Making community policing workable, By Jide Ayobolu

Inspector General of Police

The Federal Government has approved the sum of N13.3 billion for the take-off of Community Policing initiative across the country.

This is as the World Bank has cleared 35 states for the US$1.5billion stimulus package for Nigeria’s states to cushion the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Economic Council (NEC) at its virtual meeting, presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, resolved that the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum, with two other governors, meet with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Finance Minister and the Inspector General of Police to coordinate the proper utilization of the funding of the initiative Attendance at the NEC virtual meeting with state governors, included the Minister of Federal Capital Territory, FCT Mohammed Bello, CBN Governor, Godwin Emiefile, and some federal cabinet officials.

The NEC Ad-hoc Committee on Security and Policing made a presentation on its assignment to the Council noting that engagement with key stakeholders on the operationalization of community policing in the country was ongoing. Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, who made the presentation said the committee, met on Thursday 4th of August to review the escalating security challenges in Nigeria. He said the meeting reviewed the escalating challenges in the country and observed that insecurity could not be fully eradicated without addressing the high poverty rate and unemployment level in Nigeria.

Briefing State House correspondents at the end of the NEC, Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State, said, “Council resolved that the Chair of the NGF (Nigeria Governors’ Forum) with two other governors would be meeting with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Finance Minister and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to coordinate the proper utilisation of the funding of community policing in the states. “The federal government has already approved N13 billion for this same purpose.” He said the work of the Committee was ongoing with key stakeholders and would be meeting further as the need arises to update the Council on the progress being made to address insecurity and criminality in the country.

Recall that at the last National Economic Council, NEC, virtual meeting coordinated from the office of the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Governor Abdullahi Sule of Nasarawa State, while briefing State House correspondents, had announced that the Federal Government approved the sum of N13.3bn for the take-off of community policing initiative across the country. While faulting the agitation for State Police, Mallam Garba Shehu said, “The essence of the government funding at this time is to do two or three things: one is to ensure training for those who are to be recruited to join the police service, two (is) to enlighten the public about the functionality of the new system and three is to procure equipment. But above all is the need to streamline the processes embarked upon by the states and the sub-regions.

“As members of the community, we know ourselves better, we know all the nooks, the crannies, we know who is who and so, therefore, it is not difficult for intelligence to be supplied for effective law and order management in the community.”

Fielding the question on why it took the President some time to approve the community policing, he said, “For President Muhammadu Buhari, the concern has always been about the spread and abuse of weapons in the hands of police. “He said repeatedly that, look, a lot of the states that had clamoured for state police, many of them are unable to cope with salary payment. If you hire a community policeman and give him a gun, and keep him for five, six months without salary, what do you expect? Efforts have been made so that situations of this kind do not arise.

So, therefore, there is a standard national procedure and prescription for each of the states to comply with.” He explained that under the Community Policing arrangement, the Inspector General of Police, IGP Mohammed Adamu would dictate structure and format the new security structure would take. He said, “Whatever name they go by, Amotekun or whatever, they will be streamlined and they will be run in accordance with the structure as defined by the Inspector General of Police.

“They will be localised, they will be owned by local communities, they will be managed by them. You know, the constitution of the committee has been defined to include council chairmen, religious leaders, traditional leaders, civil society groups and all of that. “They can choose their own nomenclature but it doesn’t make a difference. There is a general structure for all state and local council community policing mechanisms and this should abide in the states.”

Community policing is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies that support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.” The concept of community policing has be around for a long time and in the US it can be traced as far back as the 19th century.

The primary purpose for its inception was to have police engaging with communities to build strong relationships between its members and law enforcement. One of the earliest and major tactics of community policing involved officers going on foot patrols through the neighborhoods they serve.

In today’s modern era, this has evolved to departments incorporating social media and/or community engagement systems to share relevant local information with residents.  It has been an integral strategy for cities who have looked to combat violence, drugs and other criminal activities.

Common methods of community-policing include:

  • Encouraging the community to help prevent crime by providing advice, giving talks at schools, encouraging neighbourhood watch groups, and a variety of other techniques.

  • Increased use of foot or bicycle patrols.

  • Increased officer accountability to the communities they are supposed to serve.

  • Creating teams of officers to carry out community policing in designated neighborhoods.

  • Clear communication between the police and the communities about their objectives and strategies.

  • Partnerships with other organizations such as government agencies, community members, nonprofit service providers, private businesses and the media.

  • Decentralizing the police authority, allowing more discretion amongst lower-ranking officers, and more initiative expected from them.

Winning the support of community residents will aid security. Community policing actors must step in to build public trust through fair policing, professionalism and proper conduct without bias.

To cultivate public trust, community policing actors must take a cue from the perception of people towards existing formal security structures. High-handedness, corruption and other professional misconduct that alienates people from security agencies should be avoided.

Community policing strategy should favour community cohesion. Divided communities are prone to violent conflict. The policy framework must be designed to align and collaborate with existing community-based groups to understand community needs.

The partnerships will improve responses to adopt in addressing issues around crime and conflict. The familiarity of community policing actors with residents will be valuable in mobilising community groups towards suing for peace in the face of conflict or working together to tackle criminality at the community level.

Informal social control groups are poised to take advantage of community policing units; build strong partnerships that will re-establish the relevance of informal actors in promoting social cohesion.

And to also influence the culture of the community towards peace. This strategy will only be guaranteed if local partners that will work directly with community policing actors are included in the planning and implementation stages of community policing as well as adequately trained to discharge their duties. Such inclusion should be systematic enough to capture the specific roles and responsibilities of community actors in working together with traditional institutions to resolve conflict or tackle crimes at the community stage. Regardless of the realities of existing security structures, community policing promises good outcomes in Nigeria if properly employed.

Jide Ayobolu is a public affairs analyst

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