VIGILANTISM AND CRIME CONTROL IN CONTEMPORARY NIGERIA

ABSTRACT

The inability of Nigerian police to control the rising tide of crime has resulted in the proliferation of vigilante groups in modern Nigeria.

The purpose of this research was to look into the impact of vigilante groups on crime control in modern Nigeria, specifically in Udenu L.G.A of Enugu State. Seven hundred and twenty (720) respondents were drawn from Enugu State’s Udenu Local Government Area. The sampling techniques used were multi-stage, cluster, and simple random sampling. Six (6) research assistants administered questionnaires to respondents, while interviews were conducted with two (2) traditional rulers, the chairman of the Udenu L.G.A vigilante group, the chairman of the vigilante monitoring group, and 24 vigilante group members.

The findings indicated that the Nigeria Police Force is ineffective in terms of crime control.

The inability of Nigerian police to control the rising tide of crime has resulted in the proliferation of vigilante groups in modern Nigeria.

The purpose of this research was to look into the impact of vigilante groups on crime control in modern Nigeria, specifically in Udenu L.G.A of Enugu State. Seven hundred and twenty (720) respondents were drawn from Enugu State’s Udenu Local Government Area. The sampling techniques used were multi-stage, cluster, and simple random sampling. Six (6) research assistants administered questionnaires to respondents, while interviews were conducted with two (2) traditional rulers, the chairman of the Udenu L.G.A vigilante group, the chairman of the vigilante monitoring group, and 24 vigilante group members.

The findings indicated that the Nigeria Police Force is ineffective in terms of crime control.  At the local government level, security committees should be formed, and these committees should meet on a regular basis to discuss security issues in their respective areas.

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1     BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Adequate security is a social requirement for the survival of any society. Every society takes appropriate precautions to safeguard the lives and property of those who live within its borders. Without adequate security, business and social activities may be restricted. This fundamental essence of security may be the reason why societies have made efforts to police their neighborhoods since time immemorial in order to protect them from criminal victimization. Security refers to the act of preventing and protecting certain facilities, equipment, people, or activities from damage, pilferage, destruction, murder, or disruption. Crime control dates back to a time when public order was the responsibility of appointed magistrates, who were unpaid private citizens.

individuals. The praeffectus urbi, a position created in Rome around 27 C, was the first paid public police officer (Roberg and Kuykendall, 1993). Following the fall of the Roman Empire and the subsequent anarchy, kings took on the responsibility of legal administration by strengthening the night watch. Roberg and Kuykendall (1993) also stated that in the twelfth century in England, men over the age of fifteen formed a posse comitatus, a group called out to pursue fleeing felons, through the Trankpledged’ system, which was based on an organization of tithings (ten families) and hundreds (ten tithings). As a result, the sheriffs who ensured that the Frankpledge system worked were in charge of policing the country.

However, as societies became more complex, social life became more difficult.

disrupted. Existing law enforcement systems were insufficient to address the issues raised by these incidents.

changes. As a result, the night watch system was implemented. Bellmen walked around the city ringing bells and providing policing services under this system. The bellmen were eventually replaced by untrained citizens, and then by paid constables. However, in 1829, Sir Robert Peel established the Metropolitan Police of London, the first modern uniformed police force, whose primary responsibility was crime prevention. Reid 5th ed., Roberg and Kuykendall, 1993 Vigilantism is not a new phenomenon. Many vigilante groups were formed in frontier areas of the United States prior to 1900. Concerned citizens in San Francisco formed vigilante committees that forcibly restored peace and order in 1851 and 1856.

(World Book Encyclopedia, pp. u-v20:318, Encyclopedia Americana, pp.24:204). In South Africa, vigilante activity is frequently justified as ‘filling a policing gap’ as a result of police inefficiency, corruption, and collusion with criminals, which is a practical failure in the criminal justice system. Vigilante activities in Sierra Leone have been explained as a result of police ineffectiveness in combating crime (Brownyn, 2001).

Vigilantism existed in Nigeria prior to the colonial era. Human Right Watch and Center for law enforcement and education report, (2002) noted that “vigilante and other self – defense groups currently operating in Nigeria have roots that reach deep into the country’s history. During the colonial era, some, but not all, independent local communities, particularly in the South East, maintained their own standing army to defend their territory from invasion.

from neighbouring communities. Although there was no equivalent modern-day structure at the time, some parallels can be drawn between these groups formed by local communities for their own protection and the more recently formed self-defense groups”. This is also true in Enugu State’s Udenu Local Government Area, where vigilantism was used to control both social and criminal activity prior to the introduction of colonial rule.

The proliferation of vigilante groups in modern Nigeria, particularly in Enugu State’s Udenu Local Government Area, is a response to crimes and criminality that have not only increased in degree, scope, and volume, but have also seen an unprecedented change in techniques, mode of operation, and sophistication between 1998 and 1999 (wake of the Nigerian Civil War).

fourth republic) and the Nigerian police’s apparent failure to rise to the occasion. Igbo (2001:219) has stated that “the apparent failure of Nigeria police to control the increasing wave of crime has led to unilateral public action against crime and criminals in some major cities of Nigeria particularly in the South east of the country”.

This is true in Udenu Local Government Area, where vigilante groups are currently used as a means of crime control due to an increasing crime wave and the inability of formal crime control agents to bring it under control. In light of this, this study investigated the roles of vigilante groups in crime control in contemporary Nigeria, specifically in Enugu State’s Udenu Local Government Area.

1.2     STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM

Many communities in Nigeria have witnessed various types of crimes in recent years. Enugu State’s Udenu Local Government Area is no exception. As a result, crime has become a major issue in modern Nigeria. The primary agent in the fight against crime, the police, is ineffective. Their ineffectiveness could be attributed to a lack of staffing, equipment, corruption, and public cooperation. Underpolicing has become a problem in Nigeria, including the Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State. As a result, violent and property crimes are committed on a daily basis without being detected or prosecuted. Armed bandits are robbing people of their valuable property and killing or maiming them for life. Many people rarely sleep in their homes.

houses at night for fear of being a victim of a criminal. Those who sleep at night in their homes do so at their peril. As a result, insecurity and lawlessness have recently gripped Udenu Local Government Area, with armed robbery and other violent crimes reaching unprecedented levels.

As a result, the situation of insecurity and lawlessness began to affect more than just the people of Udenu Local Government Area, as traders from neighboring communities who came to Udenu to conduct business in Obollo-Afor and Orie Orba began to avoid these towns out of fear. As a result, all commercial and social activities were halted.

Miss Ifeyinwa Ugwueje was gruesomely murdered in Oba, according to a local newspaper (Starlite) report headlined “Girl, 18 killed at Obollo-Afor.”

On Wednesday, November 18, 2006, a guest inn was opened. The same newspaper reported that “at Orba in Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State, the spirit of communalism, oneness, good rapport as well as peaceful co-existence seem to have eluded the people for some time following the rampant killings everywhere including the brutal murder of shinkaffi who was said to be a famous and powerful youth leader (The Starlite, 2006:5 and 13).

The rise in crime and the inability of Nigerian police to effectively deal with the situation have given rise to the current form of vigilante groups. These vigilante groups are responsible for ensuring the safety of their own lives, property, and families. According to Eke (2002), “from

Wednesday, November 18, 2006. The same newspaper reported that “at Orba in Udenu Local Government Area of Enugu State, the spirit of communalism, oneness, good rapport as well as peaceful co-existence seem to have eluded the people for some time following the rampant killings everywhere including the brutal murder of shinkaffi who was said to be a famous and powerful youth leader (The Starlite, 2006:5 and 13).

The rise in crime and the inability of Nigerian police to effectively deal with the situation have resulted in the formation of vigilante groups in their current form. These vigilante groups are to protect their own lives and property, as well as the lives and property of their families. Eke (2002) stated that “from

Ordinary men and women have made numerous sacrifices throughout history to ensure the safety of their lives and the lives of their families. That human impulse is not unique to Nigeria. Government in Western Europe, in Africa, and else where was originally set up to offer protection to their subjects”.

Thus, vigilantism appears to be gaining prominence as a crime-control agent in Udenu Local Government Area. In Nigeria, several vigilante groups now operate in both rural and urban areas. Residents regard vigilante groups as a security force on which they can always rely. To put it another way, the public is skeptical of Nigeria Police’s ability to provide adequate security services without public participation.

As a result, this research aimed at determining the impact of vigilante groups on crime control in Enugu state’s Udenu L.G. A.

1.3     RESEARCH QUESTIONS

1. What is the crime rate in Udenu L.G.A?

2. To what extent is crime a social problem in Udenu Local Government Area?

3. To what extent has vigilantism aided in the control of crime in Udenu L.G.A?

4. To what extent have police in Udenu L.G.A. controlled crime?

5. What is the relationship between the police and vigilante groups in Udenu Local Government Area?

6. What is the community’s opinion of vigilante groups in Udenu L.G.A?

7. What is the relationship between the police and the general public in Udenu Local Government Area?

1.4     OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY

The overarching goal of this research is to look into the roles of vigilante groups in crime control in Enugu State’s Udenu Local Government Area.

The specific goals are as follows:

1. To highlight the crime rate in Udenu L.G.A.

2. Determine the extent to which crime is a social problem in Udenu L.G.A.

3. To ascertain the extent to which vigilantism has aided in the control of crime in Udenu L.G.A.

4. Determine the extent to which the police have controlled crime in Udenu L.G.A.

5. Determine the relationship between the police and vigilante groups in Udenu Local Government Area.

6. To ascertain community perceptions of vigilante groups in Udenu L.G.A.

7. Investigate the relationship between the police and the general public in Udenu L.G.A.

1.5    SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

This research has both theoretical and practical implications. From a theoretical standpoint, this study will contribute to the existing literature on vigilantism. It will also generate data for future research or serve as a point of reference for similar studies.

From a practical standpoint, this study will demonstrate the security void created in both rural and urban communities, as well as how vigilante groups have tended to fill this void. To that end, this may pique the government’s interest in providing adequate police services in both rural and urban communities, or it may modify and assist vigilante groups in supplementing police security efforts.

In another development, this research will be extremely beneficial to In their pursuit of police reform, law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders. In general, it will encourage additional research into vigilantism and policing.

1.6     DEFINITION OF TERMS

The following concepts have been defined in the context of this study:

The period of British rule in Nigeria is referred to as colonialism. Nigeria in the present day: This refers to Nigeria in the present day.

Crime: Any act or omission that violates state criminal law and is punishable by the state after prosecution and conviction.

All steps and activities taken to prevent the spread and commission of crime are referred to as crime control.

Crime prevention: This term, which is frequently used interchangeably with crime control, refers to all efforts made to ensure that crime does not occur or is kept to a bare minimum.

The criminal justice system refers to state agencies that combat crime. They are the police, court, prison, probation and parole services.

Police: This is the branch of the criminal justice system that combats crime and upholds law and order.

Policing is defined as any effort aimed at detecting and preventing crime, as well as protecting people and property. It can be done informally by private citizens or formally by state agents.

Social control refers to efforts made to ensure that people’s behavior conforms to society’s established norms and customs.

Vigilante groups: These are organizations formed and funded by members of a specific community to combat crime and protect people’s lives and property.

 

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