Much of the N13 billion just approved by President Muhammadu Buhari for the take- off of community policing in the country will go into training, sensitization and purchase of equipment, Police Inspector General Mohammed Adamu said on Friday.
Adamu warned vigilance and neighborhood watch groups against using the community policing programme to get involved in illegal possession of arms.
Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State made a fresh case for Nigerians to be allowed to bear AK-47 rifles for self-protection and defence in view of the general insecurity in the country.
The IGP, speaking during a briefing by Police Affairs Minister Mohammed Maigari Dingyadi on his stewardship/one year anniversary of the re-establishment of the ministry, said much ground has been covered in getting community policing off the blocks.
He said of the programme: “Community policing is a strategy. It is not a new police structure that is being created but within the police we re-strategise and then bring in community based initiatives.
“The idea and what we are implementing is that the community should take responsibility for policing. The implementation has gone far. So far we have inaugurated state community policing advisory committees in all the states. And that advisory committee comprises the community leaders, representatives of faith based organizations, representatives of market women, representatives of national union of transport workers, students etc.
“At the local government level we also have the same strategy represented by the same group of community leaders. At the local government level again we have community policing committee which will have the same people from the ward and villages. This committee is the one that would help us identify within the wards and the villages their own citizens and natives who are able bodied. We would select them and train them as community policing officers and send them back to their communities where they come from. We have reached this stage already. Now we are at the stage of recruitment.”
He said the community policing committees would be the ones to receive reports of challenges and problems of crime within the communities through the community police officers.
“They would deliberate on these problems and see how they can solve the problem without necessarily bringing it to the DPO because it is a community based initiative to deal with community issues.”
On the money released, he said: “The money is for implementation of the project. It is a process. We have started it in terms of we are going to do town hall sensitization. We are also doing training for the community police officers. We are going to buy all the equipment that is needed and then the process goes on this year, next year until everything is established.”
To vigilance and neighborhood watch groups across the country, the IGP said: “If you are caught with an illegal weapon, you will be prosecuted and you will go to jail. For the benefit of doubt, anybody seen with any prohibited firearms will be arrested and prosecuted. Even if you are a recognised vigilante group called any name that is given to you by the state government that created you as a vigilante group or neighbourhood watch, created to help law enforcement agencies in fighting crime if you carry firearms that you are not licensed, you will be prosecuted and you will go to jail.”
On his part, the Minister said community policing was driven by the need to take policing closer to communities.
“The idea is to improve on existing police/community partnership to guarantee community ownership of policing efforts, for better intelligence gathering, insulate manpower gaps, resolve communal clashes in affected areas and build goodwill, trust and confidence for sound policing. State and local government implementation committees have been set up in all the states of the federation, while recruitment of constabularies in local government is in progress,” he said.
He said in the past year, the ministry had recorded a lot of successes in efforts to match the increasing crime rate across the country with actions to drastically reduce the problem.
He said although there is still much to achieve, the Ministry of Police Affairs is working closely with the leadership of the Nigeria Police Force to put in place a more proactive security structure across the country to secure lives and properties.
Also speaking on community policing on Friday, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State said the N13.5 billion approved by the Federal Government for the project will go a long way in the training of personnel.
Ortom also insisted that Nigerians be allowed to bear AK-47 for self-protection and defence in view of the general insecurity in the country.
His state, he said, has so far arrested 400 herdsmen, prosecuted 130 herders and arrested 9,000 cattle that violated its law prohibiting open grazing.
He said that all the North Central state governors were ready to augment the capacity and the strength of the Nigeria police to ensure the success of community policing.
He said: “It is a policy that we engage the rural people and government is told to find ways of giving them stipends but the police will train these recruits.
“Already, we have done the recruitment from all the 276 wards in Benue State. So I think the next thing is for the training to take place.
“I believe that the N13.5 billion that was approved will support the logistics of training these people, otherwise we had undertaken that the local governments and states will jointly see how they can provide stipends so that these people will report to the police and support the police but they will work hand in hand with vigilante groups.”
The Governor said that the Benue State government has arrested over 400 herdsmen and successfully prosecuted 130 of them.
He said he that the recent statement by the Inspector General of Police that some herdsmen operating in some parts of the country are foreigners vindicated his position on the matter.
Ortom said: “We have arrested about 400 herdsmen and some are not even Fulani. But majority of them are Fulani and we have prosecuted them.
“Today, we have convicted more than 130 herdsmen who are already serving various jail terms and some have paid fines.
“We have arrested over 9000 cattle, but as the law stipulates, once you pay fine, we release them to you and you transport them. You no longer go on foot with those cattle within Benue State.
“On the issue of foreign herdsmen coming into the country, I am happy that the Inspector General of Police some few days ago did say that these herdsmen are not Nigerians. That is what I said about two to three years ago.
“I knew it. I am not a security expert. But as governor, I receive briefings and I was able to do my independent investigation and knew that these people are coming for an agenda.
“Nigerians must wake up. If we don’t wake up we will all be consumed.
“I heard people complaining that Ortom called for Nigerians to be allowed to carry sophisticated weapons and that it would bring about anarchy.
“What about the herdsmen who are carrying AK-47 and kidnapping innocent Nigerians, raping our women and destroying our villages and towns and becoming a terror to us? How about them? Why can’t we collect these sophisticated weapons from them? How many of them have been arrested?
“I am aware that some of them have been apprehended, but majority of them are still there with these AK-47.
“This is a suggestion that the Federal Government should take up seriously because in America people are licensed to carry sophisticated weapons but life is still going on.
“It is left for the Federal Government to look at it if my suggestion can be carried but for me, I still stand with my suggestion.”