We laud the Federal Government’s recent approval of N13.3 billion for the take-off of the community policing across the country. Rising from a recent virtual meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the National Economic Council (NEC) mandated the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and two of his colleagues to liaise with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed and the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to coordinate how to utilise the fund. This initiative is, indeed, a welcome development.
Community policing is long overdue in Nigeria because most crimes are local and require local input to tackle them effectively. For instance, in some parts of the North Central region, such as Niger State, cases of cattle rustling are on the rise and have defied normal policing. In the North East, terrorism holds sway. In some other parts of the country, it is armed robbery or kidnapping.
Last year, gunmen attacked travellers on the Benin-Ore Road and killed Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, the daughter of the Afenifere leader, Pa Reuben Fasoranti. Many others had fallen to the murderous activities of these criminals on our highways, in spite of the presence of the police on these roads.
Amid the spate of insecurity in the country, many stakeholders had called for the adoption of community policing at different times. After the unfortunate killing of Fasoranti’s daughter, for instance, Professor Osinbajo met with monarchs from Osun State and stated that community policing remained one of the best methods of tackling insecurity in the country. This is because the local police will understand the language, culture and environment of the people they are policing.
The formation of regional security outfit such as Operation Amotekun in the South-West is an indication that we cannot rely solely on the regular police for adequate protection. Sometimes, bandits launch their attacks from the forests which the regular police may not be able to reach. If we have effective community police, it will be their duty to comb some of these forests where bandits hibernate because they know the terrain better. Local hunters, at some point, played a prominent role in the efforts to combat terrorism in the North East region. In the South East, local vigilance groups operate in areas the regular police may not easily access. Obviously, the Nigeria police do not have enough manpower to cover all the communities in Nigeria. They rely on these vigilance groups to cover the gaps.
Also, the poor perception most people have about the regular police force is another stumbling block to effective policing in Nigeria. Most often, people see them as corrupt, unreliable and untrustworthy. But a community policing that is closer to the people and has built trust among the populace will do better in the prevention of local crimes. In places where they are effective, community police will easily identify individuals and groups who plan acts of violence and nip them in the bud.
The community policing system is in line with standard practices in many advanced democracies. In the United States, for instance, there are federal, state, county and city police. Also, in places like the universities, hotels, and shopping malls, there are many other specialised policing systems. This is how it should be because modern policing, especially the one that could confront terrorism, involves different layers of actors.
To ensure effective community policing in Nigeria, there is need for recruitment of capable young men and women from the communities. The major stakeholders in these communities need to be involved to ensure thoroughness in the exercise as well as prevent criminal elements from infiltrating the system. We advise that the N13.3 billion approved for the exercise must be judiciously utilised. Those recruited should be adequately trained, equipped and remunerated. The federal, state and local governments should be involved in the training and equipment of the personnel.
Besides, there is need for adequate funding of the entire police force. The government should understudy countries where community policing has worked and emulate them. Government should engage the services of security experts on how to implement the initiative. If well managed, we believe that community policing will curb rising criminality across the country.
We urge the three tiers of government to cooperate with security agencies to ensure that a seamless community policing is achieved in Nigeria. Everything that is required must be done to ensure that it works.