‘Poverty is the parent of crime.’ -Aristotle, Greek philosopher (385 BC – 323 BC)
Sometime back, when the Defence Headquarters sent a detachment of Special Forces to Kafanchan in an effort to check the wave of killings and restore peace to Southern Kaduna, many heaved a sigh of relief that perhaps finally the age-long bloodletting in the region will be curtailed.
But, sadly, the narrative has hardly changed with constant reports of mayhem still taking place. However, the honest truth is that just throwing the military at the problem is not the long-term solution.
After all, already, our gallant military men and women can be found on active deployment in no fewer than 30 states of the federation, tackling internal security threats that ordinarily should have been left to the police and paramilitary agencies to contain, a report by SBM Intelligence said recently. But can we honestly beat our chests and say the nation is now safer – the answer is a resounding no! Only last month, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar painted a frightening picture of the situation in the northern part of the country.
According to the spiritual leader of the Muslims in Nigeria, things are so bad that people are now scared to travel. He added the security situation in the north was so dire that “people leave foodstuff in their houses for bandits.” Giving an exact figure on the number of Nigerians that have been killed this year by bandits and insurgents is difficult, but according to Amnesty International, about 1,126 people have been killed in the north of the country since January giving a figure until the end of June.
However, since then we have had more killings in various parts of the country including Southern Kaduna, Katsina and the recent one in Borno. Amnesty said it had interviewed civilians in Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto,Taraba and Zamfara states, who said they live in fear of attacks and abductions as insecurity escalates in rural areas.
The organisation goes on to say that documented an alarming escalation in attacks and abductions in several states in the North-west and North-central Nigeria since January 2020. Worst affected are villages in the south of Kaduna State, where armed men killed at least 366 people in multiple attacks between January and July 2020. And even in areas where the military is not so visible because the insecurity in such places have not yet overwhelmed the police, people are still not immune from kidnapping, armed robbery and other anti-social vices.
An indication of how heartless the fiends have become was starkly highlighted a few weeks ago when insurgents beheaded 43 farmers in Zabarmari village in Northeast Borno State. From Lagos to Maiduguri and from Sokoto to Port Harcourt it has become tales of sorrow, tears and blood for many Nigerians on the receiving end of these men of the underworld.
I still vividly remember back in my university days in the 80s as a member of the famed Palm wine Drinkers’ Club (also known as Kegites) we often made our trips to attend ‘gyrations’ at other Ilyas (branches) only at night with our main fear not from bandits but only from the competence of the man driving our bus to the next campus.
Now years later, fear will not even allow me be seen on such roads in the evening talk much less of night because of the antics of the marauders. Sadly even in broad day light there are still many roads that one now plies with intense prayers not far from our mouths because they are no longer safe. In fact recently a friend was heading to Ibadan along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway when he ran into robbers at about 10.30am!
But luckily for him and his family a government official was coming from Ibadan and it was his security detail that was able to dislodge the bandits before they could cause major havoc. While he was lucky others plying the everbusy Benin-Auchi highway last week were not as gunmen, suspected to be kidnappers, laid siege to the road and kidnapped a sizable number of persons travelling on the route. So it is very obvious that throwing military alone at the problem is not the solution as backed up by the outcome of studies on the issue.
In ‘Correlation between crime rate and poverty’ published by arcgis.com in 2016, it noted: “People living in households in the US that have an income level below the Federal poverty threshold have more than double the rates of violent victimization compared to individuals in high-income households.” On February 7, 2017, Richard Rosenfeld, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, said: “Poverty and crime have a nuanced relationship. Having less wealth puts a strain on individuals and families, and the added stress of living in poverty can sometimes lead people to commit crimes to get cash.”
Thus is it any surprise that over the years as the economic situation in Nigeria has become direr, there has been a corresponding increase in crimes and other anti-social vices across the land? The Sultan alluded to this when he said the high cost of onions in the country today was an indication of the terrible economic situation Nigerians are confronted with.
Two years ago, the grim situation of millions of Nigerians was confirmed when the nation officially overtook India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 87 million Nigerians, or around half of the country’s population, thought to be living on less than $1.90 (roughly N883.50) a day! The findings were based on a projection by the World Poverty Clock and compiled by Brookings Institute and is a sad commentary of despite being the largest oil producer in Africa, Nigeria has struggled to translate its resource wealth into rising living standards.
And there was more bad news recently when the National Bureau of Statistics said the nation’s unemployment rate as at the second quarter of 2020 had jumped to 27.1% meaning about 21.7 million Nigerians remained unemployed. With this huge number of people walking the streets it is only natural that a large percentage of them, especially those without a strong support system either through fairly well off parents or family members, will resort to underhand means in order to keep body and soul together.
What makes it even more frightening is that having gone to school they are no longer the common thugs and hoodlums of years gone by, but are more sophisticated in their approach to crime. Of course, things have also not been helped by the sheer opulence of our political class and the sordid revelations of massive graft as what the nation was treated too with the recent Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) probe.
The faster the All Progressives Congress (APC) is able to fulfil their promise of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty and getting the economy ticking once again, the sooner the crime rate will reduce.