They say the first step to solving any problem is admitting that there is indeed a problem. There was a lot of social media backlash against President Buhari when he stated during a UK Telegraph interview that Nigerians’ “reputation for criminality has made it hard for them to be “accepted” abroad.” A lot of Nigerians took to social media to express their displeasure that President Buhari will say such a thing publicly.
But if Nigerians take an honest look at the country, we will see that something has gone terribly wrong. A review of security related stories over the past week revealed issues such as a school headmaster in Kaduna being sacked for taking the lunch meant for hundreds of students and selling it for his personal gain. There was another major headline about EFCC recovering $1 million from a newly built septic tank in the home of a retired military chief who pilfered funds meant for weapons for thousands of Nigerian troops.
Corruption, crime and blatant disregard for law appear to be ingrained in just about every facet of society. An everyday example has to do with road traffic laws. Many Nigerian motorists simply disregard driving rules. Okada (commercial motorcycle) riders frequently drive against traffic unhindered, Danfo buses stop in the middle of the roads unopposed, and pedestrians disregard the pedestrian bridges, choosing instead to sprint across the expressway. Perpetrators of these acts do so because no one is stopping them from doing so.
Reverse the criminal culture
There was a story this week about a kidnapping syndicate that was busted in Imo state. The kidnappers said that poor socio-economic conditions drove them into kidnapping. One of the kidnappers stated that after his first successful kidnap-for-ransom operation, he “was able to save enough money to buy a Lexus Jeep. And to show his friends in Lagos that he was doing well”. He said, “I travelled down with the vehicle and as expected, they were excited and very happy for me”. No one questioned how he was able to afford a luxury vehicle in such a short period of time or afford a luxury vehicle with no legitimate job.
Back in the day, every new item that surfaced in a home had to be explained. If a child brought home a ruler that wasn’t bought by his parents, his parents would diligently inquire how the ruler was acquired. If it was found to be taken without permission, his parents would personally drag the child by the ears to the home of the rightful owner of the ruler. But today, ill-gotten wealth is glorified. Beneficiaries of ill-gotten wealth are highly rewarded within the society. Parents, kinsmen, elders and communities need to restore morals to the Nigerian society.
Nigerian youths need to understand that poor socio-economic conditions are no excuse to turn to a life of crime, and one of the ways the government can do this is to ensure that rules are enforced. Law enforcement in Nigeria is below average at best and a number of Nigerians have grown up believing that they can circumvent or completely disregard societal laws and get away with it.
The belief or narrative that poor socio-economic conditions justify criminal acts needs to be stamped out. Some of these individuals end up going to other countries attempting to do the same thing and meet with effective law enforcement and persecution. In order for crime to reduce in Nigeria, the government must run an effective police force.
Unfortunately, the Nigeria Police is unable to carryout effective law enforcement for two key reasons: first, they are underfunded and second, they are understaffed — the latter partly being as a result of the former. Back in August 2015, the government stated that it would begin the recruitment of additional 10,000 policemen into the force to help boost law enforcement around the country. Well over the past week, the IGP stated that lack of funds had delayed police recruitment.
Most veterans of the Police Force will agree that this lack of funds issue has always plagued the force. Reports indicate that hundreds of police divisions under the 37 commands of the Nigeria Police have no budgets to run their offices. The breakdown of the Nigerian Police Force’s 2015 budget revealed that if split evenly, each police station was left with an average of N1.3m to run the station’s utility bills, fueling costs, car maintenance and so on for the entire year! Former Lagos state governor, Babatunde Fashola, while referencing the need for the creation of the Lagos State Security Trust Fund stated that “in a 2,000-strong squad to protect 18 million people at the time, they had only 37 rifles. This scenario is pretty much the situation of the whole country.
Funds allocated to the police get watered down as it moves from the disbursing ministry to the police commands. Lack of funds as a result of corruption has affected the country’s ability to run effective law enforcement.
Corruption and Funds
Some Nigerians are already getting impatient with the current administration’s fight against corruption. President Buhari has come under a lot of criticism recently for being too focused on corruption and security and not diverting more of his focus on the national budget. Others are quick to attack the president for being bold enough to point out how the current culture of impunity in Nigeria is affecting our reputation around the world.
Unfortunately, all these areas are intertwined. Diminishing corruption in Nigeria will lead to the country having enough resources to run more effective law enforcement agencies which in turn will help develop a law abiding culture in Nigeria.
The bottom line is that Nigerian youths are growing up in a society that puts more emphasis on wealth and less on how the wealth was acquired. Youths are growing up in a culture where the focus is not on abiding by the law, but on how to circumvent the law, a culture where the police force is unable to effectively keep its citizens safe due to lack of funds stemming from excessive corruption.
It is high time we started imbibing ethics and morals in every facet of society. The youth need to understand that poor socio-economic conditions do not mean it is okay to turn to kidnapping, insurgency and militancy. We hope the government will take the necessary steps to improve socio-economic conditions and reduce the level of crime perpetrated in the country, by eradicating corruption and beefing up the police force. This culture of corruption and crime approval must come to an end while charity begins at home.
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