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Shaping community support for vigilantism: a Nigerian case study


Published online on


Policing: An International Journal, Ahead of Print.
Purpose In Nigeria, vigilantism appears to be a common response to dissatisfaction about the state police in the recent time. Using survey data of residents in Lagos, Nigeria, the purpose of this paper, therefore, is to explore whether what is already known about perceptions of procedural (in) justice of state police also applies to self-help security groups in Nigeria. This is with a view to influencing community support for and satisfaction with non-state policing in the country. Design/methodology/approach The study adopted a case study approach. Lagos, Nigeria was stratified into the high, medium and low densities. Systematic sampling technique was used in selecting 1 out of every 20 buildings (5 percent) in each area. Household representative person on each floor of the selected building who had contact with vigilante corps in the last 12 months were targeted. Of 768 copies of questionnaires administered, a sample of 386 was effectively returned (representing 50 percent response rate). Six categories of variables were analyzed. These are procedural justice, distributive justice, vigilante corps’ performance, legitimacy, residents’ satisfaction with vigilante corps activities and socio-economic characteristics. Findings Results reveal that respondents are not primarily instrumental in their support for vigilantisms. Instead, their support is associated with their basic communal values. More than effectiveness in controlling crime, vigilantisms receive community support provided they use procedural justice in dealings with the public. Respondents who perceive vigilantisms use procedural justice also view them as legitimate, and as well satisfy with their activities and services. Besides, results show that support for and satisfaction with vigilantisms are associated with environmental, social and economic characteristics of the residents in the community they serve. The thesis supported in this research paper is that public support for and satisfaction with vigilantisms can be influenced significantly through policing strategies that builds legitimacy. Originality/value Vigilantism pervades contemporary policing strategies. It is supported by national crime prevention policies, according to the logic that the use of community self-help security strategies could contribute to sustainable crime prevention. This study extends research on legitimacy, with an empirical focus on Nigerian vigilantism. Understanding factors that shape public support for vigilantism may enhance safer communities.