Oct 4, 2015

Nigeria needs institute of criminology — Ahire

October 4, 2015 

In this interview with MOTUNRAYO JOEL, an expert in Criminology from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria Prof. Philip Ahire, talks about corruption in varsities.

Cult activities is a huge problem in Nigerian universities. Who do you blame for this?

To start with, cult activities is a problem not only in Nigerian universities, but also extends to secondary educational institutions, professional organisations and civil societies. In a study of one Nigerian university, 26 distinct cult groups were discovered, some for men and others for women. It is a form of corruption which seeks to establish a clandestine or underground sub-culture to subvert, undermine and destroy the goals and objectives of the affected organisations.

With specific reference to universities, cult activities thrives due to the unique circumstances that prevail on our campuses. Our university campuses are populated largely by naïve and impressionistic under -20 youths who have probably escaped from direct parental control for the first time. Those from cult infested communities or secondary schools lead the way in establishing specific cult identities. Others are lured to join the various cults through a combination of deceit and intimidation. Cult groups usually pose as social clubs offering attractive services to new recruits and once you join, exit is ruthlessly resisted. Cult recruits are promised protection, hostel accommodation, supremacy in campus social affairs and success in their examinations—the scarce commodities on the campus. Many fall for these due to a feeling of isolation and powerlessness.

Cult groups on university campuses receive regular logistic and financial support from similar groups in the adjourning communities. University authorities are helpless in dealing with well-armed and deadly cultists without the backing of a credible law enforcement agency on the campus. To recap, cult activities thrives on our campuses because of perceived insecurity by students coupled with inadequate infrastructure for boarding, learning and self actualisation, all of which exert pressure on students to seek remedial insurance through cultism. The absence of credible law enforcement unit on our campuses presents them as islands of lawlessness and ideal habitats for cultism.

What can varsities and federal Government do about this?

The solution lies in awareness creation, improvement of educational infrastructure and law enforcement. We need to mount sustainable campaigns throughout our educational system and the larger society on the dangers of cultism. We also need to have a credible law enforcement unit on each campus to enforce the law and root-out cultism. This should be done quickly to stem the present situation in which cultists are threatening to usurp the administration of some universities from the authorities. Of course, we also need to invest more resources towards improving educational infrastructure to curtail the black marketeering of educational services.

Do you have adequate number of professors in your field?

Criminology is a multi-disciplinary discipline committed to the scientific understanding of crime, criminals and the entire infrastructure of the criminal justice system. Defined in this way, scholars with background in sociology, psychology, psychiatry, penology and law claim, with some justification, to be criminologists.

If you put all these all-comers together, you will still find that there is a gross inadequacy of criminologists in the country relative to the challenge of criminality and the need to generate scientific knowledge to support the effective administration of justice.

What role can professors of criminology play in curbing crime in the country?

To be a professor in any field requires one to be a fountain of research–based scientific knowledge. Such knowledge should be shared with students and the entire research community through lecturers, seminars, workshops and publications. Furthermore, such knowledge should be relevant and applicable to solving contemporary challenges for social development. Professors of criminology can play a key role in curbing crime in the country by one, championing critical research on the nature and character of crime, criminals and the criminal justice system; two, sharing such knowledge with students and the research community; and three, making this knowledge available to guide public policy and development. Nigeria is overdue for a National Institute of Criminology to provide a veritable platform for the promotion of criminological research, knowledge sharing between scholars and criminal justice practitioners, and training of relevant criminal justice personnel.

Where do you see Nigeria in the next three, five years in terms of curbing corruption?

Corruption is a dangerous cankerworm that has permeated every facet of the Nigerian society with adverse consequences for productivity, growth and development. It has completely undermined the public services and also afflicted the private sector. No one is exempted, not least traditional authorities, religious institutions, civil society groups and the media. Corruption has so distorted our value system such that “right” is commonly mistaken for “wrong”, and the latter has come to receive more public acceptability than the former. It will take longer than three to five years to uproot or at least mitigate this malaise, but the current bold efforts by the Buhari administration are an essential starting point. Much will depend on the extent to which the public will rally support for Buhari’s lone-wolf efforts, and eventually sustain and institutionalise the anti-corruption struggle.

In your opinion, what is the best way to put an end to Boko Haram?

The Boko Haram challenge is multi- dimensional and multi-faceted: there is the international/diplomatic dimension, military dimension, political angle, awareness creation/public education, poverty reduction and social engineering. We need to mobilise the international community to collaborate with us to isolate and fight Boko Haram. While we launch military attacks on Boko Haram, we also need to boldly identify and dislodge their local political collaborators. Another crucial requirement in this war is to recruit appropriate personnel to systematically counter Boko Haram ideology and to de-radicalise, sensitise, conscientise and re-educate the people. In the long term, we must adopt and implement a North East master plan to address pervasive poverty and ignorance in the region which has provided such a fertile field for this deadly philosophy.

In your view, should there be only one body that probes corrupt persons?

As crime increases in volume and character in relation to social complexity, specialised agencies are needed to handle it unique manifestations. Although the Nigeria Police force is the state’s major agency for crime control, it has largely failed to keep pace with the dynamism and vibrancy of the crime situation in the country, thus giving room for the emergence of other agencies to police specific crimes such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, Central Cooperative Bank, the Federal Road Safety Commission, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons.

These agencies have achieved varying degrees of success, but there is the compelling challenge of operational coordination and centralised data gathering.

Nigeria lacks forensic experts, what is the cause of this?

Forensic is an integral part of the infrastructure of crime documentation and control in advanced countries. Although a forensic laboratory exists in Lagos, it is poorly equipped and staffed for the simple reason that we are not serious enough with our crime control efforts in the country. What would experts in forensics, DNA and other investigative techniques be doing in a country where criminal investigation is hardly handled with scientific rigour and precision?

Some countries impose the death penalty on some illegal acts. Should Nigeria imbibe this tactics?

Countries that impose the death penalty believe in the retributive philosophy that those who deprive others of their lives must also lose theirs. There are, however, others who believe that capital punishment is barbaric and no matter the circumstances, the sanctity of human life should be preserved. I belong to the latter position and would make bold to advocate that Nigeria should abolish the death penalty even for capital offences. Doing what the criminal did, that is taking life, reduces us to his level.

Personally, what role are you playing to ensure that Nigeria produces more professors of criminology?

I have spent at least 18 years in teaching, research and community service in the field of criminology. These years of labour have thankfully contributed to the production of scholars who are well on their way to becoming criminology professors. I hope to do more in the years ahead.


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