I was researching the arms trade the other day when I came across this amazing tale from Nigeria. It involves a fisherman-turned-arms-smuggler, who was ensnared not by the police, but rather by a celebrated vigilante named Alhaji Ali Kwara. Turns out that Mr. Kwara has been a rather busy man of late, personally arresting ten armed robbers, helping the Bauchi State cops eradicate crime, and (I kid you not) fending off about a dozen assassins. (Lesson to be learned from last incident: Do not attempt to rehabilitate armed robbers on your own.)
Though Mr. Kwara is certainly a courageous and fascinating man, one does have to wonder what his activities say about the state of law-and-order in northern Nigeria. As a general rule of thumb, you want law enforcement to be in the hands of government, not vigilantes—even ostensibly honorable vigilantes such as Mr. Kwara. My hunch is that much of the local security apparatus is on the take, which explains why the incorruptible Mr. Kwara is held in such high esteem. But allowing private citizens to assume the duties of the police often leads to sorrow.
The United States, of course, has its own ignoble history of rampant vigilantism. Troubling case in point: The Bald Knobbers.
Less troubling case: Daredevil!