Voluntary police, Lagos, Nigeria
Voluntary police, Lagos, Nigeria ©

Nick Cavanagh/Nigeria Justice for All Programme

Informal policing groups, such as vigilante groups or neighbourhood watch, are an established part of community life in Nigeria. It is essential that these groups operate in a manner that is both accountable and respectful of the law and members of the community including the Police Force.

For many Nigerians, especially the poor, the voluntary policing sector (VPS) plays a pivotal role in addressing safety and security needs. Nigerians are increasingly using voluntary policing to fight crime. (Thirty two percent of Nigerians surveyed about poor people’s perceptions and priorities on safety, security and informal policing in four states, Benue, Enugu, Ekiti and Jigawa, said that they did so (CLEEN, 2002)).

Nigerians are more satisfied with services provided by VPS groups (87%), than services provided by the Nigeria Police Force (55%). The reasons Nigerians are using VPS groups are:

  • a rise in crime
  • delays in justice system
  • collusion of the formal police with criminals.

What people say about J4A's work

'Since we started discussing our cases at the Community Accountablity Forum (CAF) meetings, we have experienced increased financial donations by residents and businesses in the neighbourhood.'

- Neighbourhood Watch Group at CPS Enugu

Our aim

We aim to support Voluntary Policing Sector (VPS) groups to improve their services to all community members and to operate in a manner that is both accountable and respectful of the law by:

  • raising VPS engagement and accountability with local communities
  • enhancing the organisational and management capacity of selected voluntary policing groups
  • sharing examples of good practice with other VPS groups and encourage them to adopt these practices
  • strengthening their capacity to deliver the services that citizens need and want with due regard to the law
  • working in close coordination with the Nigeria Police Force and other relevant counterparts to make communities more safe
  • increasing the amount of coordination between VPS groups and the Nigeria Police Force and other relevant groups in the local community.

Our approach

  • Mapping of Voluntary Policing Sector (VPS) groups in selected communities
  • Training in organisational management, service delivery, crime prevention and reporting, crime scene management, human rights and gender sensitivity
  • Development of VPS training manual for improved service delivery and mentoring of VPS leaders
  • Estabilishing procedures and codes to mainstream the principle of gender behaviour towards women and encourage participation of women as members of VPS groups
  • Estabilishing a complaints system that allows for tracking of cases and accountability
  • Coordinating forums between the police, VPS groups and other community groups

Getting results

As of February 2014, VPS training has been delivered in Lagos, Kano, Niger and Enugu:

  • Leader/Executive training - 28 people trained
  • VPS members - 765 people trained

VPS Coordination and Community Accountability Forums have been estabilished in Lagos, Enugu and Kano:

  • 11 forums established
  • 56 complaints received; 54 complaints resolved


  • 26 VPS leaders recognised and elected into executive positions in their different Community Development Associations (CDAs)

Niger, FCT, Kaduna, Jigawa

  • State coordinators recruited, induction courses completed and full implementation started
  • Executive development training commenced


  • Complaints recording and management mechanisms have been introduced
  • Replication has started in Uwani and Emene
  • Planning has started for a state-wide dissemination and replication of Neighbourhood Watch Law

Spotlight on gender

  • Three women were elected into executive positions in the Isokoko VPS group.
  • Five women from the Agege Muslim Women Community are now part of the executive board of the Idi Mongoro VPS group.
  • There has been a push for increased women’s involvement in the Hortoro and Wudil VPS groups in Kano State.
  • There have been awareness raising workshops for women in Kano State on handling gender-based violence cases.