Bayelsa State Government adopts Community Based Crime Prevention Strategy

Bayelsa, 23 March 2022: In 2021 the Bayelsa  State Government and UNODC embarked on a joint project towards the development of a community based crime prevention strategy with a view to assisting Bayelsa State communities in addressing multi-dimensional security challenges, including maritime and riverine crimes. Last week this cooperation, which is funded by the Government of Germany, achieved an important milestone with the adoption of Bayelsa State Strategy for Crime Prevention and Community Resilience at a final validation workshop with the participation of the Bayelsa State Government, representatives of Federal and State security sector actors and a cross section of local government representatives, community leaders and civil society.

The workshop is the culmination of a six months process, including several technical working sessions involving State and Local Government, security sector agencies and community leaders as well as members of organised civil society. The process also included town hall meetings with the three communities Ikebiri, Otuan and Ayamasa where the strategy will be first implemented following its adoption this week. These communities have been selected as they alongside others, feel the brunt of insecurity and violence, including piracy and other maritime crime and are targeted both for recruitment of young people into gangs, cults, and as victims as they go about their daily business on the waterways and on land. Children as young as 11 or 12 are recruited into gangs and cults, and once engaged, it is very difficult for them to escape and choose a prosocial path or pursue a career. Girls can be recruited for sex; teenage pregnancy is rife and there are few legitimate opportunities for young people.

The strategy principal objective is to empower communities in pro-actively managing their local security environment through preventive action, while strengthening their relations with locally present security agencies and strengthening these agencies in servicing the communities. While there is an existing pattern of government and civil society partnerships aiming to make communities safer, such partnerships are hampered by a lack of capacity, resources and regulatory rigour regarding the role of community members. The strategy therefore has a focus on building capacity and improving the footprint of law enforcement and criminal justice services, by working towards an effective evidence trial and knowledge management system within the criminal Justice System. This will enable more effective collaboration with communities, for instance through improved regulation and community policing programmes.

The Honorable Commissioner for Information, Hon. Ayiba C. Duba and Lt. Cdr GO Babatunde of NNS Soroh, at the validation workshop referred repeatedly to the need to invest in breaking a cycle of hopelessness within these communities; the strategy aims to strengthen families and parents to support healthy child and youth development, reduce school dropouts and address the quality of education and safety at schools, create opportunities for informal education and learning, resilience through participatory activities and recreational programmes such as sports, arts and culture in activated safe public places.

It is vital that all stakeholders commit to increasing employability, particularly in revitalising the Blue Economy that once sustained these communities, and within a framework that promotes and realises empowerment of women to participate in all spheres of life.

This week, UNODC embarks on action planning for the three pilot communities with representatives from the local communities including community leaders, women, youth, local security and law enforcement.