Image Source: Reuters
January 2019
REGION: Sub-Saharan Africa

In “The Impact of Vigilantism and Crime Control in Contemporary Nigeria: A Case Study of Gezawa Local Government Area, Kano State, Nigeria,” Jibrin Ubale Yahaya and Musa Mohammed Bello present the results of surveys with 110 members of the community and a small number of members of the vigilante groups in Kano State, Nigeria. Vigilante groups in Kano State have the trust of the residents and are perceived to be effective at stopping and preventing crime. These vigilante groups are viewed by the population as being more effective than the police, who are widely unpopular among local residents and as prone to bribery and corruption. Crime in general has gone down in areas where vigilante groups are active. Armed robbery is still the highest reported type of crime but has fallen. Yahaya and Bello recommend that vigilante activities be carried out by members of the community with the support of state security forces and police, and that the state government encourage vigilante activities, including providing incentives and logistical support.

History of Vigilantism in Nigeria and Comparison with Police Forces

There has been a long history of vigilante activity in Nigeria that predates colonization in the 19th Century. All respondents to the survey indicated awareness of vigilante groups operating in the area, demonstrating the widespread operation of vigilante groups within Kano state. Public confidence in the police is low, with most respondents believing the police to be ineffective and corrupt. 73.9% of respondents rated the performance of police in controlling crime as being poor, with 68% of respondents reporting that police ineffectiveness had led to the formation of vigilante groups. The authors identify that respondents were less trusting of the police in handling crime directly, but that vigilante groups generally turn captured criminals over to the police for processing. The authors argue that activity by vigilante groups organically using certain police functions for support is a promising indicator that enhanced cooperation between vigilante groups and police forces is possible.

Public Perception and Acceptance of Vigilantism

The residents of Kano are overwhelmingly accepting of the presence of vigilante groups and believe them to be effective at controlling crime. 74.06% of respondents indicated that the rate of crime in their area before the advent of vigilante groups was high, while only 9.9% of respondents said that the rate of crime remained high after the introduction of vigilante groups. 59% of respondents indicated that the performance of vigilante groups was “very good,” while 18.1% found the vigilante group performance to be “excellent.” There was more diversity in the responses as to who should be responsible for controlling crime in the area, with 52% responding with vigilante groups and 36.3% indicating the police. 53% of respondents indicated that they believed that increasing the activities of vigilante groups would be the best way to solve the problem of crime in Nigeria, with 38.1% indicating that an increase in the number of police forces would be the best way to solve the problem.


The authors recommend legislative changes that support the operational capabilities of vigilante groups and enhance cooperation between the vigilantes and the police. The authors further recommend that members of vigilante groups should be trained in certain aspects of crime detection and knowledge of the law in order to increase effectiveness and allow the groups to operate within the provisions of the law. The authors add that security committees should be set up by local governments to discuss security issues, and that those committees should be headed by the Divisional Police Officer.

NOTE: This summary is produced by the Rule of Law Collaborative, not by the original author(s).

The Impact of Vigilantism and Crime Control in Contemporary Nigeria: A Case Study of Gezawa Local Government Area, Kano State, Nigeria

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