How Should a Transitional Democracy Ensure Law and Order? (Worksheet)

Vigilantism in Nigeria, 2002

A member of the Lassa vigilante group. CREDIT: Immanuel Afolabi

Nigeria's transition from a military dictatorship to a democracy in 1999 was fraught with problems, including a lack of adequate police protection in many areas of the country. As a result, vigilante groups popped up, enforcing order through extrajudicial means. Innocent Chukwuma wrote about this issue and possible solutions in a December 2002 article in Human Rights Dialogue. Chukwuma is the founder and executive director of the Centre for Law Enforcement Education in Lagos.

The selected excerpt found on the right sidebar is from the beginning of the article and outlines why vigiliantism gained strength in Nigeria after 1999 and the arguments for and against this method of grassroots "justice." The excerpt allows students to answer the questions: 1) Should vigilante groups have a role in transitional democracies where the police force is inadequate? 2) What could be done in order to create law and order in a new democracy? 3) How does the lack of adequate police protection and vigilantism in 2002 relate to Nigeria's current security problems?

For the full article, including how Chukwuma responds to question two above, please click here. For a response to Chukwuma's article from Carina Tertsakian of Human Rights Watch, please click here

This activity works well in a comparative government or political science class.