As Nigeria continues to suffer all forms of abuses in the hands of criminal elements, it is evident that factors encouraging and enhancing crimes exist in our midst. Criminals do not grow in space. They are not aliens. They are products of societies. They lived, interacted, and developed amongst members of their communities. But somewhere along the line, they become entangled in crimes and find it difficult to free themselves from their entanglements. So the question we should ask ourselves is, “What should we do to discourage the growth of crime in our communities?”
Many people, to date, believe that crime is caused by poverty. If you raise issues concerning crime in Nigeria, a lot of people will tell you that it is caused by the poor economic state of the country. But then, crime also exists in developed countries. Does that mean their non-existent poor economy pushed their citizens into crime? Apart from that, in Nigeria, we have a lot of people living below the poverty line that do not engage in any criminal activities. We also have very rich Nigerians charged with crime of various kinds. The recent announcement made by the FBI of a Nigerian, an aide to a governor, arrested for fraud should tell everyone that poverty is not the prime motivator for committing crime.
One of the factors that increase crime in our society, which has not really been tackled, is the recruitment of criminal agents. We learnt that peer pressure can push people into crime but not all criminals belong to gangs. Some were recruited through radicalization processes while others were recruited by promising of freedom and better lives. The latter methods are used by insurgents and those that engage in violent crimes to recruit foot soldiers.
Recently, rumour has it that the Islamic States of West Africa Province (ISWAP) shared pamphlets to locals in Geidam, a town in Yobe State, promising them protection and inviting them to join their cause in spreading Islam. This strategy, used in a country ripened by hate and negative attitude towards the government and people of different tribes and religions, can do wonders because the criminals will easily find or create sympathizers and die-hard followers among the populace. This will make it more difficult for law enforcement agents to apprehend and neutralize criminals. This method can also be used by individuals, such as politicians, who tactfully radicalize their followers against their opponents until they become their human weapons. The problem with these methods is that those lured into the net find it difficult to pull out, even if they wanted to. That is why it is necessary to teach people how to avoid being enticed into crime before it is too late.
The Nigerian education system has been doing its best to nurture and produce the right citizens through academic activities. To raise good citizens, the educational curriculum has been extended to include Security Education, in addition to Civic Education and Social Studies. These subjects teach children how to live harmoniously in a society. However, Security Education focuses more on how children can stay safe in their communities. But then, it does not teach them how to identify criminals and their tact so that they, the children, can avoid falling into crime.
Based on the above observations, it is necessary that Criminology becomes a part of our education curriculum. Nigerians, from a young age, need to understand what crime is and how criminals operate. They need to know how to identify criminals and what they can do to avoid them. If the citizens understand that criminal elements, including insurgents, first seek sympathizers by working on people’s psyche, they, the citizens, will not allow them to come into their midst in the first place.
Nevertheless, we don’t have to wait for Criminology to be introduced as a subject in our school system before we begin to learn how to protect ourselves, dependents, properties, and community from criminals. All we have to do is avail ourselves of information on the modus operandi of criminals and then pass them on to the younger generation. That way, we can avoid crying later.