Mazi Emmanuel Onyema wrote in 2011 that, “the maintenance of law and order in Nigeria, recently, has been so challenging to the extent that the ability to manage our internal security by the security agencies is being doubted by the citizenry”. He further stated that, primarily, the Federal Government is charged statutorily through the military and paramilitary agencies to protect the citizens from all forms of security threat and incident like armed robbery, kidnapping, civil disorder, large scale violence, insurgency, domestic terrorism and other forms of security breaches.
The height of the threat was the Boko Haram attacks on the Nigeria Police Force Headquarters on the 16th of June, 2011. The most disturbing one was the bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja by the same Boko Haram. Internationally we get embarrassed by the Federal Government ineptitude at reducing and preempting the attacks by terrorists as manifested in the Kidnap of the 276 female students in Chibok, Borno State in 2014 as well as the recent kidnapping of the 110 of the Dappchi female students in 2018 in Yobe State.
This narrative has been the experiences of Rivers State; most prominent was the spark off after granting of the amnesty to the Niger Delta freedom fighters, and the episode that followed 2015 general elections. The spate of internal insecurity in Rivers State has facilitated huge rural-urban migration due to the unsafe situation and poor rural infrastructure.
The Governor of Rivers State, Chief Barrister Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, has provided splendid financial, logistics and moral support to the law enforcement agents domiciled in Rivers State to assist them in fighting and reducing crime and criminality. The governor is handicapped when it comes to enforcement of the Law in the State because of the faulty federal system operational in Nigeria which monopolizes the management of the security architecture. It is obvious that there are security gaps that allow these atrocities to be perpetuated without fear of being caught. The sensitive issue concerning the internal security of Rivers State is that, the State being the Treasure Base of the nation, and the Centre of the Niger Delta States that produces the largest chunk of the wealth of the nation is being treated with levity and political gerrymandering when it comes to the seriousness it deserves.
Rivers State is so strategic that all most all the former Heads of State and government of Nigeria have properties in the State. More so, there are many oil and gas companies and industries that are operating in the State. Her strategic location is very infectious and tallies with the domino theory of prevailing vices and virtues prevalent in the State that tend to influence her neighboring States. Therefore, the internal security condition of Rivers State is very strategic to the primary interest of Nigeria.
The gap in security is mainly on intelligence gathering and synergy of security operatives. This is the security gap that the Neighborhood Watch Safety Corp in Rivers state is billed to address, though the creation of the agency has generated a lot of controversies which are mere political and diversionary due to spurious apprehensions by the detractors of the State government, who are very desperate to take over the mantle of leadership of the State by any means even unorthodox political approaches. Their dispositions against the establishment of a non-kinetic security structure that will assist the security agencies to protect lives, properties and reduce the level of fear of people about their environment, and ameliorate the impact of crimes on our national psyche, development· and international image leave so much to be deserved.
It is expedient to note here that Neighborhood watch programs started in the United States of America as far back as the colonial days and was improved upon in the 1960’s. It started as a response to the rape and murder of Kitty Genovese in Queens, New York when people became outraged that at least three dozen witnesses did nothing to prevent the crime.
In the United Kingdom, the first Neighborhood Watch was set up in Mollington, Cheshire in 1982 following the success of a similar scheme in Chicago in the United States. Many more schemes followed throughout the UK, and it is now claimed that over 3.8 million households are covered by the scheme.
The history of neighborhood watch in Nigeria can be traced back to when the British Council and Department For International Developing (DFID) introduced the Neighborhood Watch/Community Policing to the then Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun in 2005 to bridge the gap between the police and community participation in security. They had five pilot States namely: Enugu, Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Kaduna. Enugu and Lagos passed theirs into Law in 2010 before other States began to emulate and passed theirs equally into law. The intention is to get the people involved in the security architecture of their environment.
The introduction of Neighborhood Watch Safety Corp in Rivers State is an effective non- kinetic management of internal security operation in the State. There has been glaring upsurge of internal security challenges in Rivers Sate before and after the emergence of the Federal Government Amnesty Programme to the repentant Niger Delta freedom fighters. Rivers State has recorded incidents of cult recruitment and clashes, kidnapping, ritual killings, robbery, oil bunkery, pipeline vandalization, community clashes, among others. These acts are likely to cause breach of peace, fear and under development, restiveness and killings which constitute a serious menace to our society.
It is obvious that, there is serious gap in security operation in Nigeria. This has made it possible for crimes not to be pre-empted. Kidnappers abduct and escape with their victims without being caught. This gap is instrumental to criminals committing heinous crimes without being traced or nabbed by security agents. The introduction of the Neighborhood Watch Safety Corp in Rivers State is an innovative non-kinetic approach to filling the security gap and reducing crime and cult related activities in the State.
Non-Kinetic Security approach is not “getting physical” in destroying enemy forces through application of physical explosives, rather, the use of non-military approach/force, information, psychological, diplomatic, economic, social and technological tools of the statecraft to achieve national interests and objectives by either acquiescing or impairing the will of the adversary. When you pre-empt the commission of a crime or locate a criminal after committing a crime, you have impaired his will power to committing a crime. Non-kinetic approach can be viewed as an instrument of war and not peace. It is a psychological warfare whereby the weapons of war are not physically tangible but it disarms your adversary from the position of power to weakness.
The Objectives of Neighborhood Watch include:
*To improve community safety generally which includes fire safety;
*To prevent crime by improving security, increasing vigilance, creating and maintaining a caring community and reducing opportunities for crime by increasing crime prevention awareness;
*To assist the police in detecting crime by promoting effective communication and the prompt reporting of suspicious and criminal activity;
*To reduce undue fear of crime by providing accurate information about risks and by promoting a sense of security and community spirit, particularly amongst the more vulnerable members of the community;
*To improve police/community liaison by providing effective communications through Neighborhood Watch messaging systems which warn coordinators of local crime trends which they can disseminate to their scheme members, and by members informing the police of incidents when they occur.
The operations of the Corp do not include the use of arms nor force as an approach to combating crime. No person should be worried about the proliferation of arms in Rivers State as a result of the creation of the intelligence and information safety corp; it will be intelligence base, information gathering and distribution, a community mobilized intelligence network, involving the people in the security of their environment.
The operation is targeted at preempting commission of crime, and making it possible for law enforcement agents to get information about crime and, also apprehend criminals after committing a crime. It is also aimed at making the environment safe and free from fear; unsafe for criminals, and criminal hideouts. Its operation will equally create fear of being caught on the psyche of criminals. No criminal wants to be caught while committing a crime, that is why some robbers shoot and kill their victims due to fear of revelation of their identity.
Neighborhood Watch will mobilize the people, neighborhood, civil society organizations, legionnaires, market women associations, chiefs, community leaders, youth organizations, social clubs, professional organisations, drivers and road user associations, politicians, etc. to key into the project of people-oriented security management in Rivers State.
If we allow innovations of new security management approach to thrive in Rivers State without politicizing it, it will be an invention for crime control and reduction. A condition that will create a conducive atmosphere for peace, investment, employment opportunities and development. This security approach is part of the new Rivers Vision.
Dr. Thom-Otuya is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Security Consultant.