ABUJA – The Police have said that vigilante groups and neighbourhood watch outfits must register with the Force for them to be recognised to operate.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Mr Emmanuel Ojukwu, an Acting Commissioner of Police, stated this in an interview with newsmen in Abuja.
Ojukwu said this was necessary to enable the force to regulate the groups’ conduct and activities and ensure that they were in line with the law.
He said that the police recognised the importance and relevance of vigilante groups in crime prevention and resolving unrest if duly registered.
“We see them as informal policing system and they are quite recognised.
“We want to work with them for various reasons, chief of which is that they understand the communities more than the police; they are members of the communities, so, we need them.
“But we have made it a point of duty that vigilante groups must register with the police so that we can regulate their conduct and activities to be sure that what they do is in line with the law,’’ Ojukwu said.
On the role of vigilante groups in the ongoing war against insurgency in the North-East, Ojukwu said only the military authorities were competent to comment on that.
Speaking on the use of dane guns by vigilante groups, the police spokesman said only hunters used that type of gun, and that the police regulated the use of double barrel short guns.
“Dane guns are normally used by hunters and we have Hunters Associations. We understand the hunters’ mode of operation.
“Such guns are most times allowed to be used by hunters because that is their means of livelihood.
“The guns we regulate are double barrel short guns, not pump action guns. Pump Action gun is a prohibited weapon,’’ he said.
On its part, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) expressed concern over the proliferation and use of fire arms by some of the vigilante groups.
Mr Nnamdi Nwinyi, Assistant Commandant-General (ACG), Private Guards Department of the corps, said although the vigilante groups complemented the operations of the security agencies, their operations must be closely monitored, especially in the use of fire arms.
Nwinyi, however, said that the NSCDC was not statutorily mandated to monitor and supervise the activities of the vigilante groups as this rested squarely with the Nigeria Police.
“The vigilante groups are purely community-based security systems that are still evolving especially now that we are having security challenges in the country.
“It must be said that they are relevant in the security set-up, especially in the area of intelligence gathering but what we are concerned about is the use of fire arms by some of them,’’ he said.
The ACG called on all vigilante groups in the country to immediately register with the police just like the NSCDC was registering the private security guard companies.