On Tuesday, October 10, the Katsina State government launched its Community Watch Corps, with the sole aim of augmenting the efforts of the conventional security agencies operating in the state, fighting banditry and other forms of criminalities.
Close to 1, 500 young men and women were drawn from across the state, particularly the frontline local government areas in order to take part in security operations, having known their terrain better than the security agents in most cases.
In his remarks during the inauguration, the Chairman of the KCWC, Maj. Gen. Junaidu Sani Bindawa (Rtd), expressed confidence that the insecurity bedevilling the state and the northwest region could be mitigated through that kind of arrangement as done in other climes.
He said the young men and women were trained in weapons handling, counter terrorism, first-aid, civil-military relations and other security related activities in order to assist the security agents in mitigating the security challenges in their various communities.
Structure and mode of operation
In an earlier interview with Daily Trust, commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Dr Nasir Babangida Mu’azu, said the Corps had the requisite legal backing as a bill seeking to establish it was transmitted by the state governor to the state assembly, which debated and unanimously passed it into law which was subsequently assented to by the governor.
“All these were done within two weeks. The state assembly fast-tracked the process because of the importance of the community watch corps, taking into cognizance the insecurity in the state in which we were left with no option than to have this kind of the establishment,” he said.
In terms of structure, the commissioner said the corps has a well-structured command and control arrangement with a committee comprising representatives from all security agencies at the head of the establishment.
He said the highest committee reports to his ministry, which is the supervising organ while the ministry reports to the governor, who is the grand commander as far as the outfit is concerned.
“Secondly, we have a state commander, the deputy commander and assistant commander who are in charge of command and control at the state level. Then at the local government level, we have the divisional commanders who will superintend the activities of the corps, just like the police DPO. We also have the 2iCs operation and administration and then the operatives of the corps,” he explained.
Dr Mu’azu said the corps members have gone through two-months of intensive and rigorous training by experts in order to bring them up to the task ahead of them.
Talking about the kind of weapons the new security outfit will be handling, Dr Mu’azu said it was going to operate within the purview of the law, leveraging only on what the law has provided for in addressing issues of insecurity, saying “we will not do anything prohibited by the law.”
Remuneration and other welfare packages
In terms of their remuneration and other welfare packages, the commissioner said the government has provided for allowances all across the structure, saying the recruits will begin as casual employees until such a time when they would pass their probation period. He added however, that they will not go below the minimum wage of N30,000.
Successes, losses, controversies
From inception to date, the corps has recorded some successes, losses as well as got involved in some controversial operations. In terms of success, for instance, the corps was said to have killed a number of bandits, including a kingpin who was identified as Shehu Usma, in Danmusa local government, as well as about 13 bandits among those who attacked Zakka community in Safana local government recently.
However, during the attack in Zakka, one of the operatives of the corps was said to have paid the supreme price alongside one other police officer. Equally, the corps was enmeshed in controversy when the family of one Alhaji Hamza Zakka accused some operatives of the corps of killing his extra judicially over alleged involvement in sharing information with the bandits.
Communities express high expectation
Some members of the communities who spoke with Daily Trust on the development expressed high expectations and offered some suggestions.
Chairman of Jibia Peoples Forum, Alhaji Dahiru Gide, began by commending the Katsina State government, saying “This is a right step forward and a very good effort by the governor Radda administration.
On his part, Sadiq Abubakar, a resident of Faskari, said residents were hopeful that the issue of insecurity will be considerably reduced with the introduction of the security watch corps.
“This is because most of those engaged were already members of vigilante, who are privy to the happenings in the affected communities and they have the passion and the desire to protect their communities,” Abubakar said.
Security experts express concern
In addition to some concerns raised by observers as to how the trained young men could conduct themselves in the face of bandits’ attacks, Dr Bashir Kurfi, said “First of all, it is alright you mobilize communities to make an effort in the security that affects their lives, for the simple reason that you don’t have enough police and other security operatives, but it is equally important to be very careful in taking these people you train to handle arms and other tactical techniques without corresponding mechanism to monitor their activities. This is because you don’t have guarantee that later they will not become some warlords or even join the bandits.
“Also, their training should not be only physical or military per se, but it should also be ideological so that they will feel they have a commitment for the protection of their people not just for material gain.
“Another serious issue is the guns which they bought, which is costly in the market. The issue is, if you give it to them, what do you think will happen if they find themselves in need of some finances to take care of their family issues? So, what mechanism do you have in place to ensure that the arms are always in the right hands and right place?’ he queried.
Dr Kurfi suggested that there should be a national guideline from the office the national security adviser that regulates those kinds of activities for any state that would want to have its own security outfit.
“The state governments should also look for experts’ advice and consider the security of their people as the most important rather than what they will realize through contracts and procurements of the weaponry and other gadgets,” he advised.
A security analyst said while it was commendable that the governor Radda administration has shown commitment towards tacking insecurity head-on by coming up with the community watch carps, it was also imperative to point out that a lot needs to be put in place to ensure the success of the corps.
“We are convinced by the governor’s zeal to tackle insecurity. We will support and encourage him in that regard but to be frank, there is a lot to be done.
“The issue of security is very crucial; the governor has to engage the people that have the zeal and the courage to execute their duties accordingly. Because, in my view, the people that are in charge obviously have the theoretical aspect but they don’t the practical aspect, which makes them not hundred per cent qualified in tackling the problem of insecurity.
“Go back to the history of what happened during the Nigerian Civil War. Go back to what happened during the first and second world wars, go to Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and now the Israel-Palestinian war. Take the last one for instance, everyone knows that Israel is a military superpower, but look at what happened between them and Hamas. Despite all the gadgets they have, Hamas was able to strike and cause damage to Israel. Also look at what is happening between Russia and Ukraine which is still ongoing.
So, there are many tactics required in this kind of fight and government must employ the people that have the capacity and the courage needed – both practically and theoretically. But if that decisive action is not taken, there is no way, no date and no time this insurgency will end.”
He said one of such things the government must have considered while coming up with the corps was that the kind of arms and other equipment they were to use must be procured through a committee of experts who will ensure that they conform to standard, not just through a contractor who was just after profit.
“The equipment must be genuine; is the helmet not just for motorcycles? Is the life jacket genuine? Are all the kits supplied good enough for this kind of operation? These are all the things that the governor is supposed to have done.
He said although the rate of attacks has reduced, there could be some issues in the future as the terrorists were waging what he called gorilla fight.
“The world is dynamic and there are a lot of tactics and gadgets used in modern war. You need the people who will use their sense, their professionalism to identify those informants who are working with the bandits. There also need to be rigorous training.
“If I may advice, each of the local government commandants need to be taken to a police college either in Wudil, Kaduna, Maiduguri or anywhere in the nation, let them learn the techniques and tactics of curtailing insurgency.”