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1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Crime is a social canker-worm that has eaten deep into the social fabric of the Nigerian society such that its effect is multifaceted (Chinwokwu, 2013). Although Durkheim (2007) opines that crime is inevitable and normal aspect of social life, it is an integral part of all healthy societies. Haralambos & Holborn (2008) state that the functionality of crime in a society, such as ours, has to be viewed seriously because of the social and psychological problems it has caused many victims. In fact, no matter the functionality of crime in the society, the act of crime is condemnable and unacceptable in a healthy society, no matter the justification criminals may present.
It is a paradox that Nigeria is a rich country inhabited by the poor. Her poverty profile in statistical figures according to a recent study indicates that Nigerian people live in one of the twenty poorest countries in the world. The trend in poverty is on the decline. The proportion of population living in relative poverty reduced to 54%. Data also shows that the proportion of population living in extreme poverty was 35% while the percentage of underweight children was 30% (Ladan, 2010).
The proportion of the population living in relative poverty was expected to have fallen to 28.78 per cent in 2007, if the MDG target is to be met in 2015. However, among every ten Nigerians, five were still living in poverty in 2007. Analysis of poverty incidence by sectors indicated that poverty was more pronounced in the rural areas than in the urban. Similarly, while poverty was more pronounced among farmers and larger households headed by persons with lower levels of education, income inequality is more pronounced in urban centres. Unemployment rate in Nigeria rose from about 12 out of 100 working age people in 1999 to 18 in 2005 with the rate of youth unemployment rising in urban than rural areas. The
various Federal Government Initiatives on poverty reduction, food security, respect for the Rule of Law, balanced socio-economic development and the various safety nets of government created relatively better supportive policy environment (Ladan, 2010).
The growing awareness and recognition on the part of African governments, donor agencies/development partners and Civil Society Groups, that poor people, particularly women and children, the powerless and the disadvantaged, are the most vulnerable to all forms of crime and discrimination; and that in very many cases, formal justice systems fail to protect them, is a step in the right direction. This has recently necessitated the need for African governments (Nigeria inclusive) to develop the capacity to ensure safety, security and access to justice for all. The importance of justice systems for improving the lives of vulnerable groups/poor people by ensuring that everybody has access to systems which dispense justice fairly, speedily and without discrimination cannot be over-emphasized.
Failure of states to provide citizens with protection from crime and access to justice impedes sustainable development. All people have a right to go about their lives in peace, free to make the most of their opportunities. They can only do so if the institutions of justice and law and order protect them in their daily lives. States with poorly functioning legal systems and poor crime control mechanisms are unattractive to investors, so economic growth also suffers.
Accordingly, this paper contends that in developing countries like Nigeria the law is often discriminatory and legal processes are expensive, slow and complex. The result is that people, and particularly poor and disadvantaged people, have inadequate and unequal access to justice through the formal legal system. For these reasons they tend to rely much more on Customary Justice Systems, but these can be
discriminatory. Improving access to justice requires that both formal and customary systems be made to work justly and equitably. It also means more than reforming legal procedures. It can also mean law reform, making courts more user friendly, improving Customary Systems and improving the treatment of offenders.
Since the 1970s, the popular crimes that were prevalent in Nigeria include: armed robbery, stealing, assault, burglary, rape, etc; but today terrorism, bomb blasts, kidnapping, drug trafficking, money laundry, child trafficking, assassinations and other criminal activities have become the order of the day. Ekhomu (2010) noted that Nigeria was beset with myraid of security challenges such as kidnapping, terrorism, civil disturbance, political violence, fraud, assassination, armed robbery, among others. In spite of stringent laws and punishments to check these crimes, they have continued to be on the increase with the police seemingly helpless and incapable of savaging the situation (Utebor & Ekpimah, 2010).
It has to be recalled that in 1986 Dele Giwa, a founding editor of the News watch Magazine was killed during General Ibrahim Babangida‘s government through a parcel bomb (Oyeniyi, 2007), the first of its kind in Nigerian history. Reacting to the assassination of Dina Dipo, an Action Congress Gubernatorial candidate for Ogun Statein 2007, Yinka Odumakin, National Publicity Secretary of the Party; described Dina‘s murder as a shame to the country. He went on to say that Dina has now joined the league of Bola Ige, Ayo Daramola, Funso Williams and so many other non-prominent people who lost their lives since the inception of do-or-die politics. One common thread in all these assassination is the inability of the police to bring to book the perpetrators (Akintunde, 2010).
However, the general insecurity and fear of victimisation and the seemingly inability of some state governments to describe the type of arms and ammunition at
the disposal of the criminals, indicate that the professionalism of the criminals are beyond the capabilities of the states (Chidozie, 2010). This came at the heels of upsurge of armed robberies, kidnappings and other violence in the cities of some states, including Abia, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Imo and Lagos in Nigeria. It is important to note that between 1996 – 2003, a total of about 800,054 cases of property crimes were recorded by the Nigeria police (Dambazau, 2007; Ugwoke, 2010).The magnitude of these crimes and the modus operandi of the criminals seem to put the police off-balance.
The former Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ogbonnaya Onovo, told his officers and men in Owerri, Imo Stateat the peak of the kidnapping saga in the South East Zones of Nigeria that they have done well in maintaining peace and order, but have failed in preventing crimes (Akasike & Abimbola, 2010). This was further emphasized by the immediate past Inspector General of Police Mr. Hafiz Ringim who blamed the incessant armed robbery, kidnapping, and similar crimes on policemen‘s corrupt practices (Akasike & Abimbola, 2010). These raise a lot of questions on police efficiency and effectiveness in handling criminal investigation matters in Nigeria.
It is pertinent to mention that the level at which crime is prevented in the society will very much depend on the level at which the police are able to investigate, prosecute and gain conviction of criminals (Chinwokwu, 2013). It is because of their importance and position in the criminal justice system that they have been chosen for this study. Moreover, Gibbons (1968) contends that crime is a social phenomenon, as a social phenomenon, the methods or ways of investigating the commission of crime needs to be studied in our social settings. The Police are charged with the responsibility of internal security by ensuring safety of lives and property. But the
question here is: have the police been able to carry out their functions effectively and efficiently?
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The steady increase of crimes and undetected crimes of various criminal activities recently has raised a general feeling of insecurity of lives and property among Nigerians. United Nations report in 1993 stated that for every 100 Nigerians, 40 are criminals (Arinze, 2010). According to Arinze (2010), whether the report is accurate or not, the problem of eradicating crime in Nigeria in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s was a big task for the police, as it was years criminals of all shades emerged in Nigerian towns and cities in full force and threatened the peace and economic life of many citizens.
Between 1996 - 2000, the police recorded a total of 1,072,026 cases. Out of this, 462,058 or 43.1 percent of the cases were prosecuted while 540,899 or 50.5 percent cases were under-investigation, undetected or unsolved (Soyombo, 2005). The implication of this is that a very significant whooping number of 51.0 percent of the cases were under-investigation or undetected or even closed for want of evidence.
This is very bad for a police organization that is supposed to be efficient. It is an indication that criminal justice system in the country is very weak. For instance, in 2008 alone a total of 90,156 cases were recorded by the police. Out of these cases, 51,816 or 57.5 percent were prosecuted and 23,589 or 45.5 percent cases were convicted. This is a very significant improvement in the prosecuting capacity and ability of the police and a welcome development. However, we have to note also that of the number of cases prosecuted, a total of 3,705 or15.7 percent were discharged and acquitted. This also dwarfs the improvement made on conviction, because the
significant number discharged and acquitted is not unconnected to improper investigation. More so, 38,342 or42.5 percent remained ‗under-investigation, undetected or unsolved‘. This is very significant in police performance. Significant also was the number of property lost. Out of 5,257,710,145 lost only 2,014,425,676 or 38.3 percent was recovered.
From the above illustrations, it is obvious that the police performance in terms of investigation and detection or clearance rate have been inefficient as evidenced by the overwhelming cases that remained under-investigation, undetected, unsolved or even discharged and acquitted. This apparent inefficiency of the Nigeria Police to combat crime in the society through effective management of criminal investigation is a serious setback in the criminal justice system. This is because the police is the pivot on which the justice system stands (Conklin, 1989). The challenges confronting the police in Nigeria are corruption, lack of sufficient finance, lack of public support, etc. (Dambo, 2012). Hence the police ineffectiveness in controlling crime through effective criminal investigation techniques has been so glaring that people now live in fear i.e. fear of being victims of criminal violence. The socio-psychological effect this fear has generated on the people is better imagined than said.
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