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VICTIMOLOGICAL APPRECIATION OF CRIMES AND CONFLICT IN NIGERIA

Project topic for Criminology department.

CHAPTER ONE

1.1       Introduction

Indeed, peace is imperative for the development, stability and security of nations and individuals. Cognizant of critical centrality within the context of state-society and intergroup relations especially in a big and plural country like Nigeria, measures and processes must constantly be undertaken towards sustaining peace in the country. As a maturing democracy with huge socio-cultural and religious diversity, peace is sine-qua-non for democratic consolidation, effective security management and development. Nigeria is a multiethnic society, consisting of different ethnic nationalities joined together by the Lord Luggard amalgamation of 1914. Although these groups co-exist, their ethnic and cultural values are different. During the years of military dictatorship, communal clashes and ethnic conflicts were rather minimal because they were suppressed by military might. However, in the current democratic dispensation, every citizen tends to have more room and opportunity to self-expression, but at times, this right is often misunderstood for vulgarism. The resultant effect is conflicts amongst the ethnic groups, tribes, kindred and even clans. Obiabo, Ogar and Tar-Anyin (2001), further observed that religion and other social interests seemed to have fueled these crises, stating that quarrels amongst clans, kindred, ethnic group and even interstates are as dangerous as the civil war withered in Nigeria between 1967 and 1970.

Victimology is a multidisciplinary branch of criminology based on research in criminal justice. It examines the nature of the victimization process; the relationship between victims and offenders; the emotional, physical, and economic impact of crimes on victims; and the interactions between victims and other social groups and institutions, including the family and school. The field of victimology includes; victim profiling, forensic victimology, and the scientific study of victims that focuses on their lifestyles, circumstances, the events leading up to the crime, and the nature of their victimization.

1.2       Background of the Study

Although, Nigeria fought no physical war to gain political independence from the colonialists. However, in less than a decade after independence, the country was involved in a civil war from 1967 to 1970, which ended on a note of “No Victor, No Vanquished” and followed by the pursuit of “three R’s of Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration” which can be likened to a post-conflict peacebuilding initiative. As the most populous country on the African continent, understanding conflicts in Nigeria offers a reliable window at examining a significant proportion of the continent. According to the Time Magazine (New York), quoted in Adebanwi and Obadare (2010: 380) ‘. . . in the long run, the most important and enduring face of Africa might well prove to be that presented by Nigeria.’ This underscores the hope and expectation of the rest of the world from Nigeria. Therefore, events in Nigeria, not the least conflicts in any part of Nigeria, cannot but be of interest to the global audience. However, despite its huge potentialities evident in the endowment of vast human and natural resources that are enough to make a global super-power and the predicted giant, conflicts and insurgency are part of the actualities torpedoing the realisation of its destiny. Contentions and resistance have been part of inter-group relations, on the one hand, and state-society relations, on the other hand. Despite pessimistic and terse descriptions, like the ‘mistake of 1914’, Nigeria remains one entity, although troubled in a way that proves many local and foreign analyses wrong. Therefore, it is important not to ignore actualities that are torpedoing its potentialities, such as endemic conflicts. To date, the widely-reported words of Sir Ahmadu Bello which called for the understanding of our differences rather than forgetting them, remains valid as a way of transcending being a mere geographical expression as described by the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Respective governments, especially since the end of the civil war have been making efforts at ensuring the sustainability of the country as one through different programmes, policies and actions. Given the size and disparity of socio-linguistic identities and religious differences, the results of such efforts, albeit gargantuan, towards nationhood continue to beg for more innovative ways of addressing the national and social question of being and belonging to Nigeria. Towards nationhood, Nigeria continues to experience, and has experimented with, different political systems, ideologies and economic policies. Each of these successive administrations has or had maintained commitment to the preservation of Nigeria as an indivisible entity, even in the face of daunting challenges. Worthy of mention amongst some of the challenges to Nigeria’s unity, which have been surmounted since the civil war, was the 12 June, 1993 crisis which arose after the annulment of the presidential election believed to be the freest and fairest in the history of the country. It was a direct threat to the unity of the country which entailed the intervention of the international community in finding a political solution out of the logjam that arose. In the aftermath, lives and belongings whose estimate cannot be precisely determined were lost. Since then, a series of industrial actions which led to social protests and unrests have been witnessed, especially anytime the government increased the pump price of the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), or petrol. That of January 2012 remains the most involving as it brought together Nigerians, irrespective of ethnic and/or religious differences in a setting akin to the government versus the people of the country. Since 1999, election-related violence and assassinations have been common in the polity such as the one that greeted the election of former President Goodluck Jonathan in the northern parts of the country in 2011. However, anxieties generated by the analyses of many bookmakers that the 2015 elections might push Nigeria off the brink did not materialise.

            While still standing and surviving as a political entity after about six continuous decades, the country, nevertheless, continues to grapple with the challenges of citizenship, belonging and being otherwise referred to as the national question – which can be described as the denominator of many of the inter-group conflicts across the country. Also, while certain academic conclusions, such as ‘the politics of the belly’ (Bayart, 1993), the ‘disorder as political instrument’ (Chabal and Daloz, 1999), ‘the criminalisation of the state’ (Bayart, Ellis, and Hibou, 1999), ‘prebendalism’ (Joseph, 1987), ‘predation’ (Lewis, 1996), ‘the politics of suffering and smiling’ (Chabal, 2009), ‘resource curse’ (Humphreys, Sachs and Stiglitz, 2007), ‘the perils of belonging’ (Geschiere, 2009), might not be applicable in analysing the Nigerian situation in a sweeping manner, they mirror some of the challenges confronting the country at the structural or political (governmental) level. In the context of inter-group relations, struggles and resistance against political and economic inequality have given rise to different notions and mobilisations of “we” versus “them” violence. In many instances, such conflicts speak to the framework of grievance and greed popularised by Collier and Hoeffler (2004).

In many instances, what begins as real grievances over time become means of nurturing greed, leading to the emergence of many warlords posturing as defenders of their respective communities but actually bargaining for more of what the state has to offer in terms of pecuniary gains and relevance. While this may or may not be known to their foot soldiers, such violent conflicts pursued with veiled selfish interests have posed dire challenges to the peace and stability of Nigeria.


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