IMPACT OF COMMUNITY POLICING AND CRIME REDUCTION IN NIGERIA: A STUDY OF EASTERN SECURITY NETWORK
1.1 Background to the Study
Crime is in the society is viewed as one of the most factual occurrence which confront people in this modern age (Giddens, 2004). Ehindero, Inspector General of Police stated in a lecture delivered to Participants of National War College, Abuja that ‘perhaps the most potent threat to national security of any country is crime. Ugwuoke (2010) pointed out that crime and criminality are as old as mankind. Marshall (2008) revealed that crime is a global feature of all human societies. The reason for this according to Marshall is because there is no human society where norms and values are not violated, from the simplest hunting and gathering societies to the most complex civilized societies. It is because of this universal character of crime that every society is expected to have ‘specific mechanisms for the overall interest and wellbeing of the generality of the populace’ (Igbo, 2007).
Ezuugwu (2011) noted that Nigerian society is taking a dangerous path, a path to nowhere (crime leads to nowhere but destruction), a path to destruction. That the society is really adrift, a regrettable drifts, sustained by a wave of criminality and lawlessness. That Nigerians these days sleep with one eye closed because of the fear of the rampaging effects of armed robbery and other associated crimes. Each day comes with its stories of one form of crime or the other. Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves because the society prepares the crime while the criminals commit it. Failure of government to meet up with its basic duties of meeting the primary needs of the citizen, criminal activities keeps increasing in the society.
Alemika and Chukwuma (2000) noted that as a result of police inefficiency and ineffectiveness in crime prevention and control, detection and apprehension of criminals, poor rule of law records, the violation of human rights, lack of accountability, incivility and wide-scale corruption, the public holds the police in low esteem and is fearful of their brutality, extortion and ineffectiveness. The public loss of trust and confidence in the police and in the state, in the face of unrelenting upsurge in violent crimes in the society, necessitated the advent and formation of informal policing strategies, otherwise known as vigilantism or neighbourhood watch (Abrahansen & Williams, 2005). Increasing attention has been given to informal policing, and it is seen as a rational response of poor communities to the weak criminal justice system, with regards to low policing and high levels of criminality (Adewale, 2007). Despite this development, the nation still finds it difficult to integrate the activities of the informal police sector into mainstream policing in Nigeria.
The most frequently recorded mechanism by which vigilante and neighborhood watch is supposed to reduce crime is by arresting anyone with suspicious activities and reporting these to the police. The relationship between reporting and crime reduction is not always well explained in the literature. More so, it has been argued that close surveillance might prevent crime as a result of its effect on the views and decision making of potential offenders. Hence, watching and reporting might deter offenders if they are aware of the propensity of the local residents to report suspicious behavior and if they perceive this as increasing the risks of being caught.
Consequently, vigilante/neighborhood watch can be an option that can enhance the effectiveness of the police force in Nigeria. Neigbourhood watch is perhaps the most popular and most demanded policing method among the law enforcement agencies, and has been implemented by many countries including United States, Germany and India. In the United States, where neighbourhood watch practices started with decentralized police systems, neighbourhood watch is accepted as a philosophy and practice that has been recognized as the most important contemporary police innovation designed to reduce crime and ensure effective policing (Zhoe, 2003).
Regional policing as a crime reduction approach is a security system in which members of the public are involved in the conduct of protecting their territories to aid the efforts of the police in crime control by supplying useful information to law enforcement agencies in the neighbourhood (Eke, 2009). In regional policing, the community is always expected to involving in the policing duty through volunteer schemes, establishing neighbourhood support systems and augmenting police patrol activities.
Strong communities are relatively linked to prevention of crime and reduction of fear of crime (Giddens, 2004). Without sustained public contact, officers would be unable to exercise their discretion appropriately and would find themselves isolated, increasingly hostile and unable to empathize with the public. In view of this, seven senior officers from Nigerian police in 2003 went to U.K and U.S.A respectively to do a comparative study of community policing (Anucha, 2007). It was launched on the 27th day of April 2004 by the Inspector-General of Police Tafa Balogun during the era of President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
A significant task that is important for the police to achieve success in guaranteeing the security of life and property of the citizens in the country is to secure the support and understanding of individuals and communities. Therefore, the role performed by the non-state actors such as the traditional rulers, religious leaders, and other members of the community in crime detection, prevention and reduction for the achievement of security cannot be underestimated (Adeyefa, 2012). Scholars have postulated that when the Nigeria Police Force work closely with the community, people or locals, they would be able to curb crime and criminality in their respective areas of jurisdiction. It is on these premises that this study seeks to examine regional policing and crime reduction in Nigeria by using Eastern security network as a case study.
Eastern security network which was launched on November 2020 by the leader of the indigenous people of Biafra Nnamdi Kanu is a security outfit which is a replica of Amotekun launched by the governors of the south-west to curb insecurity in that region. The group vowed to protect the south-east and south-south from criminal activities.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Crime is no doubt one of the major social challenges confronting Nigeria today. The manifestation of this is evident in that no day passes without the national dailies carrying report of one form of crime or the other, ranging from murder, forcible rape, aggravated assault, child sexual abuse, herdsmen killings, political assassination, kidnapping, armed robbery, burglary, motor vehicle theft, oil pipe line explosion/bunkering by the militants groups, issues of bombings by Boko Haram, cybercrimes and child trafficking. For example, reports abound of armed robbers using dynamites and hand grenades to blow up the doors of bullion van conveying money with full police escort or using rocket propelled grenades to attack helicopters (Soyombo, 2009). Similarly, kidnapping which used to be a localized problem in some communities in Nigeria has assumed a national character, now, targeting the rich and the powerful that are now living in grave fear and uncertainty.
As a response to the security challenges in the country, many communities and neighbourhoods as well as governments, have made increasing recourse, to formal and informal security providers, such as community policing, Community Based Security/Neighbourhood Watch/Vigilante and the recently formed by the south western Governors; Amotekun group structures to improve their safety and security conditions. Reports indicate that as high as 50% of Nigerians patronize the services of these community based security operatives for their protection from criminal attacks (Alemika and Chukwuma, 2005).
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The objective of this study is to examine community policing and crime reduction in Nigeria by using eastern security network as a case study. However, the specific objectives are:
- To investigate the level of acceptance of regional policing by the people in the community
- To determine the challenges facing regional policing in Nigeria
- To examine the prevalence of regional policing in Nigeria