Posted by Jacob Jacob on December 29, 2015 at 5:45 AM
I recently met with a group of local vigilantes in Adamawa State in North-East Nigeria. They are potentially a key part of the local frontier against Boko Haram. I truly admire the commitment of these brave young men and the pride they take in what they do.
There is enormous need for a stronger integration of vigilantes in local policing and in Nigeria's overall national security strategy. Nigeria is blessed with an unusually large population of young men - more than 40 million strong! With the poor state of the economy, it is important that these young become an advantage and not a potential problem. It was Thomas Malthus who wrote that a a recruiting sergeant prays for a bad harvest, a want or unemployment. In times of crises, a redundant male population can be either a blessing or a terrible curse. Nigeria must find a way to harness the energy of its young male population in the fight against Boko Haram. Local vigilantes offer a very unique opportunity. Their extensive knowledge of their local areas can be a major asset in well coordinated counter insurgency (COIN) operations. They can also be part of a broader strategy to counter violent extremism in their local communities. The Nigerian military and intelligence agencies must develop a clear strategy to draw from the local communities and widen the context of its COIN operations. Local vigilantes can play a very critical role in this if well mobilized, trained, motivated and deployed.