Deferred Promise

Written by Dr Tatiana A. Thieme

This is part of a series of short reflections from the field following February’s trip to Zaria. 

On the campus of Ahmadu Bello University, a quiet and humble sculpture garden made up of students’ work lies behind the Fine Arts building. The garden is rather hidden behind a circle of trees and a small fence, so one must know it is there to happen upon it. Once you step inside, you walk through the labyrinth of sculptures in awe of the virtuosity and creativity that marks each piece, wishing dusk weren’t fast approaching. Most pieces provide social justice commentary and critique, with remarkable aesthetic detail. The profile of Jamaican Reggae artist Bob Marley is held up by thick dreadlocks that seem to melt into the ground like gigantic tree roots. A number of sculptures depict the Al-Majiri youth navigating the streets, bowl in hand, wearing third hand garments that seem 5 sizes too big for their slight frames. A piece titled ‘Jungle Justice’ depicts a male figure sat with arms tied back, tire over the neck, presumably on fire, head hanging back screaming in pain. Powerful female figures are portrayed in ways that combine strength and vulnerability, maternity and feminism. Other less representational sculptures play with abstraction and bricolage, using re-purposed metal, electronic and mechanical scrap such as engine parts, large gear bits, cogs and suspension springs. Discarded vehicle parts, trash turned into art.

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This sculpture garden holds a constellation of stories, skills, and aspirations, enmeshing local and distant imaginaries. Not far from there, on the other side of ABU’s campus, a concrete skeletal structure of a large conference centre sits in the middle of an open field. Though the space seems completely unused, its proportions reflect a proud presence for its own sake along with an in-built obsolescence. The structure holds a kind of deferred promise for events yet to take place. It has no past, only stately paralysis, and yet the walls are already showing signs of decay given the exposure to the elements and the passing of time.

On some days, a few labourers work on the site in slow motion. Sometimes even just one body is visible from the road, making a semblance of adjustments to the mammoth structure. The scene becomes a sort of site-specific performance of incremental progress that legitimises the building’s status as ‘in construction’. The sole labourer confirms that this is a place on its way to becoming a space of purpose. And yet for now, its use value seems like a distant asymptote, eliciting a number of speculative musings amongst pedestrians walking past, debating (even mocking) the hidden meanings behind the nodes of unfinished construction across the country, underpinned by the quiet persistence of hope. This scene is familiar to landscapes across Kaduna to Zaria, punctuated with the appearance of stalled construction projects including uninhabited dwellings that perform the intention to serve (or be imagined) as accommodation, but seem abandoned before even having been inhabited.

Image: The abandoned structure within ABU Zaria’s main campus. Apparently it is the skeletal structure of the school’s conference building that’s remained incomplete for a couple of years.

And yet, as we walk past the empty conference centre as night falls, the enormous structure seems replete with meaning, a sculpture in itself. Some might see it as a critique of the state of misallocated investments, quixotic plans of grandeur and future ambitions in the name of ‘modernity’ and ‘development’ that sit empty. To me, especially after a year working with my ABU colleagues and a week of evening walks across the campus, from the sculpture garden to the guest house, this unfinished structure puts in sharp relief the otherwise everyday efforts to make do, make work, and make space across the University and beyond its campus in settings, buildings, and corners that accommodate all manner of things. These different rhythms co-exist side by side, the unfinished and the on-going, both pointing to extraordinary possibility.

2-Day International Workshop on Development Frontiers on Crime, Livelihood & Urban Poverty in Nigeria

Written by Anwar Musah (February, 2019)

In early February, UCL Geographers Dr James Cheshire, Dr Tatiana Thieme and Dr Anwar Musah (Research Associate on the project), travelled to Northern Nigeria to meet with research partners and academics from Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) in Zaria. ABU hosted a series of workshops and meetings as part of a joint collaborative project with UCL, Development Frontiers in Crime, Livelihoods and Urban Poverty in Nigeria, funded by the UK Economic Social Research Council (ESRC) and Department for International Development (DFID). The ABU team is jointly-led by Professor Adamu Ahmed and Dr Faisal Umar (a former UCL Geography alumnus), and researchers Babagana Abdullah, Khadijat Yakubu, Mukthar Ahmed, Hauwa’u Bala, Muhammad Usman and Musa Ali Muhammad.

Image 1: This is the ABU-UCL team on the roof top of the Senate Building at Ahmadu Bello University (From right: Faisal Umar, Prof. Adamu Ahmed, Khadijah Yakubu, Tatiana Thieme, Mukthar Ahmed, Babagana Abdullah, James Cheshire, Anwar Musah)

This research builds on the comprehensive datasets gathered during Dr. Faisal Umar’s PhD (recent alumnus of UCL Geography and currently a lecturer at ABU), which involved a block environmental survey of 13,687 properties (and the streets on which they were located) and 3,293 responses to a crime victimisation survey. Over the past 12 month, the UCL-ABU team have been working together to conduct mixed methods research and coordinate fieldwork in the city of Kaduna to enhance the analysis drawn from the spatial patterns of crime victimisation, by investigating the complex relationship between local offenders, victims of crime, and community-based security providers. 113 interviews with three categories of community respondents were conducted (households, local business owners and members of the community-based security providers) in addition to multiple semi-structured interviews with eight property crime offenders so far (more interviews are planned for the month of March).

During the visit to ABU, a participatory workshop with key research participants from the Kaduna field sites was held aiming to share back and debate key findings, providing an inclusive space for the UCL-ABU team to engage in small break-out in-depth discussions about the data, and provide a platform for various participants to validate and thicken the findings, but also raise new questions for further research.

Image 2: This is the participatory workshop which was held on Monday 4th February, 2019. Research participants which included local residents and the informal security providers (wearing high visibility gear) from Kaduna field site of Unguwan Dosa were present. The UCL-ABU team were fully engaged with them to validate the findings that emerged from the data that was last collected in August 2018’s fieldwork.

Image 3: The lady speaking on the microphone was among those who expressed their grievance with regards to the conditions and criminal activities that occurs in the neighbourhood (Unguwan Dosa). She narrated her story to the audience on how she remarkably encountered and fended off an offender. She also gives credit to the remarkable efforts of the informal security providers for the protection and services they provide to the community.

Image 4:  The team takes a group photograph with informal security providers (name: Jarumai da Gora)

The ABU-UCL team also shared key findings and insights with a wider audience of academics from ABU, as well as policy makers and key stakeholders including 4 Divisional Police Officers (DPO) representing the commissioner, Kaduna State Police command, and the Chairman of Kaduna State civilian Joint Task Force (and some senior members of this organisation).

This event was a unique and impactful experience for all – researchers, academics, participants and key stakeholders each had a chance to share their ideas, and differences of opinion were exchanged with respect (and humour!). The panel discussion led to an open and meaningful discussion discussing next steps for the research project itself, both with regards to policy implications regarding crime prevention strategies and crime mapping, and academic scholarship. There was much enthusiasm amongst ABU colleagues for finding ways to include this kind of mixed-methods research design into the teaching curriculum at ABU, and there was a mutual commitment to building on this ABU-UCL research partnership for further UK/African research collaboration and joint outputs. The UCL team is hugely grateful to ABU’s welcome on this trip, and looking forward to writing up the research findings together for various audiences concerned: academic, policy, and local communities in Kaduna.

The rainy season is burglary season

Written by Ahmad Muktar (January, 2019)

The rainy season in Kaduna usually starts in April and last for about six months, with peak periods between the months of August and September. The season brings several benefits including being a source of fresh water for domestic uses; crop cultivation, irrigation and for industrial purposes. The season also provides job opportunities for many who are under- or unemployed youth and women especially those hired as labourers by large scale farmers. Rarely discussed, however, is the spike in property crime (i.e. burglary) during the rainy season, often referred to as the ‘crime season’ by residents of Unguwan Dosa neighbourhood of Kaduna. As this blog illustrates, rain is a nuisance for local business on two levels: Fewer customers, and risks of getting burgled. It can be excellent for alternative livelihood strategies, however, that benefit from the disruption to local street life.

On some days during rainy season, heavy rainfall can last for several hours. As residents we interviewed noted, movement becomes restricted and people are careful to avoid being soaked by rain or being hit by objects when it is windy. Hence, it is common for people to rush back home, including business owners, to avoid being held out for long hours by the rain. This lack of activity around businesses and shops provides the perfect “rational” opportunity (Clarke and Cornish, 1985) for motivated offenders to commit property crime offences with less risk of being caught. The rain facilitates property crime because it serves as a sound-proof mechanism. For example, if burglars attempt to remove safety beams from windows, roofing sheets or window glass cover from targeted homes or shops, the levels of “eyes and ears” on the street have dissipated, so burglaries can be conducted without attracting too much attention. As recounted by residents we interviewed, the sound from rain drops often prevents people from hearing any suspicious noise that may suggest an act of burglary is taking place.

The sound from the heavy rainfall against the roofs of homes in any neighbourhood will depend on both physical characteristics and materials used during construction. Unguwan Dosa is a high density residential neighbourhood with the built-up area consisting of mainly paved surfaces with no visible greenery. The majority of the buildings in Unguwan Dosa, if not all, have aluminium roofing. Considering that the bearable decibel levels of noise for the human ear ranges from 55dB to 60dB under normal circumstances, it is noteworthy that the London Building Bulletin 93 (2004) describes the level of noise generated from breaking metallic surfaces, glass, or concrete as reaching up to 70dB. The scenario of heavy rainfall therefore provides the opportune context within which crime thrives in Unguwan Dosa, when levels of noise impede most residents’ ability to pay attention.

Our interviewees asserted that during each rainy season, there are frequent occurrences of burglary and theft in Unguwan Dosa neighbourhood. Alhaji Sani Garba, a resident of Unguwan Dosa, recalled how a shop in the neighbourhood was burgled a day before our interview with him, saying that:

 “…The burglars were able to achieve this because it rained heavily throughout the night so loud that it prevented us from hearing any sound as they were carrying out their act. From what we saw, they were able to gain entrance through the roof. It is a very serious issue in this area and this is not the first time that burglary took place during rainfall.”

Mal. Yahya Mahmud Gumel, another resident of the neighbourhood discussing the same incident added that:

“I received the news this morning and I went there to confirm the situation for myself. I saw that they removed the roofing sheets to gain access through the roof of the shop. This is not the first time – we have had similar incidents in the past.”

Another resident of Unguwan Dosa who wants to remain anonymous revealed two other incidents that occurred a week earlier. The first was a motor bike that was stolen in the night after a day of rains. The other incident, which he considered to be more serious, involved a business owner who was sitting alone in her saloon shop and several gang members known as ‘En shara’. The incident took place in the afternoon during rainfall. He explained that:

“I think she was the only one in the shop when four ‘En shara’ gang members emerged and demanded that she either give her phone to them or they would stab her.”

Based on our interviews with residents of Unguwan Dosa, and a focus group interview with neighbourhood vigilante organizations in Malali/Badarawa, it is clear that rainfall creates a situational opportunity that burglars exploit to perpetrate criminal activities.  As we start to analyse the data from our research in Unguwan Dosa, we are starting to see the following patterns: rainfall is both expected but erratic during rainy season. It would take time, coordination, and knowledge of local businesses for offenders to go out during rainfall to another neighbourhood other than where they live or work, so we hypothesise that perpetrators of these burglary acts are likely to be from (or work within) the same areas where incident take place. Residents and business owners must clearly be vigilant during rainfall especially in areas with records of burglary during rainy season, but it is also clear that further research is needed to develop a contextual understanding of how rainfall creates situational opportunities enabling the perpetration of burglary act, and by whom.

Mitigating crime through alternative sources of income and side hustle

Written by Abdullahi Babagana (January, 2019)

Since the month of August, 2018, the research team at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria (ABU) has been conducting interviews in two towns in Kaduna, Badarawa Kwaru and Malali. The aim was to situate the topic of neighbourhood crime within the wider dynamics of income generation and everyday struggles amongst communities. Babagana Abdullahi, one of the field researchers, reflects on the alternative sources of income or “side hustles” described by a selection of interlocutors.

In many African cities, putting various alternative sources of income has become routine. Developing survival mechanisms becomes an important strategy, especially for low income communities working in the informal sector. In our research, we have found many of the inhabitants of Badarawa Kwaru and Malali engaging in more than one business to survive. These alternative businesses, or what is sometimes referred to locally as a “side hustle”, are the building blocks of people’s livelihoods. While it may seem obvious to always have a contingency plan especially when it comes to making a living and surviving, we want to better understand the dynamics of how this works out in places like Badarawa Kwaru and Malali.

Many of our interlocutors complained about the present-day hardships, which has made depending on all sorts of alternative sources of income a vital back-up plan. Lukman Mustapha of Malali community, a teacher in an Islamic school, spends the time when he is not teaching in a metal work shop, because, there are times when his metal work business bails him out financially when his teaching job cannot cover his living costs. For Lukman, the metal work job is a backup as well as a side hustle. The backup is an alternative which is part of his major income. It is distinct and organized as much as his major source of income. The side hustle is not a distinct income generator as it can change at any time. Though, it is a source of income which is only used to fill little expenditure gaps. Both the backup and side hustle do not only bring in additional income but also allows flexibility to work full time regular job. He explains:

“Recently, my teaching job cannot cater for all my needs, so I spend time here in this metal workshop to make money to top up. Though, both the shop and the school are equally important, because we try as much as possible to engage little boys as apprentices in the shop to prevent them from going around picking items on the street, because they sometimes do away with valuable items in the process.”

Lukman trains these pre-teens, who are between the ages of 9 and 16 years, in the metal shop so he can keep them in line and out of trouble and petty street theft, but he also relies on them to bring him valuable metal scraps (if they bring any, though not his major source of metal) from their street waste collection. Side hustle sometimes, but not always, depends on raw materials often provided by these youths and has to be extra careful not to buy stolen materials in some cases.

Image: Abdullahi Babagana (left) is standing with Lukman Mustapha (right). Lukman is mainly a teacher but he also trades valuable metal scraps derived from used utensils, buckets and food cans at his workshop as part of his side hustling activities

Unlike Lukman who found side hustle locally, other interlocutors spoke of their willingness to travel far beyond their neighbourhood to find additional sources of income. For Ibrahim Mohammed Yanda from Badarawa Kwaru, his side hustle is not tied to location. He explained:

“I go anywhere my work takes me. I also go as far as Abuja and Zaria. When there is no work to do since our work is based on demand, I do any other thing that will fetch me clean money. This is better than being idle as it can lead to temptation as we see boys doing in this community.”

For Ibrahim, these other sources of income are side hustles. In the past, people like Ibrahim working in a particular trade such as masonry would have a ‘lead-livelihood’, or main source of income, with perhaps a set of extra income activities on the side, just in case. Ibrahim sees the side hustle not just as a means of survival and meeting needs, but also as a way of mitigating or even preventing stealing. Today, it is difficult to differentiate between these different sources of income, and know which one is the ‘lead’ source of livelihood versus the extra bid on the side. Increasingly, the income from the side hustle tends to cater for needs better than the lead-livelihood. Additionally, Ibrahim explains that, during the Harmattan period (i.e. dry season that lasts between the end of November and mid-March), they get a lot of contracts; as this is the time when many like building their houses. Therefore, all sources of income are equally important, and equally insecure.

In addition to topping up one’s source of income due to economic instability, relying on alternative sources of income and side hustles has also become a key part of how people manage risks in their everyday life. Usman Sanusi who is a satellite dish installer in Ungwan Dosa works as a contract staff in an insurance company. He lamented that:

“I am engaged in a Quarry business and as a transporter of sharp sand for construction, but decided to get a job since I am educated. The reason for this, is to prevent what happened to my brother who has a textile shop. His shop was burgled and till date, the business crumbled as a result. I decided to seek other sources so as not to be a victim of such circumstance”.

Alternatives sources of income and side hustles have therefore become a way of life: survival instincts that also become crucial strategies for mitigating a variety of risks – economic unpredictability and crime most notably.

Rise of informal security providers in Kaduna

Written by Khadijat N. Yakubu (October, 2018)


It is no longer news that the security challenges in Nigeria are enormous, and that Nigeria’s police and judiciary system has failed to provide necessary protection to its people. In recent years the problem has gotten worse, especially in the Northern part of the country largely due to high rates of extreme poverty and under-employment and the menace of Boko Haram, a violent terrorist group that operates in the Northeastern part of Nigeria. Kaduna State, where I live and work, is no exception as it has been threatened by security challenges including religious riots, tribal wars, and the so called “bandit herdsmen” attacks on villages. In this blog post, I want to focus on the under-studied but crucial coping strategies that have emerged to address these security challenges at local scales: the increase in community policing, neighbourhood-watch and other informal security initiatives where individuals volunteer aiming to make their neighbourhoods safe and crime free.

Informal security groups: what we know and do not know

These security initiatives, although relatively new in the northern part of Nigeria, have existed for some time in the Southern regions. The Pan-Yoruba group O’odua People’s Congress (OPC), which derives its name from that of Oduduwa, the ancestor of the Yoruba race, is responsible for defending, protecting and promoting Yoruba interests. Around 1999, the OPC began to get involved in crime-fighting activities. They are usually employed by local governments in southwest States, for example residents pay about 500 Naira a month, some more, some less as tax for security which is in turn is paid to the OPC directly in Lagos state. An example of the OPCs approach to vigilantism is the use of force towards other ethnic groups to combat violence committed against the Yoruba’s. Similarly, in the late 90’s, the Bakassi Boys emerged as a vigilante group in the Southeast of Nigeria as a result of sharp increases in the crime rate in that part of the country. This group, like the OPC, has enjoyed popular support in the areas where they operated due to lack of alternatives to safety provision.  Despite using extremely violent and brutal methods, these groups were hailed as heroes by many residents and credited with dramatically reducing the rate of violent crime in their areas of operation. These perceived successes, however, does not dismiss the fact that both OPC and Bakassi Boys, and other similar groups, have been alleged of extreme you of force and human right abuses.

Our research findings in Kaduna-based neighbourhoods

In the northern part of Nigeria where Kaduna is located, the activities of informal security organisations remains especially under-documented, most likely because there was no serious demand until recently. During the course of our research examining perceptions and experiences of crime in various Kaduna-based neighbourhoods, we have interviewed over 100 residents of major districts within Kaduna metropolis. A common theme raised by community respondents in relation to security challenges was the rise of informal security providers locally known as ‘En kato da gora’ (loosely translated as giant men with sticks), ‘Jarumai da Gora’ (loosely translated as warriors with sticks) ‘Civilian JTF’ (civilian joint task force), but most often referred to as the “Committee’.

The modus operandi of the Committee is similar to the vigilantes but the Vigilantes are usually paid on a monthly basis for their services while the committees do a volunteering kind of service without pay. Also, the vigilantes popularly known as En Banga, are formally recognized by the government and usually operate around high- and middle-income residential neighbourhoods while the Committees (informal securities) are usually formed in response to an increase in crime in communities around mostly low-income neighbourhoods that have little or no access to formal security services. As one of the local leaders we interviewed explained, these committees’ function to assist the police and most members volunteer to be part of the group, alongside their formal or informal jobs. The committee relies on donations from the community and its members are mostly active as security patrollers during night hours. One of the residents interviewed about the committee said; ‘The committee guys do what they do because of God and don’t depend on people’s money, they do what they can to help the community and the police’.

Mr. Saifullah, one of the leaders of the Committee we interviewed, shed light on the challenges and experiences of community members who volunteer to take part in the Committee. Saifullah is a young man in his early twenties who works as a Mason, he has a petrol shop in the informal economy. He also produces and sells local yoghurt during the day. He volunteered to join the ‘En kato da gora’ because of the rising security challenges in his community, specifically the rise of a criminal group known as ‘En sara suka’ (meaning people that go around stabbing and cutting).

Image 1: A typical En Kato da Gora establishment in Kaduna

According to over 12 interviewees familiar with the practices of Committees, these informal community-based security groups are usually formed in response to increases in crime in areas that have little or no access to formal security services, and most of these groups act to assist the police. Of course, we should also consider the fact that policing resources are overstretched in Nigeria, coupled with the inadequate number of police officers in the country proportionate to the number of residents. We have 180 officers for every 100,000 residents, which is among the lowest ration in the world. Therefore, what the police can actually do is debatable, but the key point here is that the role of local informal security providers is crucial at addressing local crime (and resolving the problem at local scales first), and at liaising with formal authorities if matters are considered serious enough to warrant formal policing responses. Saifullah, a member of the committee in Unguwann Dosa, explained how such groups are usually formed:

“You can all be seated and if you notice there is a lot of crime going on within your neighbourhood and you want to do something about it, it can start from two to three people forming the group to do something about crime and safety.”

Recounting how they first started the group, he explained:

 “ You first go to the Sarkin Unguwa (community head) to tell him about your intentions of forming the group, he will then take you to the police station closest to the neighbourhood to inform the DPO [Divisional Police Officer – the senior officer in charge of the police division where the neighbourhood is located] about your plans, then the DPO will also take you to the court which will give you permission. After this process we start recruiting members from interested people within the neighbourhood. We will then be given an office and other resources such as ID Cards for members and other equipment’s needed to safeguard the community by the Sarkin Unguwa, after which we can start operating to safe guard the community.”

Alluding to the community politics and multiple steps that surround any community-based decision or mobilisation, Saifullah mentioned that the process “…is not as easy as it sounds”. When we asked him how they choose and recruit members, he informed us that most members volunteer to be part of the group, alongside their formal or informal jobs and are mostly active as security patrollers at night. He also discussed what motivated individuals to take part, and specified that, “We are aware that some people don’t join for the right reasons, some join to spy on the group, but if we get such people we usually expel them from the group.” To fund their activities, Saifullah explained that they rely on donations from the community and sometimes the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) and other well-off members within the community usually help out.

One of the key functions of the committee relates to conflict management. As he explained, “we also help resolve disagreements not just fighting criminals. So, for example if someone is owing you money and the person does not want to pay, people sometimes involve us and we meet the person and help resolve the issue making the person pay back and such people can show gratitude by giving us something but we are not saying you have to give us something for that. We also help parents discipline their kids and sometimes they give us something for that too but it’s not compulsory they pay us for these services because we are not doing it for that”.

Image 2: An informal security post in a residential neighbourhood in Kaduna

Saifullah explained that there were cases where the Committee members took laws into their own hands which led to the death of suspects. He further said their mandate is to catch suspects, counsel and advise them to desist from such activities and in extreme cases subject them to corporal punishment. In other words, Committee members are not permitted to harshly punish or kill anyone. The committee members were also advised by the police commissioner of the state not to punish anyone in any way, instead arrest/apprehend them and bring them to the police station if they need to be punished and anyone that resists will be jailed. Yet, when we discussed offenders, he explained how the committee treat offenders when they apprehend them. Here Saifullah admitted that the committee involves corporeal punishment for certain offenders, but it is not arbitrary. He explained that the punishment seeks to match the degree of bodily harm committed by the crime itself. As he explained:

We don’t punish all criminals alike, we have a notorious group of criminals called ‘en sara suka’, when we catch these sorts of criminals we usually do to them what they do to others. This may involve cutting people with sharp objects such as machete and knives after beating them to a pulp before we hand them over to the police where they will face another torture. But for other criminals that are involved in petty crimes, we just beat them to an extent that they will not be able to stand up after the beating to teach them a lesson. For other issues like disagreements or quarrels we just simply intervene by discussing with them and helping them resolve the issue and ask them not to do such things again and if they are caught doing it again we flog them’.

As he explained how committees were formed, resourced, and what their disciplining tactics towards offenders tend to be, Saifullah stated that the State Governor recently tried to ban the Committee because of reported cases of committee members torturing suspected criminals and collaboration between them and criminals. One of the residents of Unguwan Dosa spoke of an incident where he suspected one of the committee members to have robbed his shop:

There is this vigilante member I know, I once told him I was sick and not coming to my shop that day, and that same day my shop was burgled, when I confronted him about it he said it had rained and does not know anything.”

Residents we interviewed spoke of the effectiveness of the Committee in increasing security within the community, and claimed that there was an increase in crime within the neighbourhood after the State Governor placed a ban on Committees early this year. More than 60% of respondents have also said that they don’t trust the police and prefer reporting crime cases to the committee especially since most criminal cases reported to the police linger for a long time without resolution as opposed to their experiences with the informal security providers who address local crime right away. Commenting on the issue Mr. Balarabe (a pseudonym to respect his anonymity) a resident of kwaru said ‘ we catch a lot of en en sara suka members in this neighbourhood and used to take them to the police station straight away as advised by the Divisional Police Officer so that they can take them to prison but we noticed that such criminals are set free after a few days, including those that were accused of killing without any justice served. So, these are the kinds of actions that discourage us from reporting crime cases to the police’.

When we asked about how crime management could be improved within the neighbourhoods almost everyone said; ‘by supporting the committees.

As we start to analyse our recently completed interview data, we learn that just like in other parts of the country, informal security providers keep coming up in response to the increase in crime rates especially in low income neighbourhoods where there is high rates of poverty and unemployment, as well as a limited access to the formal security (police). A report by the Human Rights Watch in 2003 on Fighting Violence with Violence in Lagos, Nigeria attributed the rise of such groups to the fundamental inability of the national police force to perform its law enforcement functions effectively, and the consequent lack of public confidence in the police,  which has resulted in the perception on the part of the general public that it is futile to report crimes to the police, or expect any remedial action from them.


In sum, the introduction of informal security provision and community policing has been a topic of discussion for some time now in Nigeria. In some cases, committee groups risk becoming influenced by desperate politicians during elections, causing mayhem and becoming uncontainable as well as too powerful. But they have already been regarded as a vital pillar of crime mitigation and security provision. For example, in Lagos state residents confirmed that the OPC’s vigilante role was well established and that it maintained an active presence, patrolling the streets and ostensibly maintaining security in the local communities (Human Rights Report 2003). Recently, Mr. Suleiman Abba, a former Inspector General of Police, supported the idea of community policing saying, “for Nigeria to drastically reduce crime and terrorist activities, she urgently needs to encourage community Policing”. So, the question this raises is whether it is acceptable to formally identify committed volunteers and have the Government empower and formally integrate these informal security providers into the National security system as the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF) was in Maiduguri, assisting the Nigerian Army in the fight against Boko Haram? This was also the case with the OPC in Lagos that assisted the police in the fight against the notorious Badoo cult group. Or conversely, should such practices be discouraged given their informal set up and the lack of checks and balances to ensure appropriate responses and control?

The fact remains that something will have to be done about the increase in crime rate in most parts of the country. So far in our study, we have found that informal security providers have helped curb security challenges especially in low income neighbourhoods, and efforts to discourage them from operating has led to an increase in crime rates in some cases. At the same time, the ban on committees also reflects the difficulty of controlling groups whose ‘security provision’ methods go too far.

Our first meeting: 2018 FCLP Workshop

IMAGE- The group outside UCL: (From left) Anwar Musah (UCL), Prof Adamu Ahmed (ABUZ), Tatiana Thieme (UCL), James Cheshire (UCL), Faisal Umar (ABUZ), Muktar Ahmed (ABUZ), Khadija Nda Yakubu (ABUZ) & Abdullahi Babagana (ABUZ)

In mid-September UCL Geography played host to an interdisciplinary workshop as part of the project, Development Frontiers in Crime, Livelihoods and Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Department for International Development (DFID).

UCL Geographers, Dr James Cheshire, Dr Tatiana Thieme & Dr Anwar Musah (Research Associate on the project), are working with colleagues from Ahmed Bello University Zaria (ABUZ) in Nigeria to analyse the results of their field survey work and develop fresh perspectives on the analysis of crime.

Dr Faisal Umar, a UCL Geography alumnus, and his colleagues, Professor Adamu Ahmed, Khadija Yakubu, Abdullahi Babagana & Muktar Ahmed, took a break from their survey work in the city of Kaduna to spend a few days at a project workshop in London. During this, they shared insights based on their continuing interviews with both victims of crime and ex-offenders.

They also discussed the impacts of various street characteristics on urban crime, and novel methodological approaches, including graph theory, statistical modelling and GIS, to new sources of data on household victimisation in Nigeria.

The visitors found time to be interviewed at Broadcasting House for the BBC Hausa service, as well as to enjoy some traditional fish ‘n’ chips at the farewell dinner!

IMAGE- The group inside the North Sea Fish restaurant

FCLP QGIS Introductory course

The FCLP project have developed an online introductory course on GIS as one of its initiatives to help build capacity and provide practical guidance in using modern tools for mapping spatially referenced socioeconomic and crime victimisation data in Africa.

These tutorial series use an open source software package called Quantum GIS (QGIS) which can be downloaded free of charge from The tutorials were developed for the latest version of QGIS Desktop (3.2.0. Bonn). You can download the manuals and sample data for free from our tutorials section on the

The lessons 1,2 and 3 provides basic training in the data management and map construction in QGIS. Lessons 4 and 5 use real-life open source crime victimisation data from South Africa and Kenya, and have been adapted purely for exploring how GIS can be applied to analysis geographical patterns emerging from criminological data.