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ARMED ROBBERY IN NIGERIA – A QUALITATIVE STUDY OF YOUNG MALE ROBBERS
This “intellectual journey” has an underlying history. The author came to this task while working in the Criminal Justice System of Nigeria (CJS), namely, the Nigeria Prison Service, between 1999 and 2003. Those five years were full of experiences and problem-solving scenarios from prison inmates who had either been detained or convicted. The police who arrested and sent them to prison labelled the majority of them “armed robbers”, pending the court hearings, which did not come up as and when due. With the daily influx of armed robbery suspects in prison, the author thought it wise to study this subject area to understand the probable factors responsible for the youthful involvement in “armed robbery”, and to suggest crime prevention and/or reduction strategies, which may help the government and criminologists in criminal justice policy-making. The current study was originally intended to be a comparative study of armed robbery in Nigeria and Britain (or more precisely England). Comparative criminology dates back to the time of Emile Durkheim (Newman & Howard, 2001). It involves an evaluative study of any type of crime as it affects more than one culture, or one nation-state, or region. The value of comparative criminology is that it identifies an interesting subject area for study as well as an important method of carrying out the research (Zimring & Johnson, 2005). Armed robbery is an important subject that has been studied widely by criminologists across the world. Research began to develop in the second half of the twentieth century. De Baun (1950); McClintock & Gibson (1961); Normandeau (1968a, 1968b, 1968c, 1969a, 1969b), and Einstadter (1969) for example, pioneered the study of armed robbery in both the US and the UK. Since then many studies have featured samples from national, cultural, cross-cultural or cross-national populations (see for example Rotimi, 1984; Nkpa, 1976; Marenin, 1987; Ekpenyong, 1989; Otu, 2003; Desroches, 1995, 2002; O’Donnell & Morrison, 1994; Matthews, 1996; Matthews et al, 2001; Matthews, 2002; Gill, 2000, 2001; Wright et al, 2006; Wright & Decker, 1987; Macdonald, 1975; Gabor et al, 1987; Wright & Decker, 1997; Cook, 1987; Conklin, 1972; Nugent et al, 1989; Smith & Louis, 2010; Borycki, 2003; Borycki et al, 2005).
Armed robbery being talked about in this study involves banks, shops, petrol stations, domestic houses and highways or motorways. It involves different levels of force and an array of different weapons (Matthews, 2002) such as guns and knives. Matthews (2002) has also suggested that in some armed robberies enacted in the UK, weapons were not used at all. This is not the case in Nigeria, because those who get involved use weapon(s) to threaten, force and deprive a person or persons of the right to private, public or corporate belongings (Nwalozie, 2007). Based on the different notions of the umbrella term “armed robbery” in Nigeria and the UK, it has become too general a concept to use as a starting point of analysis (Matthews, 2002). Although armed robbery is a serious offence committed by youths, our interest is not so much in the terminology “armed robbery” but we are much more concerned with understanding what motivates them to do it. However, for the sake of clarity and writing conventions used herein, the terms robbery and/or armed robbery will refer to the same subject matter, “armed robbery”. If for any reason a different type of robbery is mentioned, it will be clearly stated. The initial intention to do a comparative research of armed robbery in Nigeria and Britain was for obvious reasons: To date, neither Nigerian nor British scholars have carried out any comparative study of armed robbery between both countries. The absence of cross-national or cross-cultural research on armed robbery in the two states has created a gap in the literature. There is a colonial legacy that makes this interesting, the British leaving a legal system in the post colonial period and how suited or unsuited such a system is to contemporary Nigeria in the comparative study of crime and criminal justice. It seems also that Nigerian criminologists are not so inclined to comparative studies due to financial constraints and access to research data, while British criminologists seem to be more inclined to comparing crime and criminal justice among the developed countries in Europe and America where financial resources and access to research data may not be so problematic. So, doing a comparative study of armed robbery in Nigeria and Britain would probably have been the first of its kind; it would also have generated new knowledge in criminological science. Particularly, we would have come to know in more details the similarities and differences surrounding the nature and patterns of armed robbery in the two countries. Presumably any comparative research in criminology must highlight the similarities and dissimilarities of a particular crime in the countries being studied. Our first concern would have been to establish whether armed robbery was a problem in both countries (see Clinard & Abbot, 1973). The research would have considered two different groups of youths from two different cultural backgrounds. The study would have enabled us to know the current, recent, and previous robbery trends in both countries. This would have involved comparing crime rates from police data and interviews with participants. Moreover, we would have come to know if the motivations to robbery are either similar or different or both. Motivation to crime is arguably the most assumed, causal variable in the origin of criminal behaviour. Indeed no offence can be committed without the offender being motivated by some factor(s) (Jacobs & Richards, 1999: 149).
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