Like other countries in the world, Nigeria has two systems that are germane to its inclusive growth and development in all ramifications. To attain the desired peaceful environment across the country, criminal justice system devoid of ethnic, religious biases and social discrimination is imperative. For inclusive socioeconomic development, distribution and redistribution of economic resources without tribalism and ethnicity is a must. This has been captured as a social justice system by scholars, social commentators and public affairs analysts over the years needed to ensure equal opportunity in society. When the social justice system is not designed and allow to functional in ways that ensure justice for everyone, criminal justice system becomes handy and governments are expected to deploy more resources to correct the wrongs.
For the 60 years of independence of the country, a number of policies and programmes have been initiated and executed for the two systems. Despite this, it appears, over the years, that the systems remain ineffective. In 2015, Nigerians went to polls and elected the current President Muhammadu Buhari with the hope of having better systems. Several reports, that compared his administration efforts on the criminal justice system, note that the fundamental flaws and defects of the past persist despite promising ‘change’ during electioneering campaigns. It is on this note that our analyst observes that citizens and leaders relationship is complicated and yielding negative results, which require strategic solutions. This piece, therefore, examines some of the issues of the past and looking at the future of the current systems.
Stakeholders in the Two Systems
From the traditional societies to the modern societies, police officers are expected to protect law abiding citizens and their property within the context of arresting and prosecuting the criminals. The arrest and prosecution when they are done according to the extant rules of service or engagement and laws, all stakeholders believed they gained and excepted the gains to continue.
However, when the arrest and prosecution were perceived as deadly and bias, they accused the police authorities. This situation permeates all the continents in the world. From the United States of America, a developed country, to Nigeria, an emerging country, citizens are agitating for the reformation of the law enforcement agencies and their personnel, most importantly the police officers.
The recent #EndSars protest has once again revealed issues in the Nigeria Police Force. From inadequate personnel to poor funding and financial mismanagement to lack of modern training for the available personnel, the Force is finding it difficult to prevent crimes and protect citizens and their property effectively. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria has a total of 49, 026 inspectors, 62,681 sergeants, 128,656 corporals and 19,043 constables in 2017. A year before, 125, 790 people committed varied crimes [reported to the Police], while 134,614 involved in various crimes in 2017.
Our analysis reveals that police officers in each of the states and the Federal Capital Territory were not sufficient for the prevention of the reported crimes. This is highly reflected in Lagos, Akwa Ibom and Delta States [see Exhibit 1].
Exhibit 1: Police Officers’ Adequacy versus Combined Crimes by States and FCT in 2017
Analysis only suggests 0.6% of the sufficiency of the officers in preventing crimes across the country during the year. Extrapolation analysis of 20 years of crime statistics before 2017 [see Exhibit 2] indicates that murder, armed robbery, felonious wounding, manslaughter, bribery and corruption, and burglary, store breaking and house breaking were committed more than others. With this, our analyst expects a significant increase in the number of personnel of the Force in 2017 and beyond.
Exhibit 2: Select Crimes and Murder in 20 Years (1993-2013)
Available information reveals that during the period, frequent transfer of police officers stalled prosecution of criminal cases. When police officers were involved in violation of fundamental rights of the citizens, several reports also indicate lack of effective prosecution. These among other issues have been linked to the #Endsars protests across the country. Before the protests, some states took steps capable of enhancing criminal justice system. Lagos and Kano states considered the review of the prosecution of criminal cases at lower court and police respectively. The negative outcomes of the #Endsars protests in Lagos State have equally led to the public prosecution of Police Officers for offences related to violation of human rights.
Strategic Issues and Options
As good as these steps in the two states and recent actions of other state governments, less than 12 points of Nigerian legal rights system betterment would remain stumbling block for derivation of full benefits. From 2013 to 2019, on average, Nigeria was on 7 points out of 12 points of being considered as a country with the strongest legal rights system. From another report, between 2017 and 2018, Nigeria was ranked 8th as a country with better civil justice, while Ghana and South Africa were positioned as first and second out of 18 countries in Africa. In 2019, Nigeria dropped to 10th place out of 30 countries. Nigeria only better off in civil justice not criminal justice in 2020.
Exhibit 3: 2020 Nigeria’s Ranking in the Judicial System among Select African Countries (Out of 31 Countries in Africa)
Already, the results of the ineffective criminal justice system and social justice system are being felt. We have seen how thugs and hoodlums took advantage of #Endsars protests to loot public and private property in states such as Oyo, Cross River, Osun, Delta, Kwara, Ekiti, Ogun, Kaduna and Plateau. We have seen the reactions of the citizens regarding perceived hoarding of palliatives meant for them by the state governments.
In our experience, analysis indicates that poor ranking of the country within the select rule of law indicators [see Exhibit 3] used by the World Justice Project greatly linked to the ongoing looting of warehouses for palliative materials and other properties by 64.9%, while 42.1% of the indicators explicated the looting spree across the country.
With these insights, the country needs genuine reforms. This should not be left for the political leaders alone. Civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations, business leaders and individuals also have strategic roles to play. The youths, especially those being used for political thuggery, need to be reoriented. They need to be equipped with knowledge and skills capable of making them not be used for thuggery by politicians.
Exhibit 4: Public Interest in Looting, Hunger and Poverty (10/10/2020-25/10/2020)