Protection And Redress For Victims Of Crime In Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Law

Protection And Redress For Victims Of Crime In Nigeria


Abstract


The decline in protection and redress for victims of crime in Africa, and Nigeria in particular, began at the inception of colonialism and imposition of alien court and legal systems on the territories. Until then, the primary purpose of the customary legal processes, was the, “compensation of the victim, rehabilitation of the offender where relevant, and restoration of tranquility to the disturbed community”. The offender, irrespective of status or standing in the society, was always promptly, publicly and appropriately sanctioned. This research primarily interrogates the roles of the court and the police in protecting and redressing victims of crime in Nigeria. It examines the rights of adult and child victims of crime guaranteed by the United Nations. Consequently, United Nations’ and European Union’s resolutions and declarations about victims of crime, presently enforced in Europe and the United States of America, are extensively interrogated. Also interrogated are the unconditional release on bail of detained suspected persons, the adverse consequences of grant of prohibitive court orders against criminal investigations, the likelihood of abuse and misuse of ex parte injuctive process, the dilemma of obeying such orders by law enforcement officers, and the implications on the principle of fair hearing. The Court of Appeal’s perception of the indiscriminate use of the process against public functionaries also comes into focus. Legal textbooks, seminar papers, journal articles, internet resources, national constitutions, human rights instruments, United Nations’ resolutions, declarations and recommendations on the issue, and other related statutes are examined. The study advocates promulgation of victims-friendly legislation and the establishment of Victims’ Compensation Commissions or Boards by African countries, like their counterparts in Europe and America. It finally proposes that when such Boards or Commissions are established, they should be manned by credible and eminent persons in law and cognate areas; with the sole responsibility of identifying and compensating genuine victims of crime accordingly.


Chapter One


Introduction

1.1 Background of the Study

The pathetic circumstances of victims of crime in the world have been so worrisome that, Pino Alarcchi[1] once said, “We must agree amongst ourselves that we want a world where there will be no hiding place for the criminals … and where there will be adequate support for their victims”. The essence of the research is vividly captured in the above prelude. Records reveal that before the state took over the provision of security for its citizenry through its official law enforcement agency – the police -, victims of crime were solely responsible for identifying those who wronged them, footing the bills of investigating their crimes and prosecuting the felons when arrested.[2] Thus, where a crime was committed without witnesses, efforts to identify the assailant became the tasks borne by the victims unaided, as no government agencies was responsible for investigating crimes.[3]

Nmerole admitted that, this was the situation in the United Kingdom during the frankpledge era (a system under which each adult member was responsible for the good conduct of the others).[4] And after the Norman Conquest in 1066, though constables were added and saddled with the tasks of guarding the city gates at night, investigating crimes and prosecuting cases still remained a private matter handled by the victims themselves. In the United States, private prosecution dominated criminal justice during the colonial era, and criminal cases were initiated by complaints of private citizens, and the responsibility to pursue the case to its logical conclusion rested primarily with the private citizen who began the process. As a result, he was required to pay the justices’ fees and hire attorney to plead the case, which situation still prevails in the common law nations.[5]

However, in pre-colonial Africa, according to Tamuno, “crime in most societies was viewed as an infraction against the entire community and not the individual victim”.[6] Therefore when crime was committed, all that the victim needed to do was to alert the neighbours, and the entire members of the community, particularly members of the secret society responsible for security, would chase and apprehend the culprit; who would subsequently be tried by the elders’ council and if found guilty, “would be promptly, adequately and publicly punished”.[7] For instance, in the Kanuri speaking area of Nigeria, “communal solidarity, rather than personal gains and successes, held sway in the sphere of defence”.[8] As a result, “whenever and wherever an individual member of the community was attacked, the entire village would rise up in arms in defence of the victim”.[9]

Tamuno also confirmed that, “There was no police force, but rather it was the supernatural sanction of their religion that policed the primordial Nigerian village society”.[10] These, “Indigenous religions had that strong moral code and supernatural sanction that were both able to keep the old village society morally clean and free from crime”.[11] He argued that what ensured a high level of public security and public safety was that, “The people so affected realized that crime did not pay. Besides, neither the high nor the mighty in society

could claim exemption from the sanctions in force in pre-colonial times”.[12] Ndifon similarly affirmed that under the customary legal system, every offence had its own punishment, and “Punishment was often effectively and realistically administered to the wrongdoer”.[13] For instance, for murder, “Punishments ranged from replacement in specie, enslavement, suicide, banishment of the wrongdoer, to payment of specific sum to the family of the deceased victim”. He maintained that, “Justice for the victim or his relatives was the ultimate aim of punishment in pre-colonial African justice system”.[14] To him therefore, it was the introduction of the British police tradition and adoption of the alien court and legal systems in Nigeria and other African countries that abolished these pre-colonial customary legal ideals from the territories.[15]

According to Tamuno, “This alien government recruited its own police to enforce its laws and keep the peace of the imperial crown”.[16] The police system, “Stressed prevention and detection of crime and punishment of the criminal, as against compensation and restitution of the victims which were the essence of the customary legal systems”.[17] The alien police and legal systems emphasised, and still emphasise that, “Complaints must be initiated by individual victims and police must investigate and possibly prosecute the offender, with the victim serving only as a prosecution witness”.[18] From the above analysis, it is obvious that during the colonial era, and still in Nigeria today, the victim of crime, was and still is relevant in the criminal justice process only for his testimony.[19]

In the context of international law jurisprudence, ordinary or conventional crimes are within the national criminal justice system.[20] Therefore, the protection of the right of victims of intentional or ordinary crimes, and affording them justice are, properly situated within the confines of national governments. Hence, violations of rights of victims of crime, through intentional crimes committed by fellow citizens in their private capacities, are outside the realm of international law jurisprudence.[21] Renewed interests in the affairs of victims of crime attracted global limelight, following the pioneering work of Marjory Fry in the early 1960s then a magistrate in England. She had reasoned that, “victims of intentional crimes should be given the same treatment as victims of motor vehicle or work place accidents”.[22] Accordingly, her efforts drew global attention to the need for better treatment for victims of crime. As a result, in 1963, New Zealand started the first State Compensation Programme for victims of violent crimes.[23] This was followed by England with the establishment of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme in 1964, to handle the issue of compensation to victims of crime of violence.[24] Thereafter, similar schemes were introduced in other European countries, Australia and Provinces in Canada.[25]

Majory Fry’s agitations attracted the attention of the World Society of Victimology, which met with United Nations officials in 1982 to discuss ways of ensuring that victims of crime are guaranteed protection and redress, globally.[26] After series of discussions, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 1985 adopted and implemented the

Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power.[27] The UNO envisaged that through the Declaration interest in the protection of the rights of victims of crime would spread globally.[28] However, as would be seen shortly, interest in the issue only spread further within the leading countries of Europe and the United States of America. For instance, shortly after the Declaration, England proclaimed a Charter for the Rights for Victims, which required courts to consider restitution from the offender to their victims on a routine basis. In 1995, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act was enacted, yet still, in 2001, the Home Office in its Report, entitled, “Criminal Justice: The Way Ahead”, revealed that,”many victims felt that the rights of the accused take precedence over theirs in criminal proceedings”.[29]

Recently, Dame Helen, the Chief Executive of Victims’ Support in England equally lamented, “We believe an entirely new way of thinking about crime is needed – one that recognises the needs of victims of crime as the responsibility of the whole community, rather than leaving people to suffer in silence while we focus on offenders”.[30] She argued rightly that, “Crime ruins lives, people suffer direct physical and financial losses, including severe, and often long-lasting emotional and psychological trauma”.[31] She affirmed that this situation is often frequently made worst by, “insensitive treatment and a lack of understanding from the agencies with which victims come into contact”.[32] The experience narrated by Dame Hellen, it is observed, is a typical phenomenon of all victims of crime in Nigeria. For instance, at most police stations in Nigeria, their complaints are often not responded to promptly and sometimes when done at all, it is at a heavy price borne by the victim. In the USA, one of the significant achievements of Majory Fry’s agitations, it has been observed, is that, “Taxes and fines on corporate criminals are employed in services and awareness through the offices for Victims of crime (OVC)”.[33] Also the court in Payne v Tennessee[34] recognised and approved the right of victims to make, “victims’ impact statements” in the sentencing phase of criminal trials. This development has become an added impetus to the struggle for the redress for victims of crime in the United States.

In 1998 the United Nations General Assembly approved the Guide for Policymakers and the Handbook on Justice for Victims, which was adopted in 1999,[35] to facilitate the implementation of UNGA 1985 Basic Principles.[36] This was done in furtherance of her efforts to ensure that victims of crime are properly protected. Equally in Europe, the Council of European Union in November, 1985, approved the Council of Europe Ministers’ Recommendation R (85/11) of 1985 which deals specifically on the issue of victims.[37] It is regrettable to observe that neither the African Union, through its Charter,[38] nor African countries, including Nigeria have been positively influenced in this regards as their counterparts in Europe and America, with regards to initiatiating legislative measures to cater for the interests of victims of crime.

In Nigeria, once crime is committed against, or its commission is suspected by any individual, the individual is enjoined to report such to the police for their investigation.[39] This action by the police an obvious agency of government portrays the victim as not having been completely abandoned by the state. However, mere investigation of crimes is viewed as inadequate to carter for the rights of the victims. It is therefore advocated that special laws, boards and or commissions, that would adequately accommodate the rights of victims be established to handle their issues. Today in Nigeria, as in other African countries, it is not in doubt that there are numerous international and national non-governmental organisations, etc. whose sole task is struggling for the protection and redress for victims of abuse of power. It is ironical that the victims, who often suffer both physical and psychological harms as a result of the intentional and unlawful commissions or omissions of private citizens, who deserve more attention, are ignored. It is therefore proposed that governments, both at the federal and state levels, relevant non-governmental organisations and other groups, should re-focus on, and re-direct their attentions to the plights of victims of crime.

By virtue of both the Constitutional and statutory provisions,[40] the Nigeria Police force, as an institution of government is vested with the arduous responsibility of, “prevention and detection of crime, apprenshion of offenders and protection of life and property” of all Nigerians. It is thus rightly affirmed that, the Nigeria police is, “structured organisationally and psychologically to protect the society from the criminal elements and other miscreant” within the society. Therefore, where there is no special legislation, as it were, for protection of the victims of crime in the Nigeria, the police should not be encumbered or obstructed, but should rather be encouraged by all, in the discharge of their duties. However, because of the apparent corruption and ineptitude of the present crop of police officers, asking Nigerians to cooperate with the police would tantamount to an uphill task. It is believed that since the police belong to the citizenry, the onus is therefore on the people to demand for the kind of police they really need; and this cannot be realised through the current abhorrence of and apathy towards the institution.[41]

Furthermore, it is articulated that, the fact that the police have fallen short of public expectations, does not warrant the seemingly disdain and hatred with which the officers and anything that associates with them is regarded. Sometimes, this perception has caused grant of court orders that turn out to disrupt criminal investigative processes; prohibit the arrest of reasonably suspected offenders, and even set free those in police detentions unconditionally,[42] and in total disregard of the law;[43] assumingly in the pursuit of protection of the purportedly breached rights of the applicants.

It has rightly been asserted that, “The essential purpose of human rights jurisprudence is to ensure the effective protection of certain fundamental entitlements of all human beings everywhere without distinction”.[44] Therefore, if innocent victims of crime are human beings, it is undeniable that whenever their fundamental human rights are breached by fellow private individuals, they also are entitled to be accorded adequate protection and redress. Therefore, it is strongly argued that the release on bail of reasonably suspected and arrested criminals, without hearing from the victim, terminating police investigative processes through court orders; and the inability or unwillingness of the courts, the police, highly placed political office holders, top government officials and chief executives of government parasatals, to promptly and effectively bring perpetrators of crime to book, including grant of Presidential pardons and amnesty to jailed criminals, contribute much more to the escalation of corruption and other criminal activities in Nigeria, than the supposed police corruption – the recent oil subsidy[45] and the Pension‘s fund scandals,[46] are clear examples. Events like these contribute more to the victims’ despondency and create the impression that it pays to be a criminal.


1.2 Statement of Research Problem

Victims of crime in Africa and in Nigeria in particular from the inception of colonialism, have always been relevant only for the purpose of successful prosecution; with their needs, interests and rights accorded little or no concern by the operators of the criminal justice system. The several non-governmental organisations, civil society and other community-based groups in Nigeria are concerned with the protection and redress for the suspect, accused persons and or prisoners. The Nigeria Police as an institiution of the executive arm of government, as earlier stated, are saddled with several duties, [47] which they have performed below the public’s expectation, supposedly because of corruption, ineptitude, impunity and incompetence.[48]

That these allegations are true are incontestable; a cursory flip through the dailies and social media will attest to this, and most unfortunately, not too long ago, an Inspector-General of police was jailed for corruption. However, a brief for the police is not contemplated here, but at the same time, it is apt to observe that often persons police reasonably suspect of crimes are prohibited from being arrested; and sometimes those already arrested and detained are ordered by courts, to be released on bail unconditionally. As a result, the criminal investigative processes are thwarted and aborted, and the complaint of the victim is abandoned,[49] and the suspected person now set free, and seemingly protected by the law, goes about unleashing other heinous crimes on the society and his victim in the initial case now left at his mercy.[50]


1.3 Research Questions

  1. What impact would judicial interference in criminal investigatory processes have on the victim, criminal justice system and the society as a whole?
  2. When criminal investigative processes are aborted through judicial fiat, is all the parties afforded justice?
  3. When costs are awarded against victims for allegedly breaching the rights of suspects, what message/messages do courts send to the society?
  4. Is there any Special Law for the protection of victims of crime in Nigeria?
  5. What unique rights do victims of crime possess that require protection?

1.4 Objectives of the Study

The main aim of this study is to appraise the roles of the police and court in the protection and redress for victims of crime in Nigeria. While its objectives are:

  1. To ascertain the legality and constitutionality, or otherwise, of injunctive orders against police investigative processes.
  2. To examine the adverse impacts of premature release on bail of suspects on the victims of crime, the criminal justice system and the society at large.
  3. To examine the rights of victims of crime.
  4. To examine comparatively the use of police powers of arrest and detention and the treatment and handling of arrested persons in United Kingdom, the United States, India and Nigeria
  5. To examine international, regional and national legislation on protection and redress for adults and children victims of crime and
  6. To make appropriate recommendations.

1.5 Significance of the Study

Against the background that protection and redress for victims of crime have attracted global attention, and emphasis and focus had since the 1960s, shifted to “restitution and compensation” to victims in Europe and Americas, except Africa; and in view of the fact that everyone is a potential victim of crime, it is opined that there is urgent need to initiate measures to ameliorate the plights of victims. The research is immensely valuable to both the federal and states’ executives, and federal and states’ legislatures. The research enjoins these government functionaries to re-focus their respective roles and responsibilities towards ensuring that adequate measures are put in place to protect and redress victims of crime in Nigeria, as is in vogue in other jurisdictions.

The legislatures in particular, are re-awakened to grasp the significance of their law making roles, and thereby come up with relevant legislation in support of the subject matter of this research. The initiative of Senator Ganiju Olarewaju Solomon, for sponsoring the “Witness Protection Bill” now before the National Assembly is commended and applauded. It is noted that the Bill when it becomes an Act, aims only at protecting citizens who volunteer useful information about perpetrators and sponsors of violence and insecurity, and not protecting the rights of victims of crime per se. It is prayed and hoped that the parliamentarians will insert therein adequate provisions for the protection of the rights of victims in the standpoint of the 1985 UN Declaration.

Similarly, the executives at all the tiers of government will hereby realise the imperativeness of creating relevant commissions and boards to handle victims’ related welfare issues. Correspondingly, non-governmental organisations, civil society groups, town and village-communal groups now recognise the need to re-focus their energies and resources in fighting for the protection and redress for victims of crime. Furthermore, judges, prosecutors and defence attorneys will find the work useful, as it reminds them of their unique roles in this regard. Finally, the general public, Institutions, Human rights groups, scholars and researchers in Constitutional law, International Human Rights Law and Criminology will find the research useful as an authoritative source of material for further research.


1.6 The Scope of the Study

The research begins with an examination of the position of the law on protection of victims of crime in Nigeria and afterwards veers into a comparative analysis of the position in Europe with particular emphasis on the activities of the Council of Ministers of European Union. The position in the United States where there is adequate legal regime on the protection and redress for victims of crime is examined as a basis for recommendations for improvement of the situation in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general. It is observed sadly that, in Africa, there are no serious legislative efforts regarding protection and redress for victims of crime as there are in Europe and the United States; and the scanty provisions available in their primary criminal procedural rules is out of tune with reality, and the judges hardly apply them.

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Summary


In the course of this research, a seemingly lack of interest and concern in the compensation and or restitution of victims of crime in Africa and in Nigeria particularly, has been revealed. Also revealed is that, though law enforcement officers are the first point of contact after crime commission, they often do not treat victims with compassion and respect. Today, fifty years after England, and several years after some other European states and the United States of America, had enacted specific legislations for the protection and redress for victims of crime, African states are yet to follow suit. That there are huge volumes of international, regional and national instruments; including international, regional, national agencies and non-governmental organisations for the protection of victims of abuse of power, is doubtless. The civil Society groups and human rights’ activists are among the groups that strenuously strive for the protection and redress for victims of abuse of power. In Africa, and in Nigeria in particular, the victim’s relevance in the criminal justice process, begins and ends with testifying for the prosecution when and if ever the matter gets to that stage.

This apparent neglect of the victims in Africa invariably began during colonialism, and particularly after the imposition of alien laws and legal systems in in the territories. Consequently, the fundamental essence of the customary legal systems which were compensation or restitution of the victim, rehabilitation of the wrongdoer and restoration of tranquility in the community, were abandoned. Undoubtly, during the pre-colonial era, violation of any individual’s right in any community was regarded as infraction against the whole community, and every able-bodied member of the community was obligated to participate in the pursuit and apprehension of the wrongdoer. Most importantly, the wrongdoer, whoever he was, status notwithstanding, was usually promptly, adequately, predictably and publicly punished for his crime. And sometimes the entire kindred of the culprit would suffer for the crime of one of its members. This approach was acknowledged to have contributed immensely to the reduction in the interest and desire for criminality. Worthy of mention is that all these happened without a standing police or army, because the customary legal systems in Africa considered such unnecessary.

Contrary to the claim by some Eurocentric writers that human rights tradition was quite foreign to African and Asian nations until these ideals were imposed on them by the colonising nations; pre-colonial Africans were entitled, in certain circumstances to be left alone, which has been acknowledged as being what human rights is partially all about. Africans then, are shown, to have lived for communal and public good and values, which ideals are based on the principles of communality. They existed for both their good and the community’s good and the sacredness and sanctity of the life of every individual was preserved. Thus the crime of willful killing of kith and kin was tabooed. That there existed notions of human rights in the pre-colonial African societies as well as other societies of that time, is unquestionable. To propagate therefore that, human rights are monopoly of any particular race, is, wrong, deceptive and untenable. Equally, it is erroneous for any race or tribe to claim that their variants of human rights are superior or inferior to the others’.

The criminal justice systems of Europe and the United States have been reformed so that emphasis and attention have since the early 1960s, shifted from the perpetrators of crime, to the victims of crime. Consequently, in these continents, victims of crime are guaranteed specific rights just because they are victims, either in the constitutions and or in other statutes enacted expressly for their protection. Similarly, Special Funds, Boards, Commissions are established for the administration of compensatory schemes for victims. The European Union enjoins all its member-states to have more regard in their criminal justice systems to the physical, psychological, material and social harm suffered by victims, and to consider and take desirable steps to satisfy the needs of victims in these respects.

At the United Nations Organisation, with a view to encouraging the protection of the rights of victims of crime and victims of abuse of power, in 1985, the UN 1985 Declaration of Basic Principles on Justice for Victims of Crime and Victims of Abuse of Power was adopted and implemented. The Declaration prescribes measures to be taken at the global, national, and regional levels to improve access to justice and fair treatment, restitution, compensation and social assistance for victims of crime. Consequently, the United Nations calls on member-states to take necessary steps to give effect to the provisions contained in the Declaration, and to also establish and strengthen the means of detecting, prosecuting and sentencing those guilty of crimes. However, African countries appear unwilling to domesticate the UN 1985 Basic Declaration in other to facilitate its implementation like their counterparts in the continents reviewed. Also, even the scanty provisions in their principal procedural rules, in this regard, carried over from the colonial era, are hardly implemented and enforced by African countries, Nigeria inclusive.

Perpetrators of crime usually precipitately seek cover under section 46 (1) of the Nigerian Constitution to escape justice. Thus, on receipt of a mere invitation to the police station in connection with crimes reported against them, they would rush to court to obtain fiat to prevent the police from doing their duties; and the courts would naturally grant injunctions, thereby prohibiting the police from performing their constitutional and statutory functions. Therefore a non-interventionist interpretation of the phrase “is likely to be contravened” and or an entire re-couching of Section 46, so as to expunge, “is likely to be contravened” is advocated. This would help to avert the untold hardship usually caused genuine victims of crime. Section 35 of the constitution, pursuant to which applications are often brought, has been held to be unabsolute; as such the police can lawfully perform their constitutional and statutory functions without any hindrance.

The adversarial system of adjudication precludes judges, including the Nigerian judges from rendering any assistance to the victim of crime, no matter how unfairly he thinks the particular victim had been or is still being treated. Equally, the fundamental rights enforcement jurisprudence in Nigerian Courts is seemingly entirely in favour of protection of the victims of abuse of power, and has thus compounded the situation of victims of crime. Most perpetrators of crime usually take undue advantage of the (FREP) Rules, to precipitately apply for enforcement of their purported breached rights, and when such applications are granted, prohibiting further investigations, the Police would naturally abandon the complaints of the victims.

The recent alarming increase in criminality in Africa, and particularly Nigeria, may not be divorced from the unwillingness or refusal of the appropriate authorities – the courts, the criminal justice system and chief executives of governments – to promptly, firmly and publicly punish wrongdoers. Rather, wrongdoers or perpetrators of criminal activities to-day are seen to be especially protected by the governments, their officials and particularly to some extent, the courts through indiscriminate grant of ex parte injunctive orders against criminal investigations. The Federal government does the same through granting of underserved amnesty to alleged ex-militants, and granting of underserved presidential pardons to ex-convicts on grounds of political expediency. These are the engine oil that lubricates the wheel of criminality and corruption in Nigeria.


Conclusions


In order to properly, tackle the issue of constitutionality or otherwise of courts’ disruption of criminal investigative processes, a recourse is made to the positions of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal on the issue. In several decisions the Superior Courts have deprecated the proclivity of the court below’s to grant indiscriminate injunctive orders to disrupt public functions and prohibit public functionaries from performing their constitutional duties. The Court of Appeal even asserted that it is an inter-meddling with the functions of another arm of government. It is therefore affirmed that meddling in criminal investigative processes is both unconstitutional and illegal.

Regarding the adverse impact of premature release of arrested and detained suspected persons unconditionally, and the outright prohibition of the arrest of such persons on the criminal justice system and the society, the instructive warning of Femi Falana, SAN, is pertinent. He had warned thus;
If the current trend of rushing to court for interim orders to abort the criminal prosecution of powerful individuals in the society is not quickly halted, we are soon going to witness a situation where armed robbery and murder suspects will obtain ex parte orders to restrain the police from arresting, investigating and prosecuting them.

Undoubtedly, this genuine fear expressed in 2004 has currently enveloped the whole country. To-day all manner of suspects – armed robbery, murder, terrorism and militancy, oil subsidy scammers, pensions’ fund looters, seek and obtain protection from the courts through indiscriminate ex parte orders granted by some judges. When this happens, the innocent victim, which can be any one any day, is left in the cold, at the mercy of the now seemingly protected assailant; who now operates with impunity, daring everyone and fearing no one. Whereas, if the police exercise their prescribed powers of arrest dispassionately and lawfully; without interference, the victims of crime in Nigeria would be appropriately redressed.

If a police constable acting honestly and unprejudicially, arrests someone who he finds committing a felony, or who he reasonably suspects of having committed one, or who any other person charges with, or suspects of having committed a crime, and he is allowed to conduct his investigation conclusively, charge the suspect to court and the accused is tried, and if found guilty, is adequately punished; the victim would have been redressed and justice accorded him accordingly. The most frightening angle of the usual prohibition of further arrest, investigations and prosecutions of these suspects; are the several adverse consequences on the victims, the witnesses, the law enforcement officials and the society. These unpleasant impacts are, inter alia,

  1. It discourages, weakens, impedes and defeats successful conclusion of police investigations, thereby portraying the police as inept, incompetent and ineffective.
  2. It emboldens wrongdoers and potential wrongdoers and encourages criminal activities within the society, and consequently compromises security.
  3. It destroys whatever confidence the people had in the police and the courts, as a result, ridicules the criminal justice system.
  4. It openly supports, and accordingly inspires the infringements of the human rights of victims of crime, denies them fair-hearing and fair trial, and deprives the society of peace, security and tranquility.
  5. And finally, engenders and nurtures the cultures of revenge and self-help, hence lynching and setting suspected criminals ablaze has now become a daily happenings in our society.

According to Antonio Cassese, a former Judge of International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, “when there is no justice the result is that victims are led to take the laws into their own hands, both to exact retribution and to draw attention to the denied historical facts”. He rightly asserted that, “Justice” according to him, “dissipates the call for revenge; because when the court metes out to the perpetrator his just deserts, then the victims’ calls for retribution are met”; and then affirmed that, “by the dint of dispensation of justice, victims are prepared to be reconciled with their erstwhile tormentors, because they have now paid for their crimes” . Accordingly, it is reiterated that, “justice is better than amnesty”, therefore amnesty for such appalling crimes as militancy, terrorism, embezzlement of public funds that run into billions and trillions of Niara is regarded as immoral, counter-productive and pointless, and is condemned in all its ramifications. However, amnesty is endorsed for political prisoners or detainees, who must have made full disclosure of all the relevant facts relating to the acts associated with the alleged political objective, only.

The comparative examination of the use of police powers of arrest and detention in UK, USA and India, reveals that, although the Nigeria Police Force is yet to go technological, her personnel are not too far away from the acceptable standard of operations in these other jurisdictions. Just as is the situation in Nigeria, suspected persons in these jurisdictions, are sometimes arrested and detained for purposes of interrogation, it is revealed. Equally, indefinite detentions, which are prohibited in Nigeria, are approved in the UK and USA. In India, there is also laxity on the time limit for detention without charge, just as there are in the UK and USA. But the reverse is the case in Nigeria where suspected persons must be arraigned between 24 and 48 hours after arrest in appropriate circumstances.

The United Nations has a set of rights which is guaranteed for the adults and children victims and witnesses of crime. These rights, victims of crime in Europe and the Americas have been enjoying since early 1960s, they are exhaustively analysed herein. Nigerian victims, like other African victims, are yet to experience this privilege. Aside from the United Nations’ legislations on protection and redress for adults and children’s victims of crime, national and regional Legislations, Declarations, Recommendations and Resolutions on the subject matter have similarly been interrogated. In Nigeria, the two principal rules for regulation of criminal procedure – CPA and CPC – with scanty provisions for protection of victims, are examined. Judges’ reluctance to apply these few provisions is concerned with the fact that, as presently constituted, the courts are not positioned to render any help or assistance, outside what is permissible by the adversial adjudicatory system applicable in Nigeria to either the suspects or the victims.

The various constraints of policing in Nigeria, the role played by the police towards delivery of justice to victims, in the course of their daily chores, are examined. The examination reveals that ideally, by their training, calling and orientation, police forces are structured organisationally and ideologically to despise law-breakers and other mischief makers in the society. In the performance of their duties, officers are obliged to receive complaints from the victims and investigate these complaints. These investigations are conducted in the interest of victims, though sometimes not without hope of realising pecuniary gains by some unscrupulous police officers. Thus by their primary functions of, “prevention and detection of crime, apprehension of offenders and the protection of life and property”, police officers are majorly concerned with ensuring that justice is meted out to victims. It is regretable that sometimes through judicial fiats, criminal investigations are disrupted, thwarted and consequently abandoned, but the traumatised, injured, impoverished, and at times killed victims are left un-redressed, un-restituted and un-compensated. Taking cognisance that the surveillances and other discreet operations of officers in those other jurisdictions are technologically driven, it is observed that the Nigeria police force, while exercising their powers of arrest and detention, operate within internationally approved norm.


Recommendations


In view of the global interest and concern, particularly in Europe, America and at the United Nations, in the “protection and redress for victims of crime”, obvious in their constitutional provisions, coupled with the substantial number of victims-friendly Statutes, Declarations, Resolutions and Recommendations, specially promulgated for the welfare and protection of victims, it is recommended that urgent and appropriate steps be put in place, in Africa, and in Nigeria particularly in order:

  1. To formulate and promulgate of a National Policy on Compensation, Restitution and Remedies for Victims of Crime at the Federal level.
  2. To establish, both at the Federal and State Levels, Victims of Crime Compensation’s Commissions or Boards, to be saddled with the responsibility of identification, compensation, or restitution of genuine victims of crime. Such Boards or Commissions when established should be chaired at the Federal level by a Retired Chief Justice of Nigeria or such other eminent persons with proven integrity. And at the State Level, by a retired judge or retired Justice of the Supreme Court, as the case may be.
  3. At the National Assembly, it is recommended that steps be initiated to enact a law to be known as “Victims’ of Crime Act” or by any, or some other name, or names wherein all issues connecting with and relating to welfare, protection and redress for victims of crime shall be prescribed. Such legislation should take cognizance of the UN 1985 Declaration, and the Model Law on Children Victims and Witnesses of Crime.

It is recommended that the Criminal Justice System be reformed so as to discard some practices which attach more importance to punishment of offenders, and rather draw attention to the rights of victims of crime. In the short term, the courts should start enforcing the few victims’- friendly provisions of the the Criminal Procedure Act and the Criminal Procedure Code.

The current crave for Presidential pardons and amnesty for criminal groups and ex-convicts, and the clamouring for adoption of plea-bargaining adjudicatory system is viewed as very disturbing and is deprecated in strong terms. It is therefore recommended that, for all criminal activities involving corruption, embezzlement of public funds and other economic crimes; in addition to the seizure of assets, offenders should be sentenced to maximum terms of imprisonment prescribed for such crimes without options of fine. And on completion of such terms, such ex-convicts should be barred from holding public offices, at any level. And they should not also be appointed as either chairmen or members of any government board or parastatal.

Activities of any group, by any name, which result in acts considered as economic sabotage to the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria or any state in the federation, or which involve intentional commission of capital offences, or other organised crimes, the offenders should be tried and given the maximum term of punishment as prescribed in the law; and whatever wealth or property the offender has acquired as a consequence of such crime, be confiscated for the state. It is recommended that grant of amnesty and presidential pardons, be restricted to only political prisoners and detainees. Since Judges on the lower bench have refused to be cautious in the grant of interim injunctive orders, it is recommended that the National Judicial Council, be given more powers, not only to relieve culprits of their judicial appointments, but also to prosecute them; and those found guilty, jailed and after their jail terms, prohibited not only from legal practice, but from any future appointments in the public sector.

It is acknowledged that a corrupt, corrupted and corruptible criminal justice system can do well neither to the victim of crime, nor the society at large. It is recommended that the various anti-corruption agencies be re-invigorated and empowered to monitor the activities of police officers and court officials; and any culprit caught should not only be relieved of their appointments but must also be prosecuted and if found guilty, jailed. However, the best behaved among staff of these Departments, should be rewarded by the state, with special prizes or honours, created specifically for such purposes. Again, in order to encourage police officers to do their work boldly and fearlessly, it is recommended that they should be provided with protective gadgets, such as bulletproof vests and vehicles. And to curb the level of corruption among the officers, it is further recommended that efforts be intensified by governments, at both the federal and state tiers to accommodate officers in barracks or housing estates constructed specially for them. In this way their lifestyles could be monitored and checked by designated superior officers.

Similarly, to curtail docility and sycophantic subservience, it is advocated that the Nigeria police force should be removed from the control of political office holders, particularly the Executive, by creating a special board or commission to replace the apparently compliant Police Service Commission. Membership of this new body should be drawn from retired Supreme Court Judges and other retired senior public servants with unquestionable reputation and integrity. The body should be answerable to the constitution and the people of Nigeria through the Senate. Membership of the body should be selected by the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and confirmed by the Senate. The chairman of the body should be chosen from among its members, but must be a man that is well-to-do. He should not be a government contractor or a political jobber whose means of livelihood depends on patronage. His appointment must be confirmed by the Senate and he can only be removed from office after the expiration of his statutory term or by a 2/3 vote of members of the senate.

The body should perform the duties of the present Police Service Commission. Equally, the appointment of the Inspector-General of police should be done by the President after, at least three qualified persons, had been selected by the new board and screened by the Senate. Commissioners of police for the states should be appointed by the new body, after a thorough screening. Also removal of the IGP from office should come after such recommendation has received approval of the senate. It is believed that if these steps are taken, the Nigeria Police would be insulated from political pressure.

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