1.1 Background to the Study
Provision of adequate
security is a social pre-requisite for the survival of any society. Every
society takes appropriate measures to protect the lives and property of people
living within its boundaries. Business and social activities may not go on
freely without adequate security. This fundamental essence of security may the
reason why societies from time immemorial made efforts to police their
neighbourhoods in order to secure them from criminal victimization. Security
has to do with the act of preventing and protecting in order to ensure that
certain facilities, equipment, persons or activities are safe from damage,
pilferage, destruction, murder or disruption. The history of crime control
dates back to the period when public order was the responsibility of appointed
magistrates, who were unpaid private individuals. The first paid public police
officer was the praeffectus urbi, a position created in Rome in
approximately B.C (Roberg and
Kuykendall, 1993). After the fall of the Roman Empire and the subsequent
anarchy that followed, kings began to assume the responsibility for legal
administration by strengthening the night watch.
Roberg and Kuykendall,
(1993) also pointed out that in the twelfth century in England, through
‘Frankpledged’ system which was based on an organization of tithings (ten
families) and hundreds (ten tithings), men over the age of fifteen formed a
posse comitatus, a group called out to pursue fleeing felons. Thus, the
sheriffs who ensured that this Frankpledge system worked were responsible for
policing the country.
However, as societies
became increasingly complex, social life was disrupted. Existing systems of law
enforcement were inadequate to respond to the problems associated with these
changes. As a result, night watch system was introduced. This system involved
bellmen who walked round the city, ringing bells and providing policing
services. The bellmen were later replaced by untrained citizens and much later
by paid constables. However, in 1829, Sir Robert Peel established the first
modern uniformed police force, the metropolitan police of London, whose primary
responsibility was the prevention of crime. (Roberg and Kuykendall,
Vigilantism is not a
recent development. Before 1900, many vigilant groups were formed in frontier
areas of the United States. In 1851 and 1856, concerned citizens in San
Francisco organized vigilante committees that forcibly restored peace and
order. (world book encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Americana). In South Africa,
vigilante activity is frequently justified as ‘filling a policing gap’ due to
police inefficiency, corruption and conspiracy with criminals, practical
failing in the criminal justice system. In Sierra-Leone, vigilante activities
have been explained in terms of police ineffectiveness in combating crimes
In Nigeria, vigilantism
existed in the pre-colonial era. Human Right Watch and Center for law
enforcement and education report, (2002) noted that “vigilante and other self
–defense groups currently operating in Nigeria have roots that reach deep into
the country’s history. In the colonial era, some though not all independent
local communities, especially in the South east maintained their own standing
Army to defend their territory against the threat of invasion from neighbouring
communities. Although there was no equivalent modern day structure at that
time, some parallels can be drawn between these groups which were created by
local communities for their own protection, and the more recently formed self
The proliferation of
vigilante groups in contemporary Nigeria particularly in Ethiope East Local
Government area of Delta State is a response to crimes and criminality that
have not only increased in degree, scope and volume but also have witnessed an
unprecedented change in techniques, mode of operation and sophistication
between 1998 and 1999 (wake of fourth republic) and the apparent failure of the
Nigeria police to rise up to the occasion. Igbo (2001) has stated that “the
apparent failure of Nigeria police to control the increasing wave of crime has
led to unilateral public action against crime and criminals in some major cities
of Nigeria particularly in the South east of the country”. This is true in Ethiope
East Local Government Area, where, presently, vigilante groups are used as a
means of crime control due to increasing crime wave and the inability of the
formal agents of crime control to bring them under control. In view of this,
this study examined the contributions of vigilante groups in controlling crime
in contemporary Nigeria, particularly in Ethiope East Local Government area of
1.2 Statement of the Problem
In recent years, many
communities in Nigeria have witnessed crimes of various descriptions. Ethiope
East Local Government area of Delta State is not an exception. Thus, crime is
becoming a serious problem in contemporary Nigeria. The police who are the
primary agent in the fight against crime are ineffective. Their ineffectiveness
may be as a result of the fact that they are under-staffed, under-equipped,
corrupt and lack public cooperation. These have created problem of under
policing in Nigeria including Ethiope East Local Government area of Delta State.
Thus, violent and property crimes are committed on daily basis without
detection and prosecution. Many people are being dispossessed of their valuable
property and others are killed or maimed for life by armed bandits. Many people
hardly sleep in their houses at night for fear of criminal victimization. Those
who sleep in their houses at Night do so at their own peril.
The increase in crime
wave and the inability of the Nigeria police to deal with the situation
effectively have given rise to the emergence of vigilante groups in its current
form. These vigilante groups are to ensure the safety of both their lives and
property and that of their families. Eke, (2002) noted that “from time
immemorial, ordinary men and women have made several sacrifices to ensure the
safety of both their lives and that of their families. That human impulse is
not only common in Nigeria. Government in Western Europe, in Africa, and elsewhere
was originally set up to offer protection to their subjects”.
Thus vigilantism seems
to be gaining more prominence as agent of crime control in Ethiope East Local
Government Area. Several vigilante groups now operate in both rural and urban
areas in Nigeria. Residents see vigilante groups as an outfit they can always
rely on in terms of security. Put differently, the public is skeptical about
the ability of Nigeria Police to provide adequate security services alone
without the involvement of the public.
This study, therefore,
aimed at finding out the impact of vigilante groups on crime control in Ethiope
East Local Government area of Delta State
1.3 Objective of the Study
The broad objective of this study is to examine the
contributions of vigilante groups in crime control in Ethiope East Local
Government area of Delta State.
The specific objectives are to examine:-
the formation of
vigilante groups in Ethiope East L.G.A and the inability of police to control
between people’s level of education and their reliance on vigilante services in
Ethiope East L.G.A.
between people’s occupation and their perceived effectiveness of vigilante groups
in Ethiope East L.G.A.
1.5 Research Hypotheses
The following null hypotheses were formulated to
guide the study:
Ho1: There is no significant
relationship between the formation of vigilante groups in Ethiope East L.G.A
and the inability of the police to control crime in the area
Ho2: There is no significant relationship
between people’s level of education and their reliance on vigilante services in
Ethiope East L.G.A.
H03: There is no significant relationship
between people’s occupation and their perceived effectiveness of vigilante
groups in Ethiope East L.G.A.
1.6 Significance of the Study
This study has both
theoretical and practical significance. From the theoretical point of view,
this study will add to the existing literature on vigilantism. It will also
build up a data upon which future research can be based or serve as a point of
reference for similar studies. From the practical point of view, this study
will show the security gap created in both rural and urban communities and how
vigilante groups have tended to make up for this vacuum. To this end, this may
stimulate the interest of the government in providing adequate police services
in both rural and urban communities or modify and assist vigilante groups to
complement security efforts of the police.
In another development, this study will be of great
benefit to law enforcement agencies and other stake holders in their quest for
police reform. In general, it will stimulate further research in vigilantism
1.7. Scope of the study
This study covered Ethiope East Local Government
Area of Delta State. It covered the activities of vigilante groups in Ethiope
East LGA with regard to crime control. This constituted the geographic scope of
1.8 Definition of Concepts
In the context of this study, the following concepts
have been defined as follows:
This refers to the period of British rule in Nigeria.
Contemporary Nigeria: This refers to present day Nigeria.
means any act or omission that violates the criminal law of the state which is
punishable by the state after prosecution and conviction.
Crime control: This
means all the steps and activities taken to prevent the spread and commission
Crime prevention: Often
used interchangeably with crime control refers to all efforts made to ensure
that crime does not occur or is reduced to the barest minimum.
Criminal Justice system: This refers to state agencies that fight against
crime. They are the police, court, prison, probation and parole services.
refers to the branch of criminal justice system that fights against crime and maintain
law and order.
effort aimed at detecting and preventing crime as well as protection of lives
and property. It can be done formally by state agents or informally by private
Social control: This
Refers to efforts made to ensure that people’s behaviour conforms to
established norms and customs of the society.
Vigilante groups: This
refers to groups formed and funded by members of a particular community to
fight against crime and protect lives and property of individuals.