Welcome to Africanews

Please select your experience

Watch Live



Vigilante groups protect communities in northern Nigeria

Security walk past a school where gunmen abducted students   -  
Copyright © africanews
Haruna Umar/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.


A growing number of states in Nigeria’s conflict-hit northern region are setting up community-based vigilante patrol units to tighten security in villages where violent killings and kidnappings are rife.

Fatigued by the ongoing Islamist insurgency in the northeast, the country’s security forces have struggled with limited resources in fighting armed gangs active in remote locations where the government is largely absent.

In the northern city of Kaduna, just 100 kilometres from where 300 schoolchildren were kidnapped last month, a local vigilante group called Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) was formed to protect local communities.

Emmanuel Audu-Bature said he was a victim of kidnapping himself, and joined the group to help protect his community against rampaging gangs.

“As a victim, I was taken to their camp, and I spent a week there. It was not a funny experience. I was really beaten, you know, threatened to be killed,” he said.

Vigilante groups like the CJTF are believed to have an advantage over state security forces in that they are intimately familiar with the territories and forests where armed gangs operate.

“We are the closest security outfit to the people because anytime there’s any security challenge, we are always there,” said Audu-Bature.

In addition, he highlighted the fact that the group can contribute a lot in terms of local intelligence.

“Whoever you are looking for, if the person is within our community, just give us some hours, we are going to fish the person out,” he said.

But Audu-Bature hopes that one day, the government will come in and give the group the support it needs to that they “will have a peaceful society”.

State governments are increasingly turning to these community vigilante groups to secure villages dominated by gangs.

But many of them are inadequately equipped and function without the resources and training provided to official security forces.

Dickson Osagie, a Nigerian terrorism expert, said there is a need for greater oversight.

“If you don't control these guys that are carrying arms to protect their community, I think, criminal elements will capitalise on that opportunity and explore that opportunity in their criminal enterprise,” he said.

He thinks the government should give vigilante groups training if they are to be allowed to carry arms.

“They must be trained on weapon handling and soft arms handling so that they don't use that gun to turn around and kill their own people.”

In the meantime, these groups remain committed to their communities in what are difficult circumstances.

View more