Criminal Offences in Nigeria

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The laws of every country (with rare exceptions) are usually based on the cultural heritage, religious and moral values of its people. Nigeria also follows this rule. The definitions of crimes and punishments in Nigeria is the same as in the rest of the world but the rank of them, the types of crimes and, of course the most common crimes are unique.

In this essay we will look through the 10 crimes and their punishments in Nigeria, understand which crimes are considered capital offences and briefly learn about the history of capital punishment in the country.

The Nigerian list of crimes and their punishments that are the most common looks like this:

  • Economic crime. It is the crime the result of which damages the overall economics of the country, disregarding if it was a sabotage or stealing of the resources that belong to the government. No wonder that it is one of the most common criminal offences in Nigeria: the average income of the majority of the Nigerians barely allow them to sustain a minimal comfort level for themselves and their family. So, alas, if there is an opportunity, some desperate people will step over the law out of necessity.

Of course these people are not the only offenders. The level of corruption also shows that the government members and their associates are also often guilty of economic crime. The third and significant part of the offenders are the people who commit such common crimes out of sheer carelessness. Tax evasion also counts as economic crime and some people just don’t understand the system of taxes well enough to pay everything right. So they become oblivious offenders.

  • Financial crime. Unlike the economic crime, in committing financial crime some illegal financial instruments, not the resources themselves, shall be involved. False bank notes, cheques or other financial papers, forging money or just using them are financial crimes. It is quite strange that the crime that demands such a serious preparation to be committed (special paper, paint, typography etc) is in the list of crimes and their punishments that are the most common.

But we can only wonder the scale and professionalism of the criminals in Nigeria that forge money and other financial papers. Sometimes, as the criminal reports say, they even take orders from the criminal gangs from the other countries.

  • Advance Fee Fraud. This one is indeed very common crime all over the world. In some countries the words “Nigerian letters” became a meme already. The advanced fee fraud happens when the offender asks to pay in advance for goods or services but never provides them.

The “Nigerian letters” are the general name of scam letters from the fake “African prince” who needs your help to transfer a significant sum of money and promises you the big percent of it for help. But to do so, you should pay his “lawyer” (another scammer) for the help with money clearage. Of course there is no prince, no lawyer and no money and lots of people were left angry and without their money before the scam was revealed at the global scale.

  • Money Laundering. Named after the famous laundries of Al Capone, who used them to legitimize the mafia money, this process is now very common crime in the countries, that aren’t so closely examined by the international financial commissions. A huge sums of money from all over the world come to the Nigerian fake companies to be transferred between them several times and then return back as fully legal.

This is considered a very serious crime by Nigerian laws, but the sums of money that are laundered are sometimes really enormous and even the small percent of them is enough to bribe almost everyone, except the most honest ones, involved. This situation isn’t exclusive for Nigeria, it happens in every country that lacks attention of the international organisations that investigate economic crimes.

  • This is one of the major crimes that are considered capital offences. The definition of the terrorism is the same as in the rest of the world – an extreme violence conducted to intimidate people and to achieve the political, religious or other goals of the terrorists. But, unlike most of the countries where terrorists are mostly foreigners, in Nigeria there are some terrorist organisations that can’t be eliminated or even controlled at the moment.

The notorious Boko Haram, the organisation of the religious extremists, responsible for thousands of murders and imprisonments, Fulani herdsmen and others. The laws of allow no mercy to the terrorists, they are sentenced to the highest punishment in Nigeria possible: the capital punishment for this crime is either hanging or shooting.

  • Cyber crime. This one is relatively new, but with the spreading of the Internet and affordable access to it, the new generation of the talented hackers, phishers and other Net criminals emerged seemingly from nowhere. The information needed to become a hacker, the knowledge and software are relatively easy to find and download, so no wonder that this type of crime became so popular, especially among the younger people.

To prevent committing such crimes, the internet cafes have to obtain a license issued by the government monitoring organisation, so that the police can have access to the data transferred through them if needed.

  • One of the most horrible types of crimes is still in the list. Despite the Muslim religion that has, in theory, protect women from the assaults, the Nigerian men (more than 90 percents of the rapes are committed by men in Nigeria) are quite hypocritical when it comes to satisfying sexual demand. The human rights organisation are almost powerless here and, unfortunately, the situation with rape count changes very slowly and painfully.

People can only hope that the next generation of Nigerians, who now have access to the internet, to the emergency phone lines and to the information about the basic human rights and sexual education, will grow over the grim past of their ancestors. Still, rape is, as terrorism, a capital offence, so, if the fact of it is proved (which is sometimes nearly impossible, because it is too much of a shame for a woman to accuse the particular offender), the rapist will be sentenced to the capital punishment.

  • Hostility against the police. The riots happen in Nigeria quite often and the rebels are sometimes well-armed and desperate. To prevent injuring and killing the policemen, hostility against the police is the crime that can cause the severe punishment in Nigeria for the offender.

Unfortunately this law is sometimes the subject of abuse: the policemen know that they are protected more than the average citizen and sometimes use their power to threaten the common people into the obedience. The punishments for abusing the law are also very strict, but still it is often hard to prove the guilt of the policeman, because the other policemen, feeling something of a professional solidarity, often try to protect the suspected one.

  • Bribery and corruption. The most common crime in each and every country, in Nigeria it became a plague of the governmental system. The connections and money may negate the indifference of the law and the complicated bureaucratic procedures. Sometimes it is not critical (e.g. if someone needs his documents urgently), but it can cost lives if it happens in hospitals or police.

The insufficient salary sometimes may push the workers to sell “additional services”. Even the strictest punishments in Nigeria won’t change the situation without raising the overall cultural, moral and, surely, financial level of life.

  • Highway robbery. This one may seem strange, but it is a real problem and it earns its place in the list of crimes and their punishments, that are most common in Nigeria. The gang of robbers either stops cars on the highways or waits for them to stop for a night and then threatens the drivers and robs them. Sometimes they not only rob, but rape (if there are women in the car) and kill their victims to prevent them from telling anyone about the gang and the exact place of robbery.

This type of crime became such a big issue in Nigeria that Nigerian laws were changed to consider highway robbery, under some circumstances, a capital offence. Not always, but the most dangerous highway robbers who were accused in additional crimes or robbed drivers on the regular basis can be hanged or shot.

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