BY ELISE MOSOUR PUCKETT
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” said Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965. In 2021, four Nigerian criminal justice scholars from different academic institutions came together and made their voices heard about something that matters – police brutality in Nigeria.
Their words formed the book, Community Policing in Nigeria, by Emmanuel Onyeozili, professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Biko Agozino, professor of sociology and Africana studies at Virginia Tech; Augustine Agu, retired senior policy officer at UNICEF; and Patrick Ibe, professor and chair of the Criminal Justice Department at Albany State University.
Simultaneously published by Fourth Dimension Publishing Company in Nigeria and Virginia Tech Publishing housed in University Libraries in the United States, this book is an examination into the ongoing policing problems in Nigeria. It compares models of community policing around the world while discussing best and flawed practices that may serve as guides for Nigeria and the rest of Africa to help maintain peace and order.
The Black Lives Matter movement has brought attention to police brutality around the world. Africans have not had a police force or prison system in their country for thousands of years; however, in Nigeria, the government uses Special Anti-Robbery Squads (SARS) that are known for excessive abuses on the African people. Nigerian citizens are protesting in the streets and demanding an end to the brutality through the #EndSARS nationwide protest.
“Imagine a future Nigeria in which policing is part of the solution to insecurity rather than making the problem worse,” said Peter Potter, director of Virginia Tech Publishing. This book helps build the path to do just that.
The book authors have backgrounds in and knowledge of Nigerian policy and criminal justice. “We responded to the widespread demand for community policing in Nigeria due to widespread insecurity and brutal policing by offering a theoretically relevant examination of rationale, principles, practices, and case-studies of community policing as potential lessons for Africa,” said Agozino.
Since the release of Community Policing in Nigeria and several others on the same topic, the president of Nigeria announced a decision to approve N13.3 billion (approximately $31.5 million) in funding for the community policing initiative across the country as one of his nine key priorities of his administration bringing hope to the country.
“Community Policing in Nigeria” may not have been published if not for advocates who saw the country’s need for this information and its importance. The book ran into publishing challenges in Nigeria, including very high up-front printing costs. In addition, Fourth Dimension Publishing in Nigeria was struggling financially with the death of their founding members. However, the new director of Fourth Dimension Publishing, Benjack Ejiofor Nwankwo, advocated for the book and surprised the authors by raising funds for the printing. He then quickly distributed copies throughout Nigeria. To also raise awareness, two influential and well established online blogs, Antipode and Africa Is a Country, extracted sections of the book to post online.
“Then Virginia Tech Publishing crowned all that honor by updating and freely offering the book online under Creative Commons and through Amazon,” said Agozino. “Virginia Tech Publishing was a delight to work with. The editing was spot on and the patience with our ever-changing text updating was exemplary.”
It is the team’s hope that this book will be the foundation for a series of historical and empirical theory-policy-relevant book publications with an emphasis on Africa. The authors look forward to seeing readers engaged in discussion around this book and welcome others’ opinions and critiques.
“The growing insecurity across Africa was not inevitable given that Africans were able to run their lives without a police force or prisons but through the communities for thousands of years, as our book cover symbolizes,” said Agozino. “We hope that our book will contribute to the democracy of the people as opposed to the militarisation that leads to escalations of violence.”