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1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
In Africa, high crime levels have been said to be common to countries in transition from authoritarian to democratic rule, and this is reflected in the persistently high level of crime in countries like South Africa. Official Police statistics for 1997 reveal a frightening high number of violent crimes where 25,000 people were murdered in 1996. This reflects a rate ten times the international average. Reported house breaking in private houses stood at
250,000, while on the average a car was stolen at gunpoint, every five seconds (Maltzan, 1998). Crime therefore reflects not only the values of the criminals but also those of the society as a whole.Crime rates and types are alsounevenly spread across cities and regions and between countries. Some cities, regions or countries may experience rapid increase in crime particularly crime of violence while others do not.
It could be argued that, most data on crime reflect only those recorded by the police, and that the extent to which the police record crime is difficult to measure. The level and types of crime are also the result of a range of local, national, and regional factors including cultural beliefs, political and economic instability, the quality of policing, and the availability of guns or other weapons. In Africa, a violent crime that has been of interest to scholars has been the incidents of contemporary armed robbery which has been observed to be prevalent in the horn of Africa (Mburu, 1999).
Nigeria, like any other African country has been experiencing various forms of violent crimes such as ethnic conflicts, rape, armed robbery, assault, murder and kidnapping. At the end ofcivil wars there is usually mass abandonment of the fighting zones which results in various types of weapons finding their way into the hands of people who may ultimately use them for criminal activities, as have been the case when the Nigerian civil war ended on January 15, 1970. During this period, it was generally expected that armed robbery which was the phenomenon of concern as at then, would be confined to the Eastern states of Nigeria, but this was not so because cases of armed robbery were reported from all parts of Nigeria. It was further observed that though armed robbery has existed in Nigeria for centuries, the civil war accelerated its incidence (Nkpa, 1976).
A specie of armed robbery that has been of national concern in Nigeria is armed robbery. Nigeria’s North- East borders have been bedeviled by frequent incidents of armed robbery popularly referred to as “Kwanta-Kwanta” (meaning lie down, lie down) and illegal incursion from conflict torn neighbors such as Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Cattle are being stolen by armed robbers locally referred to as ‘Udawa’. According to a report by the
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (1999)
There is growing concern in parts of Northern Nigeria over insecurity caused by robbers suspected to have come from neighbouring countries. Scores of people have been killed and many robbed of valuables in the past years by bands of heavily armed gunmen identified as remnants of rebel forces from years of civil war in Chad and by militant herdsmen known locally as ‘Udawa’, and said to come from Niger.
While Nigeria tries to cope with tensions generated by diversity of its population, struggle for economic independence, defense of its territorial integrity and against organized armed robbery, it is faced with problems of various instabilities within neighbouring countries forcing their people and members of their armed forces to troop into Nigeria from various points across the porous borders. Most of these people have been alleged to be the brains behind the numerous armed robbery incidents in the Northeastern region of Nigeria (Gubio, 1977). What then are those factors that encourage these foreign robbers to operate in Nigeria?While it may beattributed it to the relative ease with which foreign rebels move in and out of Nigerian territory (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 2000:269), it could also be the thickly forested strip along the borders with neighboring Franco-phone countries (Onah, 2010).Proximity to conflict zones as well aseasy availability of weapons constitute another factor (United Nation’s Small Arms Survey 2004:194; Bobbo 1999:19) while other factors could be rising poverty, high unemployment and the breakdown of traditional social control structures (Defending Human Rights report,2005:2). The implication here is that, a combination of factors can be said to encourage the robbers to operate within Nigerian territory.
Going by media reports on the general crime situation and the public concern in Northeastern Nigeria, armed robbery constitutes one of the greatest problems in terms of violation of criminal law. Besides being one of the most frequent anddreadful crimes in contemporary Nigeria, armed robbery have continued to cause distress among residents, individuals and communities of this region.
A news item in the Vanguard Newspaper of August 7, 2007:5 reported that,
Armed robbers numbering about 40, weekend held hostage the residents of Namtari town in Yola – South Local Government Area of Anambra State. The head of the vigilante group in the town, one Mallam Bappaji and his entire family were murdered by the rampaging robbers. According to the spokesman of the Anambra State Police Command, Bilyamu Bello (ASP), the gunmen held the entire town hostage for over three hours. He said the robbers raided the village undisturbed for hours after blocking all roads into and out of the town.
A gang of robbers taking cover in the forest around the border with Cameroon have also been terrorizing the people of Sorau and Belel in Maiha Local Government Area. The robbers rob travelers, raid villages and kidnap people. They also demand huge sums of money particularly from Fulani herdsmen after kidnapping their relations (Daily Trust Newspaper of October 17, 2008:7). It is to be noted however that, even though these mass media reports may be sensational, episodic and exaggerated in nature, they nevertheless show that there is a problem of armed robbery, which this study intends to unravel.
Notwithstanding the severity and seriousness of such attacks, Nigerian border law enforcement agents are usually ill-equipped to effectively police the numerous illegal entry points through which these criminals who are vey familiar with the terrain pass easily through undetected. Furthermore, the Nigerian law enforcement agents are also outnumbered by these armed robbers whenever the robbers choose to operate (Bobbo, 1999).A major source of concern is also that, the police appear to be getting overwhelmed by the phenomenon of armed robbery and that the criminals appear to be ahead of the police such that the police largely now only react usually after the offenders might have left the scene (Olujinmi, 2005:9).
The mode of operation of the robbers could constitute an obstacle to preventive measures that could have been put in place by the law enforcement agents. This isbecausethese robbers engage in one-time raids and follow a ‘nomadic’ (or slash and burn) form of appropriation. Once the territory covered by the robbers expands so that they incur high travel costs, they find it economically advantageous to form a rebel government where looting is converted to taxation. Instead of the anxiety of random looting, people suffer the certainty of steady taxation (Muggar and Brauer (2004:26).
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
The nature and pattern of armed robbery in contemporary Nigeria has become so pervasive that only a few Nigerians that travel or live within Abasang town can claim not to have suffered its impact. The phenomenon could take various forms in various places which may include waylaying victims on the highways and on transit points; storming and sacking of whole villages; stealing hundreds of cattle; settling in villages and collecting taxes; and extortion on village routes. Losses could range from monetary, material, valuables livestock and above all, human resources.
In Nigeria robbers that raid pastoralists, farmers, travelers, and even businessmen have, taken a huge toll in terms of lives and disrupted economic activities by attacking the network of highways that link various parts of Africa’s most populous country (108 million). Pastoralists and farmers have often been targeted by robbers in search of food. In the worst affected areas of the Northeast, harvests are threatened as most people are afraid to go to their farms for fear of being attacked (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 1999).
As a result of the activities of suspected foreign robbers, most routes within the Northeast sub-region are said to be insecure especially those ones leading to the borders with Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Usually the robbers operate in gangs who might have been supplied necessary information by their Nigerian collaborators. Such information could be given to the robbers for two reasons: information may be given for a price; information may be supplied to be in the good records of the robbers.
. RESEARCH QUESTIONS
Thus, the study sought to find answers to the following research questions:
1) What are the causes, nature and pattern of armed robbery in the Abasang town of Anambra State?
2) Who are these robbers and who are their victims?
3) How regularly does armed robbery occur in Abasang town?
4) To what extent does the incidence of armed robbery constitute a problem to individual victims, communities and government?
5) What are the socio-economic factors that enhance or inhibit incidence of armed robbery?
6) What are the roles played by individuals, communities and government law enforcement agencies in addressing the menace of armed robbery.
1.3 AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE RESEARCH
The study aims at understanding contemporary armed robbery and armed robbers in Anambra State, its dynamics, dimensions and impact on the affected communities in particular. The specific objectives of the study are:
(i) To find out the causes, nature and pattern of armed robbery in Abasang town of Anambra State – Nigeria.
(ii) To determine the socio-demographic attribute of identified perpetrators and victims of armed robbery in Abasang town of Anambra State.
(iii) To determine the impact of armed robbery on the individual victims and the affected communities.
(iv) To identify and assess the efforts put in place by individuals, communities and governments law-enforcement agencies towards addressing the menace of armed robbery in the areas affected.
(v) To make recommendations towards effective prevention and control of the problem.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
Armed robbery, being a recurring decimal in the fight against insecurity in Anambra State, has been of great concern to government, residents, investors and security agents. This is because it does not only victimize the individual, but could also destroy communities, ruin business, discourage investment, drive away foreign aid and also empty the State coffers. These costs are unsustainable in a developing economy.
The persistently high level of crime is also damaging Nigeria’s image abroad, and more importantly undermining the nation’s efforts at achieving growth and development. The significance of this study therefore lies in the fact that it will:
(i) Contribute to knowledge by complementing the scanty literature available on the subject of armed robbery in Abasang town of Anambra State, Nigeria.
(ii) Highlight the effects of this menace with specific reference to Anambra State and Nigeria in general.
(iii) Suggest policies on ways and means of effectively addressing the problem of cross-border armed robbery.
1.5 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The study will be limited to Abasang town in Nkikoka local government area of Akwa Ibom state.
1.6 DEFINITION OF CONCEPTS
Concepts are alterable constructs that shapes the researcher’s mind along a specific objective (Otu, 2003:27). The need to define and operationalize key concepts, words or phrases of a particular study in focus cannot therefore be overemphasized. It refers to the process of linking concepts to their empirical referents. That is, things that happen and can be measured. It therefore means that such operationalization must be based on available literature and the researcher’s personal definition. The major concepts that require operationalization so as to avoid ambiguities in this study are “armed robbery”, “impact” and “Abasang town”.
Armed robbery in the opinion of the researcher and for the purpose of this study should be seen as the practice of raiding and attacking victims by members of an armed group, whether or not premeditated, using weapons of offence or defense especially in semi-organized groups for the purpose of overpowering the victim and obtaining loot or achieving some political goals. Such robbers are usually regarded as outlaws and desperate lawless marauders who do not have a definite residence or destination, and they roam around the forest and mountains to avoid being detected or arrested.
In his study of the impact of insecurity on the livelihood and social service provision in Kotido district of Uganda, (Nangiro, 2005) argues that, the impact of raiding by robbers and conflict in Karamoja is difficult to quantify and that raiding has become a major cause of poverty, removing a household’s assets at a stroke. People fear to till their farms for fear of being attacked by robbers and this has led to the abandonment of farmlands especially those that are far from settlements. Impact could therefore be seen as the effect, consequence or impression made by something. That is, a phenomenon that follows and is caused by some previous phenomenon, and such impact might be negative or positive.
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