Criminological Investigation Of Youth Involvement In Interstate Banditry In Niger – Abuja Axis Of Nigeria
The study dwells criminological investigation of youth involvement in interstate youth banditry in niger – abuja axis of nigeria. Interstate youth banditry involves attacking people on the highways and even the raiding of villages. These acts of youth banditry result in injury, loss of human lives, loss of property and a sustained fear of victimization among the border communities. The study set out to find the nature, pattern and consequences of interstate youth banditry in Niger – Abuja axis of Nigeria. Data were collected using a survey while in-depth interviews were conducted with selected border community leaders, Police Officers and some victims of interstate youth banditry. The quantitative data were analyzed descriptively using frequencies while the qualitative data were transcribed and used to support the quantitative data. The findings indicated that, interstate youth banditry can be attributed to a number of factors among which are the influx of ex-combatants from Nigeria’s neighboring war torn countries, especially Chad, Niger and Kaduna, unemployment among youths and easy availability of arms. The findings on the nature, pattern and consequences of interstate youth banditry indicated that the armed bandits attack people on the highways with military type weapons, and violently dispossess victims of their money/valuables and escape into the hills and forests. They operate in groups of between 10 and 25 persons who are usually between the ages of 28 and 45 years. Interstate youth banditry was found to have had impact on the socio-economic lives of the people such as disruption of commercial activities, disruption of social activities like festivals and school attendance, negative impact on the supply and delivery of basic amenities and the psychological trauma suffered by residents, victims and relatives of victims of interstate youth banditry. There is a failure on the part of law enforcement agencies towards controlling and preventing incidents of interstate youth banditry. The challenges the law enforcement agencies face in this regard include inadequate funding, inadequate training and equipment, political interference, poor welfare package, poor quality of human and personnel resources, and the absence of a comprehensive crime prevention/control policy It is therefore recommended that control and prevention of acts of interstate youth banditry requires a holistic approach involving all stakeholders adopting long and short term measures which includes Inter-Country cooperation towards the prevention and control of interstate youth banditry, effective institutional coordination among specialized agencies in view of the multi-dimensional nature of state interest in border security, government recognition of vigilante groups, and adequate funding, training and equipping of law enforcement agents.
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 also unevenly 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 interstate youth banditry 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).
The mode of operation of the bandits could constitute an obstacle to preventive measures that could have been put in place by the law enforcement agents. This is because these bandits engage in one-time raids and follow a ‘nomadic’ (or slash and burn) form of appropriation. Once the territory covered by the bandits 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 interstate youth banditry in contemporary Nigeria has become so pervasive that only a few Nigerians that travel or live within border communities 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 bandits 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 bandits 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 bandits, most routes within the Northeast sub-region are said to be insecure especially those ones leading to the borders with Kaduna, Chad and Niger. Usually the bandits operate in gangs who might have been supplied necessary information by their Nigerian collaborators. Such information could be given to the bandits for two reasons: information may be given for a price; information may be supplied to be in the good records of the bandits.
The problem of interstate youth banditry in Nigeria’s Northeast is similarly known to have occasioned a special resolution of the Senate, sponsored by Senators from the affected constituencies, calling on the presidency to mount diplomatic pressures on Kaduna, Chad and Niger, identical to measures taken in respect of the Republic of Benin, to deal with the unbearable problem of armed bandits operating from bases widely believed to be located in the adjacent border areas of the neighboring countries (Asiwaju, 2005:49).
The incidence of interstate youth banditry in Nigeria has developed new tendencies from the traditional to the modern. It is the understanding of these new tendencies and their relative importance that should be the point of focus. These different tendencies operate differently from one locality to the other in terms of degree and impact, although to a large extent all have contributed to the state of violence and lawlessness in North centralern Nigeria.
As a result of the fear engendered by the use of arms in bandit operations and the breakdown of informal norms of trust and cooperation, interstate youth banditry must be seen to have an impact on decisions relating to personal mobility, social cohesion, and disrupts political participation, child schooling, employment and personal protection. These indirect effects are often unnoticed because they are hidden. For example, interstate youth banditry can lead to a decline in food production, while the ensuing deprivation can result in domestic violence that is itself reproduced over time.
In considering the various costs related to crime such as interstate youth banditry, it carries costs that are less tangible, but ultimately as destructive for society as the more direct damage to the economy and property. For individual victims, the psychological effect is devastating. But once crime reaches endemic levels, it inflicts severe strains on the social fabric and ultimately leads to moral decline and disintegration of society (Maltzan (1998:14).
The implication of Maltzan’s observation is that, placing a monetary figure on the physical and psychological harm to the victim is almost impossible and the initial loss of say N50,000:00 in a robbery might be quite a small amount when compared with all other costs associated with the crime. When people go out, they do so only during the daylight hours or may travel only in groups. They may even avoid certain neighborhoods, which in turn become even more deserted and dangerous.
Notwithstanding these observations, very little has been done to systematically address the problem of interstate youth banditry and its attendant effects on the victims in spite of attempts by the media and official agencies to highlight these problems through Newspapers, Television, seminars and lectures. The lack of seriousness in addressing this menace by government may have resulted from the fact that most pieces of information are sensational, episodic and inadequate. They do not give comprehensive details on the nature and pattern of interstate youth banditry or the socio-economic effects it has on its victims. As a result, border communities may have suffered neglect in efforts being made to address the current upsurge of interstate youth banditry.
It is in view of the above scenario regarding the phenomenon in the niger – abuja axis of nigeria that this study seeks to examine the causes, nature, and pattern of occurrence of interstate youth banditry in those border communities. It also examines the socio-demographic attributes of suspected perpetrators and the identified victims of such acts of interstate youth banditry with a view to proffering useful recommendations.
1.3 Research Questions:
- What are the causes, nature and pattern of interstate youth banditry in the Niger – Abuja Axis Of Nigeria?
- Who are these bandits and who are their victims?
- How regularly does interstate youth banditry occur in the border communities?
- To what extent does the incidence of interstate youth banditry constitute a problem to individual victims, communities and government?
- What are the socio-economic factors that enhance or inhibit incidence of interstate youth banditry?
- What are the roles played by individuals, communities and government law enforcement agencies in addressing the menace of interstate youth banditry?
1.4 Aims and Objectives of the Research
The study aims at understanding contemporary interstate youth banditry and armed bandits in Niger State, its dynamics, dimensions and impact on the affected communities in particular. The specific objectives of the study are:
- To find out the causes, nature and pattern of interstate youth banditry in niger – abuja axis of nigeria – Nigeria.
- To determine the socio-demographic attribute of identified perpetrators and victims of interstate youth banditry in niger – abuja axis of nigeria.
- To determine the impact of interstate youth banditry on the individual victims and the affected communities.
- To identify and assess the efforts put in place by individuals, communities and governments law-enforcement agencies towards addressing the menace of interstate youth banditry in the areas affected.
- To make recommendations towards effective prevention and control of the problem.
1.5 Significance of the Study
Interstate youth banditry, being a recurring decimal in the fight against insecurity in Niger 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:
- Contribute to knowledge by complementing the scanty literature available on the subject of interstate youth banditry in Nigeria.
- Highlight the effects of this menace with specific reference to Niger State and Nigeria in general.
- Suggest policies on ways and means of effectively addressing the problem of cross-border interstate youth banditry.
1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study
The study is limited to the border local governments of Niger State that share international boundary with the Republic of Kaduna namely, Mubi- North, Mubi-South, Maiha, Fufore, Toungo, Madagali and Michika. Although Hong, Gombi, Song, and some adjacent local government areas are victims of interstate youth banditry, the findings may not necessarily be applicable to all the other local government areas, but could shed some light as to the possible consequences to be suffered by such communities should they also experience incidents of interstate youth banditry.
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation
The causes of interstate youth banditry in the Niger – Abuja Axis of Nigeria were found to be linked to such factors as moral decadence, growing unemployment among youths, availability of small and light weapons.
On the nature, and pattern and of interstate youth banditry, it was found that, the armed bandits attack people on the highways, haphazardly, dispossessing people of their money. The armed bandits usually attack with Military-type weapons that are more sophisticated than that of the Nigeria Police such as sub-machine guns, AK-47, and general purpose machine guns. They are usually very violent and even kill their victims if the victims do not cooperate or tries to escape. In most cases they injure their victims
The socio-demographic attributes of the bandits reveal that they are mostly males, between the ages of 18 and 35 years. There is no general consensus as to the number of members in a band
On the impact of interstate youth banditry on socio-economic life of the individual victims and the community in general, it was found out that the impact were diverse and include: disruption of commercial activities, negative impact on the supply and delivery of basic amenities, psychological trauma suffered by victims and relatives of victims of interstate youth banditry and disruption of social activities such as festivals, school attendance, and teachers avoiding schools.
On the control measures adopted by individuals and the communities, it was found out that a number of measures existed among which were the setting up of vigilante groups, travelling with less money or valuables and carrying of charms. Most people however prefer to curtail their movement which they felt was a fairly effective measure to reduce the risk of being victims of interstate youth banditry. Most respondents indicated that the government security agencies only concentrated on setting up of check points which they felt were not effective.
The major causes of interstate youth banditry in Niger State border communities are multi-faceted and include among others: breakdown in the social values, growing unemployment among youths, ready availability of small and light weapons, harsh economic conditions within Nigeria and also the neighboring countries. The local youths know the terrain and usually assist their collaborators who in most cases speak the languages spoken around the border areas such as Hausa, Fulfulde and French.
The outstanding socio-economic impact of interstate youth banditry are: disruption of economic activities, fall in business activities due to fear of insecurity by travellers and service providers, and the psychological trauma suffered by residents, victims and relative of victims of interstate youth banditry.
Little effort has been put in place by individuals, community and government law enforcement agencies towards the control and prevention of interstate youth banditry. Most efforts involved the setting up of vigilante groups and roadblocks, which were futile in view of the nature of the terrain and operation of the bandits who attack and escape into the hills/bushes for cover.
The researcher found out that in most cases, the State military, police and other security agencies are unable to provide much needed security against marauders, robbers and armed bandits. As a result of such attacks by armed bandits, individuals, communities and government security agencies had to devise ways and means of curtailing and controlling such incidents. Failure on the part of government security agents to protect its citizens from incessant attacks by armed bandits could be seen as a failure on the part of government to fulfill its own part of the social contract and could lead to social unrest when victims are fed up and their efforts are no more effective in curtailing and preventing further acts of interstate youth banditry. It is in the light of this that the following short and long term measures are recommended for consideration in policies, ways and means of addressing the problem of cross-border interstate youth banditry:
- It was found out residents, victims and relatives of victims of interstate youth banditry suffer psychological trauma as a result of incidents of interstate youth banditry whereby they lose money, material and are maimed or injured. Consequently, it is recommended that individuals travel with less money and valuables.
- Findings indicated that there is obvious failure on the part of government security agencies in efforts to prevent and control acts of interstate youth banditry. As a result, it is recommended that, government should recognize vigilante groups while also resuscitating local community monitoring systems.
- The study revealed that the respondents saw joint military and police patrol, and numerous road blocks set up by government security agencies as not being effective in the prevention and control of the crime of interstate youth banditry. Consequently, it is recommended that there is need for a more effective institutional coordination among specialized institutions in view of the multi-dimensional nature of state interest in border security.
- The findings revealed that, while the armed bandits are armed with very sophisticated weapons such as AK 47, the government security agencies are poorly equipped, under-funded and not well trained to control such acts as interstate youth banditry. It is therefore recommended that the government should equip the security agencies with appropriate weapons that are superior to those of the armed bandits.
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