians, indicating that the country is severely under-policed.
To address this issue, Senator Ahmad Lawan (representing Yobe North Constituency) presented a Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN) Bill to the National Assembly. It was based on the need to consider nation-wide community policing through the creation of the Vigilante Protection Corps.
The Bill was passed by the 8th National Assembly in 2017 and sent to the President for assent. However, the President refused to assent to the Bill due to undisclosed reasons.
The Bill was then retracted in 2019 by the 9th National Assembly for further amendment.
It is currently in the amendment stage and will be resent to the President for assent as soon as the amendment is complete.
The Policy Solution
The Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN) Bill proposes that the Vigilante Protection Corps shall actively collaborate with the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and other law enforcement agencies to curb crimes, protect and preserve public property including crowd control and maintenance of peace at public functions.
The Vigilante Group members are to be trained by the Nigeria Police in community policing and intelligence gathering, in order to ease the burdens of the NPF.
It is expected that the incorporation of the Vigilante Protection Corp into the Police Force will afford the Police community the opportunity to tap into exclusive resources such as the superior understanding of terrain, topography or demography.
The Vigilante Group is also expected to follow the ideals and principles of community policing; thereby, strengthening proactive policing in Nigeria.
It is important to note that since the beginning of the Shekau-led Boko Haram insurgency in the North East (NE) of Nigeria in 2009, the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF) who are community members of the NE region (and also members of the Vigilante Protection Corp) have helped augment the efforts of the Nigerian military to secure the region.
Although the insurgents are yet to be completely crushed, most intelligence gathering which has significantly helped in the campaign against the Boko Haram emerged primarily from the JTF, indicating the importance of the group to national security.
The group, therefore, needs to be legalised and given a credible structure to run alongside law enforcement agencies.
NIGAC Constructive Position/Take
Approximately 5,000 Vigilante Group members are to be recruited per 36 State including the FCT Abuja, making a total of 185,000 security support to be added to the 400,000 police officers in the country.
Although the addition of these Vigilante Group members to the security personnel will go a long way to curb crimes and protect lives and properties, the country will still be under-policed as about 600,000 security personnel (Police officers + Vigilante Group members) are to police about 200 million Nigerians, i.e., 1 security personnel to 333 Nigerians – greatly insufficient!
In addition, although the reasons the President failed to assent the Bill are not made public, we assume that the President has directly sent his concerns to the National Assembly, which might explain why the 9th National Assembly is currently amending the Bill.
We also hope that the National Assembly will fast-track the amendment process so that our strained security forces can legally (and urgently) get additional support to carry out their constitutional functions.
It is important to define strictly in the Bill, the exact roles of the Vigilante Group and their designated authority, to avoid cheap exploitation of their powers or duplication of duties.
The Federal Government is advised to develop a recruitment structure for sustainable policing to ensure that there are enough personnel securing the lives and properties of the Nigerian people.