Community Vigilante And Crime Control In Azare Town
The truth is, there is no town in Nigeria which is free of urbane violence and crime. Because of the escalating crime wave and the inability of the formal agents of law enforcement to control crime, traditional authorities have resorted to vigilantism in their domains. The way out of the current unwholesome security situation in the country is for every community to know and appreciate the fact that crime prevention is a collective responsibility.
The man of wit and wisdom, the emir of Katagum, Umar Faruk II, understands the reality that maintaining security and preserving peaceful coexistence among people is a responsibility incumbent on all citizens without exception. He told members of the “emir of Katagum committee on security and peace” that there would be no end in sight for violent crime so long as emirs, district heads and ward chiefs would fold their arms and expect the federal and state government to convert crime. Violent crime does not differentiate between the have and have not, nobleman and plebeian, or male and female gender. It is “we collectively rise and fight crime or crime will fight back and consume us”, the emir said.
To send a powerful message to town people, the emir handpicks all the members of the committee on security and peace by himself, gives them term of reference and superintends over splitting of neighborhoods into clusters for ease of administration, control and supervision. Not only that, he also fully takes part in night patrols to encourage the vigilantes who are paid a monthly stipend and volunteers who leave the comfort of their houses and go out to keep vigil in the neighborhoods.
Interestingly, the structure which the Katagum emirate council designed on security and peace is holistic, practicable and has thus started paying dividends. At the head of the hierarchy is the emir, then followed by the graveyard, mosque, security and peace committees who directly report to the emir about the deliberations of their committees to enable him to take action. The emirate secretary serves as the secretary of the committee. District heads, Village heads, and ward chiefs replicate the functions and operations of the major committee in their various areas of jurisdiction. On the bottommost of the hierarchy are the ward reconciliation and night group surveillance volunteers committees who do the policing and settle disputes among people.
Importantly, both vigilantes and volunteers understand that the power they have to operate and the trust and confidence they enjoy come from members of the community, community leaders, the police and men of Nigerian Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). This is to forestall the use of arbitrary powers by vigilantes and its attendant consequences, as we have seen in some states of the North West.
The formation of this local and homegrown security architecture helps in no small measure in reducing crime. Before the founding of the committee on October 23, 2020, we had been battling with the notorious Yan Boda gangsters who were emboldened and operated without let or hindrance by hacking and stabbing people at will. The committee has been able to stave off their nuisance. Now, they neither attack innocent bystanders nor their rival gangs. Unlike before, there are no reports of Burglary, problems of street urchins, carjacking and motorbike theft in the town. The committee has banned Nightlife to avoid excuses by criminal elements to commit crime. The vigilantes advise people to stay indoors and not to go out after 11:30 with no cogent reasons. Importantly; the arrangement strengthens the cordial relationship between the police and the community.
The successes of the committee on security made up by the emir of Katagum to fight crime and promote peace in the emirate have reawakened the debate on the role of traditional rulers in Nigeria. Most times the government and its security agencies literally run to traditional fathers to seek royal blessing, counselling and guidance because of their unique positions, influence and authority in the society. There is therefore a need to return to the old ways of curbing crime in our communities by involving traditional rulers in crime detection and prevention.
This approach brings together the police, traditional rulers, vigilante groups, religious based organizations, market women, students, non-governmental organizations through town hall meetings, visitations, private consultations, to discuss the prevailing crimes in their societies. Such synergies and collaborations among security agencies and the civil populace are the best way to prevent and control crime in the society.
Now, I will appeal to the wealthy men and women among us to make a generous financial contribution to security and peace initiatives in order to maintain the tempo. To end insecurity in our communities is a task which must be done. We must therefore thank those young patriotic sons of the soil who deny themselves not only the joy and comfort of sleep, but who put their lives on the line every day. And to his Royal Highness, the emir of Katagum, Alhaji Umar Faruk II, we cannot thank you enough for your wit and thoughtfulness in fighting violent crime. May Allah reward you with the best of rewards, Amin.
Saleh Bature wrote this piece from NDIC Quarters, Off. Limpopo Street, Maitama-Abuja. [email protected]