Crime is a social problem in all human societies. In Nigeria, the most heinous and harrowing types of it include kidnappings, insecurity/terrorism, and arm robbery. Incidence of crimes, including abduction, kidnapping, and terrorism are heard in the different parts of the country. Especially in the southern Kaduna, Borno, Adamawa, and some south-eastern states. Cases of Fulani herdsmen in parts of Taraba, Benue, Ebonyi, and the Enugu states are to mention but a few.
This article discussed what is crime? Types of crime, its causes, and remedies in Nigeria.
The unparalleled spate of terrorism, kidnappings, and other violent crimes are, to say the least, alarming. Religious leaders, churches, mosques, etc are not spared in this onslaught. At the risk of over-egging the pudding, there is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is at a cross-road and gradually drifting towards a failed state. Of course, our government hates hearing this home truth, but the truth must be told no matter how bitter it is. Tolls of death arising through assailants are rising by the day, especially during elections. During the just-concluded River State election, it was reported that a police officer was killed.
The status quo is tantamount to what transpires in war-torn environments. The tranquility inherent in the nooks and cranny of Nigeria has been ruined. Some years ago, places like Jos, Kaduna, etc used to be peaceful, cosmopolitan, and crisis-free. Not anymore! Even in a war situation, there are rules of engagement under the Geneva Convention. Indiscriminate killing of innocent people cannot be justified under any guise whatsoever. The purpose of this paper is to discuss crime, its causes, and remedies to the Nigerian state.
What is Crime?
Crime is an offensive action or omission that is punishable by law. We shall look at what is crime in the following subheadings: crime and criminals, and crime and social norms.
Crime and Criminals
There can be no sane discussion of “crime” and “criminals” without an investigation of the meaning of the words. A large majority of men, even among the educated, speak of a “criminal” as if the word had a clearly defined meaning and as if men were divided by a plain and distinct line into the criminal and the virtuous. There is no such division, and from the nature of things, there never can be such a line.
Strictly speaking, a crime is an act forbidden by the law of the land, and one which is considered sufficiently serious to warrant providing penalties for its commission. It does not necessarily follow that this act is either good or bad; the punishment follows for the violation of the law and not necessarily for any moral transgression. In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority.
According to Farmer, the term “crime” does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition, though statutory definitions have been provided for certain purposes. The most popular view is that crime is a category created by law; in other words, something is a crime if declared as such by the relevant and applicable law.
One proposed definition is that a crime or offense (or criminal offense) is an act harmful not only to some individual or individuals but also to a community, society, or the state (“a public wrong”). Such acts are forbidden and punishable by law.
The Oxford Dictionary of Sociology defines crime in a more complex way: “an offense which goes beyond the personal and into the public sphere, breaking prohibitory rules or laws, to which legitimate punishments or sanctions are attached, and which requires the intervention of a public authority.”
Criminologists, therefore, look beyond this strict legal definition to examine the social and cultural roots of crime and criminalization, including a questioning approach as to why certain activities are labeled ‘crime’ while others are not. In this aspect of definition comes the term social norms.
Crime and Social Norms
Social norms are behaviours that are deemed acceptable in a society or group. Social norms and values help to determine what is legally defined as crime: judges and lawmakers are influenced by these norms and values when they define what crime is and make recommendations about suitable punishments. But social norms and values change over time and are different in each country.
This means the acts or behaviours that are considered to be criminal also change over time. Moreover, there are many other reasons why certain acts are criminalized while others aren’t. This is often a political response rather than one based on social norms –law-makers sometimes need to be seen to be ‘doing something about the problem of crime.
The notion that acts such as murder, rape, kidnapping, terrorism, and theft are to be prohibited exists worldwide. What precisely is a criminal offense is defined by the criminal law of each country. While many have a catalog of crimes called the criminal code, in some common law countries no such comprehensive statute exists.
These structural realities remain fluid and often contentious. For example: as cultures change and the political environment shifts, societies may criminalize or decriminalize certain behaviors, which directly affect the statistical crime rates, influence the allocation of resources for the enforcement of laws, and (re-)influence the general public opinion.
Types Of Crimes
To understand better what is crime, we look at its types. Crimes against persons are not always as easy to classify and understand as crimes against property. These acts are so numerous and come from so many different emotions and motives, that often the cause is obscure and the explanation not easy to find.
Still here, as everywhere in Nature, nothing can happen without a cause, and even where limited knowledge does its best and cannot find causes, our recognition of the connection between cause and effect and the all-inclusiveness of law can leave no doubt that complete knowledge would bring complete understanding.
Homicide occurs when one human being causes the death of another. Homicides can be divided into many overlapping types, including murder, manslaughter, justifiable homicide, killing in war, euthanasia, and execution, depending on the circumstances of the death. These different types of homicides are often treated very differently in human societies; some are considered crimes, while others are permitted or even ordered by the legal system.
Criminal homicide takes many forms including accidental or purposeful murder. The crime committed in a criminal homicide is determined by the mental state of the committing person and the extent of the crime. Murder, for example, is usually a godly crime. In many cases, homicide may lead to life in prison and oar even capital punishment, but if the defendant in a capital case is sufficiently mentally disabled in the United States he or she cannot be executed. Instead, the individual is placed under the category of “insane”.
In some jurisdictions, a homicide that occurs during the commission of a crime may constitute murder, regardless of the actor’s intent to commit homicide. In the United States, this is known as the felony murder rule. Much abbreviated and incomplete, the felony murder rule says that one committing a felony may be guilty of murder if someone, including the felony victim, a bystander, or a co-felon, dies as a result of his acts, regardless of his intent—or lack thereof—to kill.
In criminal law, kidnapping is the abduction or unlawful transportation of a person, usually to hold the person against his or her will. This may be done for ransom or in furtherance of another crime, or connection with a child custody dispute.
Kidnapping is not new in Nigeria and is one of the country’s big challenges. Nigeria faces problems in education, unemployment, and corruption, but kidnapping—thanks to high-profile incidents perpetrated by Boko Haram—has drawn the attention of both Nigerians and international organizations.
Facts and figures show that the kidnapping frequency in the country is high. In recent years, attention has turned to this issue in this part of Africa which is mostly carried out by Boko Haram. Both national and international bodies are coming together to see if the incidence can be reduced. Chad, Cameroon, and the United States recently joined in the fight.
Terrorism is, in its broadest sense, the use of intentionally indiscriminate violence (terror or fear) to achieve a political, religious, or ideological aim. It is classified as fourth-generation warfare and as a violent crime. In modern times, terrorism is considered a major threat to society and therefore illegal under anti-terrorism laws in most jurisdictions. It is also considered a war crime under the laws of war when used to target non-combatants, such as civilians, neutral military personnel, or enemy prisoners of war.
A broad array of political organizations have practiced terrorism to further their objectives. It has been practiced by both right-wing and left-wing political organizations, nationalist groups, religious groups, revolutionaries, and ruling governments. The symbolism of terrorism can exploit human fear to help achieve these goals. According to data from the Global Terrorism Database, more than 61,000 incidents of non-state terrorism claiming over 140,000 lives have been recorded from 2000 to 2014.
According to Emile, Nigerian terrorism did not develop in a vacuum. Competing historical and ideological narratives, Saudi proselytization, and active recruiting by “religious radicalizers” in the past two decades have paved the way for radicalism. Islamic activism in Muslim Nigerian towns and villages in the north in the late 1980s and early 1990s was driven by the feverish competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi was also funding Islamic groups in the area during the same period.
Robbery and Burglary
Robbery is the crime of taking or attempting to take anything of value by force, the threat of force, or by putting the victim in fear. At common law, robbery is defined as taking the property of another, with the intent to permanently deprive the person of that property, employing force or fear. Precise definitions of the offense may vary between jurisdictions. Robbery is differentiated from other forms of theft (such as burglary, shoplifting, or car theft) by its inherently violent nature. (It is a violent crime).
Whereas many lesser forms of theft are punished as misdemeanors, robbery is always a felony in jurisdictions that distinguish between the two. Under English law, most forms of theft are triable either way, whereas robbery is triable only on indictment. The word “rob” came via French from Late Latin words (e.g. deraubare) of Germanic origin, from Common Germanic raub — “theft”.
Among the types of robbery are armed robbery involving the use of a weapon and aggravated robbery involving the use of a deadly weapon or something that appears to be a deadly weapon. Highway robbery or “mugging” takes place outside or in a public place such as a sidewalk, street, or parking lot. Carjacking is the act of stealing a car from a victim by force.
Extortion is the threat to do something illegal, or the offer to not do something illegal, if goods are not given, primarily using words instead of actions. Criminal slang for robbery includes “blagging” (armed robbery, usually of a bank) or “stick-up” (derived from the verbal command to robbery targets to raise their hands in the air), and “steaming” (organized robbery on underground train systems).
Sex and the law deal with the regulation by law of human sexual activity. Sex laws vary from one place or jurisdiction to another and have varied over time, and unlawful sexual acts are also called sex crimes.
Some laws regulating sexual activity are intended to protect one or all participants, while others are intended to proscribe behavior that has been defined as a crime. For example, a law may proscribe unprotected sex if one person knows that he or she has a sexual disease or to protect a minor; or it may proscribe non-consensual sex, or because of a relationship between the participants, etc.
In general, laws may proscribe acts that are considered either sexual abuse or behavior that societies consider to be inappropriate and against the social norms. Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual contact between two or more adults or two or more minors, and, depending on laws concerning the age of consent, sexual contact between an adult and a minor. The term “sexual violence” is an all-encompassing, non-legal term that refers to crimes like sexual assault, rape, and sexual abuse.
Causes Of Crimes In Nigeria
What is crime and its causes in Nigeria? Several factors have been identified by analysts and scholars as being responsible for crimes in Nigeria. The factors range from corruption, poverty, unemployment, religious extremism, illiteracy among others. The contemporary Nigerian society is engulfed by terrible acts of terrorism, kidnapping, and many more.
These acts have been committed by both the State and terrorist organizations. One of the major contentions in this paper is that contemporary crimes in Nigeria are a product of “bad governance” and the character of the State in Nigeria, which encourages a “culture of impunity”.
Wrong System of Government
One of the primary causes of instability and insecurity in Nigeria is what this writer calls, ‘’our wrong system of government and over-concentration of Political Power at the center’’. One is not trying to be a prophet of doom, but these problems will continue haunting us until we are honest and bold enough to sort it out. So far we have been treating the symptom of the disease and not the causative agent. Currently, it will seem we are building on sand and not on a solid foundation because many of those issues that led to the Nigerian Civil war are still prevalent more than fifty years after the war ended.
We cannot afford to reinforce a mistake! It’s high time we redefined and re-negotiated the terms and conditions of our existence perhaps through a National Conference or a no-holds-barred constitutional amendment. With many State governors opposed to Local Government Autonomy and ‘State Police’, one doubts the current constitutional amendment jamboree will yield much positive result.
Balkanizing this country is neither the solution to our problems. This writer strongly believes in the unity of Nigeria. Even in a nuclear family, there are bound to be disagreements, do we now split the family because of such quarrels. There is no doubt that Nigeria has come to stay but with more than 400 ethnic groups, we need a system of government that gives, if not all, the majority of our citizens a sense of belonging.
Weak Judicial System
The second factor is the weak judicial system, injustice, nepotism, and a culture of impunity. Here people commit all manner of crimes and get away with them. When justice is said to be meted out, a rich man gets a slap on the wrist for stealing or embezzling billions of naira while a poor man is sentenced to five years imprisonment for stealing a goat.
There is a widespread notion that justice can be bought or sold in Nigeria depending on one’s bargaining power and contacts in the corridors of power. Some of the alleged masterminds of Boko Haram are said to have been arrested in the past by security agents but promptly released due to the intervention of powerful individuals while some of them were jailed for just a few months, come out sooner than later and continue with their nefarious activities.
A similar factor to the aforementioned is the unprecedented levels of corruption that have permeated the fabrics of our national life. The figures these days are simply mind-boggling! An individual steals, embezzles billions or even trillions of naira without blinking an eye-lid! It would seem there is a competition for who wins the highest award for corruption.
Now the government is said to be negotiating with the indicted Oil subsidy culprits. This sets a bad precedent. Why not let the law take its course. The rich criminal can bargain his way out of jail whereas the poor criminal has no choice. From the Police to the Immigration; from the Citadels of learning to the Seats of government; from the hospitals to the churches etc.
Corruption can be viewed as the deliberate or inadvertent violation of ethics and codes that are supposed to govern the behavior of a particular profession, public service, private transaction, contractual agreements, and actions that lead to selfish and dishonest personal gains to the disadvantage of another person, the system. or society in general. This may include abuse of office, misuse of power and authority for repressive and oppressive purposes, victimization, electoral malpractice, bribery, diversion of public funds, and inflation of contracts, amongst others. Indeed one’s failure to perform his duties also amounts to corruption.
All of these can combine to breed discontent, frustration, deprivation, criminality, and terrorism. Unfortunately, when we talk about corruption, our minds readily go to embezzlement, bribery, misappropriation of funds, and kickbacks. This may be so because we can more easily relate to the consequences and connection between the lack of provision of public goods and the diversion of such monies for personal and selfish use.
There are numerous accounts and examples of high profile corruption in Nigeria which should not detain us here, Suffice it to mention the celebrated cases of the missing $12.’4billion of Nigeria’s oil revenue from the central bank accounts during the Babangida regime, the pension scam where civil servants were robbed of billions of naira by government officials, fuel subsidy scam in which NNPC, fuel marketers and’ importers colluded to defraud this country, and many more cases that investigation and prosecutions have been stalled, like the Aviation Scam.
These are all results of bad governance. Corruption does not end with the stealing of public resources; it undermines justice, economic development and destroys public trust in government and political leaders. Corruption is a major cause of mass poverty. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) report .for 2014 reveals that 112.47 million Nigerians (about 70%) live below $1.00 per day, as a result, they could barely afford the minimal standards of food, clothing, health care, and shelter.
The NBS further reports that 20.3 million Nigerians are jobless. The figure is inclusive of 5.3 million unemployed youths and an average of 1.8million graduates who enter the labor market annually. The North-West and North-East recorded the highest poverty rates in 2010 with 77.7% and 76.3% respectively.
Okereke narrated the following experience: His wife registered for ante-natal in one of the government hospitals and one of the requirements in addition to paying the normal registration fee, was to donate blood. After paying the required amount and donating the blood free of charge, he was surprised when the officials asked him to ‘shake body’. This is Nigerian parlance means to ‘’settle’’ or give them money. One can voluntarily appreciate them say for doing a good job but not for them to be demanding money for doing a job that they are paid to do.
He had a similar experience when he went to the Post office to pick up a foreign correspondence and the clerk asked him to his ‘grease’ palms before he will release his letter. Such incidents are widespread and have become more of a norm. People even laugh at you when you complain of such happenings or incidents.
Ethnicism and Nepotism
State of origin/indigenship syndrome or the so-called ‘’quota system’’ also takes a toll on the stability and security of our nation. A typical Nigerian identifies him/herself first with his tribe or state of origin rather than as a Nigerian. A Nigerian born and bred in an area and whose parents and grandparents are also born in that particular area but are originally from another place are still seen as strangers or settlers. They may be tolerated but many times they are not entitled to some of the privileges that the so-called ‘owners’ of the land are entitled to. Currently, it is very much unlikely for say, a Yoruba born and bred in Ebonyi State to aspire and become the Governor of that state. The same applies to an Igbo born and bred in say, Oyo state.
Even when there is a law that stipulates one’s entitlements/rights, in reality, it is not pragmatic. With nostalgia, one remembers a situation sometime in Sokoto State; indigent students were exonerated from paying school fees while making it compulsory for ‘settlers’ to pay school fees. This is not even the gist. The gist is that ‘settlers’ from another country (Niger Republic) are perhaps inadvertently exempted from paying school fees because they bear Hausa names, are Moslems, and have strong cultural ties with the Hausa/Fulani people that inhabit Sokoto state. On the other hand, ‘settlers’ from say, the South-Eastern or South-Western parts of Nigeria pay school fees because they don’t share the same name, culture, or language with the Sokoto people.
Weak Institutions, Powerful individuals
In Nigeria, some individuals- the so-called godfathers, Cabals, and power-brokers are known to be stronger than the government or the institution. They see themselves as untouchables. They boast that nothing will happen and nothing ultimately happens! A case in point is the Petrol subsidy fraud masterminds. The government wants to broker a deal with them so they can return some of the money they embezzled. Many times, the Police, Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), etc need some kind of ‘clearance’ from the powers that be before they can do what they are naturally supposed to do especially when a so-called godfather or powerful individual is involved.
Unscrupulous money-bags and in some cases criminals are celebrated and put in powerful positions because they are ‘connected’. A very popular and powerful ex-governor in Nigeria manipulated and escaped justice in Nigeria but was subsequently jailed in the U.K. One recalls a former Defence minister in Germany that was relieved of his position because he plagiarized his doctorate thesis. Not long ago, a former Canadian minister resigned after it was discovered that inter-alia, she could not reconcile expenses of about $16!.
In the West, I mean most European countries and North America, it is not unlikely that people get away with crimes but once it becomes public knowledge or the person gets caught, there is no hiding place, the law takes its natural course and the culprit must pay for it no matter how highly placed he/she is.
Unemployment and poor Database
Unemployment and lack of record/database of criminals also in no small measure contribute to instability and insecurity not just in Nigeria but in any other place. The saying goes that, a hungry man is an angry man. No wonder many western countries pay unemployed people stipends or give them food stamps. We have a superfluity of unemployed people and graduates in Nigeria and the jobs are not forthcoming despite the promises by politicians. Some of these unemployed people take to wheeling-dealing while other ones inadvertently go into crimes to survive.
Don’t forget that our society is such a place that the affluent like to flaunt their wealth whether ill-gotten or not. So imagine where an average unemployed graduate that spent 4-5 years in the higher institution is constantly intimidated by money-bags that probably never went to a secondary school. Such unemployed graduates may be tempted to kidnap the so-called big man or any of his relatives and extort money from them.
There is a paucity of a comprehensive database of ex-convicts or criminals in Nigeria. The implication of this alone has far-reaching effects on instability and insecurity. There abound cases of ex-convicts serving even in the Security Agencies. How can we combat insecurity when we don’t have a comprehensive record of those that have committed one offense or the other in the past.
Also related to the above point is the fact that our Security Agencies need to be more proactive rather than been reactive. The ranks and files of our Security Agencies need constant training and re-training. They must also be well-equipped to tackle the type of security challenges prevalent today. You don’t expect a good result when a Police officer with just an O’ level is investigating a Cybercrime. Their remuneration is also nothing to write home about hence they are not motivated to do their job.
Any person who lives below $1.25 a day is said to be poor. Poverty is a propelling force that pushes people toward crime. They find themselves in kidnapping because they are no longer happy with their condition. Sometimes, they believe that one successful kidnapping will fetch them the money they will need to start a clean business.
Remedies To Crimes In Nigeria
Having identified the raison d’ etre of instability and insecurity in Nigeria, an attempt is hereby made to proffer solutions. If we must surmount the aforesaid threats to our well-being as a nation, then we must begin to tell ourselves the home truth no matter how bitter it may be.
Decentralization of power
One of the first and very important steps we must take to curtail crime is for us to embrace a Political system of government that gives more power to the federating units rather than concentrating so much power at the center. Even the so-called federalism we claim to practice is adulterated. True federalism as practiced by the Americans will no doubt eliminate the frequent agitation inherent in our polity. The problems and realities that gave birth to Nigeria’s civil war in 1967 are yet to be dealt with.
Strengthen the judiciary
Secondly, to eradicate or curtail crime, we need to strengthen our judicial system by ensuring that justice is dispensed no matter whose ox is gored. Nepotism and a culture of impunity must also be eschewed from our national psyche and life. Nigeria must be an egalitarian nation and not a country where there are two sets of rules-one for the rich and another for the poor. Nigerians must not be made to suffer amid plenty.
Thirdly, serious, concerted, and visible efforts must be geared towards exterminating corruption and injustice in Nigeria. EFCC, ICPC must be INDEPENDENT! There must not be sacred cows or smoke screens! A situation where the Attorney-general of the federation or the minister of justice can arbitrarily and unilaterally terminate or discontinue any case instituted by the EFCC, et al, no matter the merits of the case, should be looked into as it is subject to abuse. Measures must also be put in place to ensure quick dispensation of justice. In Nigeria, people commit an offense that has say, a five years maximum sentence and they spend six years in jail awaiting trial. Let justice be done and seen to be done.
Objective selection by merit
Fourthly, merit must not be sacrificed on the altar of State of origin/Indigenship or the so-called Quota system. Laws must be made that guarantees every Nigerian, the right to reside in any part of Nigeria and be entitled to what every other person there is entitled to. I understand we have such laws; those laws must not just be paper-tigers, they must be enforced and workable.
This issue is the root of the imbroglio in Jos and some other parts of Nigeria. The Hausa/Fulani tribes in Jos are still seen as strangers even though some of them, their parents, grand and great-grandparents were born in Jos and have no other place than home.
Fifthly, we must strengthen and encourage our institutions. As Obama once said, Africa needs strong institutions, not strong men. Our institutions must walk the talk and not just be paper-tigers. All citizens must be equal before the law. The culture of foisting candidates on the electorate during elections must stop. Elections must be free and fair and a system should be put in place that ensures only Patriotic and unscrupulous individuals hold positions of responsibility.
Similarly, unemployment must be seriously tackled and curtailed. The private sector must be encouraged and supported to create much-needed jobs. Constant electricity supply will no doubt boost employment and increase productivity.
Learning and adaptation
Lastly and very important is that we must jettison our fire brigade approach to solving problems be it security or otherwise. More often than not, we wait until the harm is done before we start running helter-skelter. We must embrace an intelligence-gathering method. Problems, crises, etc must be nipped in the bud before they escalate. Before his death, Osama Bin Laden seemed to be larger than life for about a decade but through intelligence, America finally tracked him down and eliminated him.
We looked at what is crime. From the foregoing, we understood that crime is an offense punishable by law. We highlighted the types of crimes as a way to understand what is crime. We then looked at the causes, and remedies to crime in Nigeria.
Nigerians must be continually sensitized to be security conscious. We have a culture of taking everything for granted over here. Security is a collective responsibility. Our lackadaisical attitude to security must cease. In most Western countries, people take note of a new neighbor when s/he move into the neighborhood. You will be surprised you wander up and down a street in a typical Western nation and the next thing you see are police cars blaring their sirens.
Apart from the security cameras everywhere, probably an elderly man or woman must have tipped the police off. Here in Nigeria, most of us do not know our next-door neighbor not to talk of other neighbors living the next street. We don’t know or care what our neighbors’ are into.
The National Orientation Agency, the State Security Service, etc have to be more proactive. Enlightenment campaigns must be ongoing. Recall also that individuals and groups do not have a monopoly over terrorism. History abounds of State terrorism where Governments by an act of commission or omission, use instruments and institutions of government to terrorize their citizens. We also have financial terrorism etc. Too much wealth is in the wrong hands in Nigeria and they can deploy it to destabilize the polity.
So government must not push its citizens so hard that they resort to criminality, violence, and terrorism. A hungry man they say is an angry man. Nigerians are generally peaceful and pliant. All the aforementioned factors are intertwined; the sporadic interplay of them impinges an unpredictable butterfly effect on the Stability and Security of Nigeria. Nigerians, let us Unite Against Insecurity and Terrorism.
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