An increasing number of states in Nigeria’s conflict-stricken northern area are establishing community-based vigilante patrol teams to enhance security in villages plagued by frequent violent killings and kidnappings.

 With the ongoing Islamist insurgency in the northeast causing fatigue among the country’s security forces, they have faced challenges due to limited resources in combating armed gangs operating in remote areas where government presence is minimal.

In Kaduna, a northern city located just 100 kilometers away from where 300 school children were abducted last month, a local vigilante group known as the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) was established to safeguard the surrounding communities. Emmanuel Audu-Bature, who had been kidnapped previously, decided to join the group to assist in protecting his community from marauding gangs.

 “I was taken to their camp as a victim and spent a week there. It was a harrowing experience. I endured severe beatings and threats of death,” he recounted. Vigilante groups such as the CJTF are thought to hold an advantage over state security forces due to their intimate knowledge of the territories and forests where armed gangs operate. 

We are the primary security presence for the community. Whenever there’s a security issue, we’re the first to respond,” remarked Audu-Bature. Additionally, he emphasized the group’s capability to provide valuable local intelligence. “If someone is hiding within our community, just give us some time, and we’ll locate them,” he asserted. However, Audu-Bature expressed hope that the government would eventually offer support to the group, enabling them to create a peaceful society.

State administrations are increasingly relying on these community-based vigilante organizations to safeguard villages overrun by criminal gangs. However, a significant number of these groups lack proper equipment and operate without the resources and training afforded to official security forces.

Dickson Osagie, an expert on terrorism in Nigeria, emphasized the necessity for enhanced oversight. “If these armed individuals protecting their communities are not regulated, I believe criminal elements will exploit the situation for their illicit activities,” he stated.

 He advocates for government-provided training for vigilante groups permitted to bear arms. “He highlighted the necessity for them to undergo training in firearm handling and non-lethal tactics to prevent firearms from being misused against fellow community members,” he added.

Meanwhile, these groups persist in their dedication to their communities despite challenging conditions.

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