Emeka* is a Divisional Officer with the Nigeria Police Force currently handling kidnapping cases in Nasarawa state who recently received UNODC training on new community policing tools.
In recent years, he has experienced an increase in the number of kidnappings in his area of responsibility. According to a recent report by Nigeria’s National Institute of Security Studies and UNODC, more than half of all the abductions and disappearances in Nigeria have occurred in the North-West or North-Central regions since 2015.
Emeka believes that at the root much of this violence is the so-called ‘farmer-herder’ conflict, a dispute over land use that has become one of the country’s most significant security challenges.
Behind the increasing intensity of the conflict has been the emergence of criminal gangs, often referred to locally as bandits, seeking to capitalise on this insecurity by engaging in kidnap-for-ransom, rape, and murder.
For officers like Emeka, the multidimensional security threat posed by intercommunal violence and criminal gangs, including troubling evidence of a nexus with terrorist groups, coupled with the demands of policing large territories consisting of scattered rural communities, has placed traditional policing strategies under increasing strain.
Policing in Partnership
Faced with challenges like the ‘farmer-herder’ conflict, there is a growing need for fresh and innovative approaches to security and crime prevention.
Community policing is one such approach, revolving around strategies to create a dynamic partnership between police officers and local communities that gives new meaning to the old police motto that the police are the public, and the public are the police.
By building trust with the communities they serve, community policing aims to create an environment conducive to cooperation and information-sharing. Problem-solving techniques are then used to proactively address the underlying causes of crime.
Nigeria has been in the forefront of introducing this new approach to the African continent. In 2020, the Nigeria Police Act provided for the establishment of Community Policing Committees in every State, each consisting of representatives of the Nigeria Police Force and members of the local community, with the aim of improving engagement and reducing crime.
Community Policing in Action
As part of its delivery of technical assistance to Nigeria to investigate and prosecute serious crimes, including terrorism and kidnappingin several States of North West and North-Central Nigeria, UNODC recently launched a training series on Community Policing and Human Rights.
In September and October 2023, UNODC delivered two workshops to Divisional police officers from Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Plateau states to equip them with the skills to engage the communities they serve, and to promote human rights and gender considerations in their everyday policing duties.
The workshop provided a platform for the officers to discuss the principles of community policing, and to learn strategies for building effective partnerships. Through reflection and group activities, participants were taught how to use their emotional intelligence and social skills to build positive relationships with the community and diffuse conflict in non-confrontational ways.
Officers were also taught to use the SARA problem-solving model to Scan for potential problems and challenges in their areas of responsibility, to Analyse the root causes of these issues, to Respond by developing and implementing an action plan, and to Assess the impact of this action plan by evaluating its results and adjusting their efforts accordingly.
Reflecting on his participation in the workshop, Emeka expressed his appreciation for the knowledge and skills he had learned, and said he could already see opportunities to use some of these new tools to engage his local community and reduce serious crime in Nasarawa state. He told UNODC that he had gained a new appreciation for how collaboration and partnership were critical to effective policing, and added: “Policing is nothing without the community.”
His trainers could not have put it better themselves.
The training series on Community Policing and Human Rights was organised under the project “Strengthening the Capacity of Nigeria to more Effectively Prosecute Terrorism, Kidnapping, and other Serious Crimes in Nigeria’s Middle Belt”, and funded by the United States Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
*Name changed to protect privacy