In January 2023, the Nigerian National Assembly passed the Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN) establishment bill

Twenty-nine out of 30 clauses were approved, except for the clause stating that the Federal Government should pay salaries, which the Senate didn’t oblige. 

With less than two months to Buhari’s exit as President, the Commandant-General of the VGN, Usman Jahun, has appealed to President Buhari to assent to the bill before he leaves office.

This leaves us with the following questions: 

  • What is the VGN and how do they have a Commandant-General? 
  • What is the Bill about? 
  • What has been the performance of vigilantes in Nigerian communities? 
  • Are there any problems that could arise with the VGN as a federal group?
  • And lastly, how safe should Nigerians feel with these vigilantes? 

It’s time to break it down:

What is the Vigilante Group of Nigeria?

The Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN) was established in 1870 to assist the Nigerian Police in protecting lives and properties and preventing crimes but as a civil defence organisation. This is why they even have a commandant-general who oversees their activities.

What is the VGN Establishment bill? 

The Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN) Establishment Bill of 2022 charges local vigilantes with assisting the police with maintaining law and order and community service in various neighbourhoods across the country. 

The Vigilante Group of Nigeria (VGN) [Punch Newspapers]

The group already carries out these activities, but now the organisation aims to be refurbished as a national entity, not a local ad-hoc group. This is to provide Nigerians with a safe and secure country.

What does the bill contain?

If all goes well and Buhari assents to the bill, here are some interesting duties that the vigilantes would carry out:

  • Assisting security personnel with preventing crime and arresting offenders
  • Protection of citizens at places of worship and market days
  • Become gatekeepers of environmental sanitation
  • Enlightening people on causes of conflict, including cultism & witchcraft

How have vigilante groups performed so far?

Frankly, the existence of different local vigilante groups is seen as controversial by many Nigerians. This is because some of their activities have safeguarded Nigerians in the past, while others have led to the loss of lives without government authority.

To understand this better, let’s look at the performance of three vigilante groups: the Amotekun, Ebube agwu and Yan Sakai

The Amotekun

The Western Nigeria Security Network (WNSN), popularly known as Operation Amotekun, was founded in 2020 by six South West geo-political zone governors

The Federal Government first opposed the group as “being against the constitution” since the Nigerian Armed Forces were already established.

However, the state governors pleaded with Vice-President Yemi Osibanjo. They talked him into reaching a compromise where Amotekun and the police would work together.

Recently, the Amotekun has been lauded for apprehending up to 150 criminals along the Ondo-Akure road. Amotekun has also come under fire for attacking and killing civilians in the South West region.

The Ebube agu

In April 2021, the Southeast Governors Forum (SGF) established the Ebube Agu group. This was to curb the increase of criminal activities in the region. 

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Ebube Agu has taken credit for overpowering bandits in the South East and is also accused of attempting to kidnap a youth leader.

Yan Sakai

The Yan Sakai outfit was created to curtail the activities of bandits and kidnappers in northern Nigerian villages where security agents are absent.

However, their activities have proven more harmful. They have escalated armed violence in the region, leading to armed attacks between herders and farmers. They have been accused of land grabbing and outright murder. It got so bad that they were outlawed in Katsina State due to their criminal acts.

Can vigilantes truly keep us safe?

From the examples above, vigilantes can be seen as both a blessing and a curse to society.

If Buhari decides to sign the bill before May 29, a legal framework should be implemented to guide performance, procedures, jurisdictions, interventions and other regular activities. The Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps created by the Lagos State House of Assembly, is a good example.

The Lagos Neighborhood Safety Corps

Training for aspirants of these vigilante groups is also advised to better assess their knowledge, skills and capacity for the job.



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