Whenever governments or nation states are confronted with the issues of terrorism, one thought that assails the mind is the significance of intelligence as a counter-terrorism instrument. This could mean the gathering of intelligence information by relevant security agencies about the next terrorist attack. Such information could lead to nipping such existing plot in the bud. In this regard, counter-terrorism intelligence work could go further to provide strategic warning, such as when “strategic intelligence warning” is issued by relevant security agencies. This may provide ample information on terrorist targets and could thus assist the police and decision makers on the allocation of resources for effective security.
No doubt, counter-terrorism intelligence is multifaceted, the reason why experts regard it as a “multi-disciplinary project.” This is because it relies on various sources for collecting information, the most primary of which is Human Intelligence abbreviated as ‘HUMINT’ by those in the trade. This includes classic espionage when a human agent is planted in a terrorist group. It is often the most difficult source of information to harness due to the small size and high level of integration of terrorist groups today.
Another notable source is the use of Signal Intelligence known as “SIGNIT.” This is basically the interception of electronic communication of any sort. The use of this method is already very popular with security agencies all over the world in the monitoring of dissidents and terrorist groups.
However, SIGNIT, like Human Intelligence, has its limitations, as communication can be intercepted. With that in mind, when people talk on telephone or use the internet, they resort to the use of coded languages which are often very difficult to decode. Or they may resort to the use of human couriers instead. As these two sources are fraught with risk, government is left with little choice than to use non-core sources such as informants who may not be members of the terrorist groups. That’s where vigilante comes in.
Vigilante Group of Nigeria provides a genuine community perspective through its community and grassroots membership/recruitment built around the concept of area of domicile. With its copious objective of promoting community policing, crime control and prevention and protection of lives and property, VGN could become a veritable source of counter-terrorism. Of all military and Para-military outfits in Nigeria today, VGN is the only outfit that has men and women in the communities where they exist, unlike all others who are “strangers” in places they are posted to work. VGN officials are familiar with the terrain, topography, and demography of their areas, a factor that enhances internal security operations.
Talking about terrorism and counter-terrorism operations, VGN staff, if properly trained and strategically orientated, could become very potent instruments of counter-terrorism as the most peripheral information could be critical. Indeed, community policing could be a panacea to security challenges facing the country be it insurgency, kidnapping, gruesome activities of herdsmen, ritual killings, group violence, rape, etc.
Were the police and community members collaborate, it will identify security problems in the community and proffer solutions. There can be no doubt that collaboration between the police and community members demand mutual trust and confidence. Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the London Metropolitan Police Force captured this vividly in what can be considered the seed of community policing when he said, “The Police are the Public and the Public, the Police”. Regrettably, the lack of mutual trust and confidence between the Nigerian Police and public remains the cause of our security challenges. This is the reason the Nigerian Police is largely not proactive in policing. This lack of cohesion manifests in posting of policemen and women most times to communities outside their origin where they become total or partial strangers. This policy, though initially meant to standardise police operations and encourage impartiality among officers and men of the force, has proved counter-productive as it now hampers crime fighting since police personnel isolated from the people may not have access to pertinent information.
Another related and very critical factor is the issue of under-policing. The analysis of police per population ratio shows Nigeria in 2012 having 187 policemen per 100,000 people. This is a far cry from the United Nations ratio of 400 officers for 100, 000 people. A highly visible police helps nip crime in the neighbourhoods. The incorporation of VGN into the internal security apparatus will certainly improve Nigeria’s police officer per population ratio and invariably, security. With over 4000 Nigerian police force and trained VGN men in each state of the country, the Nigerian Police Force will have more resources available for crime prevention rather than the after-the-fact response to crime as we presently see.
Those calling for further recruitment into the force or increase in the number of men in the force seem not to get the logic. Recruitment or increase of police personnel based on the present structure will be counter-productive and can’t achieve the desired goal. A transformed VGN Federal Community Police with a loose federal control will not only complement the Nigeria Police Force but will fill the void between it and the Nigerian public by creating a solid base for a community perspective policing.
It is pertinent to state here that the existence of the Nigeria Police and VGN Federal Community Police does not negate the need for state police, as a multiplicity of security force is desirable under our present condition. Nigeria is the political and economic hub of West Africa and the most populated black country in the world noted for porous and vulnerable borders, no thanks to our unique status of being the largest country with an evenly split population of Christians and Muslims with over 250 competing ethnic nationalities. This no doubt holds a huge potential for crime, group, and sectarian violence.
A VGN Federal Community Police does not make the necessity for state police less desirable. Indeed states that are economically viable enough to own their own police force must be encouraged to do so, as a combination of the Nigerian Police Force, Federal Police and of course, the State Police, will positively increase our police per population ratio to about 600 police officers per 100,000 people. This, apart from the value that it will add to our security, will place Nigeria along the corridors of the most policed countries of the world, such as Grenada with 871 officers per 100,000, Singapore with 713 officers per 100,000, Argentina 588 officers per 100,000 and Spain 713 officers per 100,000.
It has never ceased to amaze me how, in spite of the ravaging activities of insurgents in the North East, seen in the destruction of lives and property, including the murder of innocent students in schools, gruesome killing of people in several communities by unidentified herdsmen, ritual murders and cult activities in several parts of the country, our political elites in their wisdom still see nothing wrong in the lack of legislation for multiple police force.
By EMMANUEL AYISIRE
Ayisire is Assistant Commander- General, Community Policing, VGN National Headquarters