Structural Injustice and Youth Crimes: The Need for the Rule of Law

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By Lawal Sani Usman

Yesterday (24/12/2020), I came across an audio containing phone conversation between one upper or middle class man (addressed as Modibbo in the conversation) at one end and two youths who unsuccessfully schemed to deceive him by pretending to be Jinns (spirits) at the other end. Unlike those ignorant fellows that are reported to succumb to similar chicaneries, Modibbo was wise enough to discover that they are advanced fee fraudsters (called 419ners in Nigeria).

After he showed to them that he knew he’s speaking with humans and the 419ners confessed they are humans, they started begging him to help them with something because of desperation. They also made a more shocking revelation to him that both are university graduates- the first having studied Geography and the other a graduate of Sociology. The Sociology graduate further stated that he went to Abuja 6 times in search of job and he couldn’t secure it while his wife has at the moment delivered a baby for him.

The conversation then turned out to be another drama. But the conversation is very important subject of Sociological study. Foremost, it verified the Merton’s Social Structure and Anomie theory. The social structure and anomie theory posits that crime is inevitable when there is tension between institutionally approved goals and structural means for achieving these goals.

In other words, the society defines getting university degree, nicely rewarding job, owning a house and car as symbols of success, but the society does not provide equal access to these material goals. In this climate of structural inequality, normlessness is inevitable. Although there’s no justification for any form of economic crime, like white collar crimes by the power elite; economic deprivation and joblessness can lead the Nigerian youths to advanced fee fraud. This is also true with other violent crimes across the Northern Nigeria states, because “brutal condition breeds brutal behavior”.

Thus, if the petty and violent criminals are blamed and be called to book, blind eye shouldn’t be turned to the political leaders that created the conditions necessary for youths to face the delimma of picking the option of joining illegal activities as the only alternative survival tactic in the country.

To make it clear, I’m advocating for true application of the rule of law, not political rhetorics. Corrupt politicians should be rewarded with death sentence, not honorary PhDs. Otherwise, solution to the security challenges ravaging the northern Nigeria is not forthcoming! Ignoring the crimes of the powerful and stressing the wrath of the law on the powerless offenders is the reason why our prisons are replete with poor property criminals, while the hardened and top criminals that subjected the vast majority to abject poverty, and, by implication, petty and violent crimes, remained untouchables.

We need literal application of the rule of law in Nigeria.The law should at least be draconian to both lower class and upper class law violators, whose financial recklessness are culpably homicidal to others. Boko Haram insurgents, armed robbers, kidnappers, bandits and, above all, political thieves that rendered our lives valueless, should receive penalty commensurate to the degree of their offenses. A goat thief shouldn’t go to prison and 100 billion Naira thief receives political appointment, traditional leadership titles and honorary degrees.

I repeat: to bring an end to insecurity and criminal activities in Nigeria, the criminal justice system must reserve severe punishment, including death sentence to perpetrators of political, bureaucratic and grand corruptions. This is because crime of the powerful is the enabler of crimes of the powerless. That’s why the Singaporean legal policy is harsher on the public servants at the top of the echelon. For example, as a Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew once jailed a Deputy Minister just because he traveled with his friend, who’s a businessman. With the fear that if corruption could send big politicians to prison, the rank and files and other masses are scared to commit minor crimes, too. We need to see this in Nigeria.
Lawal Sani Usman
lawalsaniusmand@gmail.com

 

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