“The police are strangers, so we need to help them”
There aren’t enough policemen, and they aren’t locals. We’re indigenous, we know individuals personally, so we can trace people more easily. The police are strangers, so we need to help them. The police are happy to work with us: I'm on operation with them regularly. If we find something out, we go to them with our information, and if they need us, they come to us. We can arrest people, but we cannot detain people. When we arrest someone, we immediately handover them over to the police, and it’s the police who investigate and prosecute.Photo published on Facebook page belong to the Vigilante Group of NigeriaWe don’t have problems with Islamist militants here; our big problem is armed robbery.Many people in our community have a crime alert on their mobile phones, which means when there’s a problem they don’t have to ring us, they just dial a code and we receive the alert. Then we know to send a team down to where they are. The alert will tell us their address and their name. It helps us. In one day we might received up to five alerts, but on others, if there’s no crime, we won’t receive any.Photo published on the Facebook page belonging to the Vigilante Group of NigeriaWe have an office which is staffed all the time, but none of us are paid. This is not my full-time job: I’m a teacher. I do it when I’m not at work, or when there’s an emergency I’ll get call and I’ll leave work. We’re hoping that soon the job will become full-time and paid.
“It was reassuring to know the vigilantes were there”
When I was growing up there was a lot of crime. The vigilante group near me would patrol about six or seven men at a time. At night I’d hear them: they’d make a noise with some kind of instrument or whistle, and I’d know they were there. It was reassuring to know the vigilantes were there.The problem is they don’t have legal backing, many of them are unemployed, they might not be accountable to anyone, they have no legal recognition and so there’s a problem with recognising them in the street. People who aren’t vigilantes can pretend to be vigilantes, so you trust them, and then they rob you, or commit some other crime.They didn’t have guns; they had batons. They didn’t wear uniforms. In some communities they’re sponsored by a rich person who has access to arms, which they give to the vigilantes.I hope that in ten or twenty years things will be more organised so that there won’t be a need for vigilantes. Criminals take advantage of the need for vigilantes to do things that are evil. Civil society groups who inform and educate about crime would be fine, but not people who go out and fight.