New Culture of Harbouring Criminals: An Impediment to Combating Crime; By Owoicho Michael Alleh

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IN the time of old, relatives frowned at any of their households who was engaged in crime-related activities and would stop at nothing to reveal the perpetrator for appropriate actions. The actor of such crime would be mocked and brought to public disgrace through capital punishment, fine, and in some cases paraded from one community to another, accompanied with mocking songs and gestures as well as talking drums, gongs and all sorts of musical instruments to amplify the songs.

In more serious crimes, communities often would go on to ostracise any family that would harbour a criminal. In all of this, there used to be a high level of decorum and cooperation among the entire inhabitants. This was done with the aim of reforming and instilling good morals in culprits of crime so as to save the face of the relatives from further shame and disgrace. Most of the criminals that were subjected to such humiliation ended up becoming useful to their families and their immediate communities. However, this attitude of exposing criminals has eluded most relatives in recent times so much so that they are even hell-bent on fighting to defend, shield, and harbour the criminal from being punished by the appropriate authorities. The question is: how did we get to this level of harbouring criminals instead of exposing them?

It is observed that the first agent of socialisation, which is the family, has lost control of the tenet of the family which has the Biblical allusion; “spare the rod and spoil the child.” The current generation of parents (not all though) are yet to come to terms with what it takes to be a father or mother. More often than not, they ignore the behaviour of their children both within and outside the home. They watch their children insulting elders and they even laugh instead of rebuking them. They offer anything their children request from them without thinking about the implication. As the children grow without strict monitoring from the parents, they later become more powerful than their parents so much so that the parents become afraid of them. In the process, they will be engaged in one crime or the other due to peer influence.

The politicians have equally contributed in no small measure to protect criminals that help them win elections. In fact, the political institution has caused more damage than good as far as crime management is concerned in Nigeria. Many times, politicians have undermined the judicial system of arrest and trial of criminals as they do everything within their power to secure the release of their criminal loyalists. The politicians are catalysts to the high rate of crime in the country at the moment. However, their children are never involved, so they go about recruiting the children of the poor masses as thugs and assassins of their political opponents. Our politicians ought to have a rethink, if they are out to really lead the country in the right direction or they are out to do the opposite, although the latter is the order of the day in most cases.

Surprisingly, some parents will get the wind of what their children do but they will pay deaf ears to such information. Later, these children will grow into cultists, rapists, drug addicts, bandits, and the like. Some parents have swapped their parental roles with their children. Most children are the bread winners of their families, thus exposing them to various crimes and when they are declared wanted; the parents hide them because they are beneficiaries of the proceeds from their children’s criminal exploits. For those that will be apprehended, their parents will stop at nothing to secure their release.

There are cases where relatives harbour rapists; some will go for ‘settlement’ with the families of the victims to let the matter die down, but the rapists will be let loose to go on perpetrating more sexual crimes with impunity. Some other parents are shifting their responsibility to school teachers. The teachers, in their efforts to correct these negative attitudes, have been victimised by some of these children who have already matured in serious crimes such as cultism, rape, theft and so on.

The traditional rulers too are encouraging the harbouring of criminals in their jurisdictions. They have lost control over the communities in which they are chief custodians of both law and culture. Some of these criminals pay them homage in the form of cash gifts and other forms of gratification. Information about how these criminals can be apprehended are often made available to the criminals through some traditional rulers, thus aiding their escape from being arrested. They turn deaf ears to reports about crimes going on in their territories and fail to take measures to expose these criminals who they know very well. The police are now afraid of going into the interior villages to make arrest because of this culture of harbouring criminals. When they go, no meaningful information is given to them on the whereabouts of suspects. This is quite disturbing as the more criminals are protected; the more crime rate rises in the society.

In addition, traditional rulers do endorse recruitment forms for people they know to be criminals in their communities to join military and paramilitary in Nigeria. Eventually, the military uniform has given them more protection to continue in their crime, part of why there is a lot of outcry about the activities of the military in combating the current overwhelming crimes in the country.

The politicians have equally contributed in no small measure to protect criminals that help them win elections. In fact, the political institution has caused more damage than good as far as crime management is concerned in Nigeria. Many times, politicians have undermined the judicial system of arrest and trial of criminals as they do everything within their power to secure the release of their criminal loyalists. The politicians are catalysts to the high rate of crime in the country at the moment. However, their children are never involved, so they go about recruiting the children of the poor masses as thugs and assassins of their political opponents. Our politicians ought to have a rethink, if they are out to really lead the country in the right direction or they are out to do the opposite, although the latter is the order of the day in most cases.

On a higher level, it is pitiable and a thing of situational irony, and we should weep and if possible, compose an elegy and a dirge to mourn and lament the state of affairs in the Nigerian Police Force. Some officers in key positions are known to harbour or cavort with criminals for their self-aggrandisement and to the detriment of the entire citizens and the direct victims of crimes.

The family institution should be readdressed. Parents should go back to the drawing board to refine their children. We can never have peace in the larger society if the family is decayed or decaying. The traditional rulers should be of good conduct by shunning cash gifts from criminals and concentrate on their traditional roles. Communities should provide useful information about criminals rather than misleading law enforcement agents. The political system should be reviewed; persons with criminal records or questionable wealth should not be allowed to contest elections, because they will protect their fellow criminals when they get the mandate of the people. The nation is overwhelmed with high level of security challenge, adhering to these helpful tips will go a long way in helping the nation to minimise crime in the society.

The case of the super cop, Abba Kyari, is a recent testament to this impunity in the police sector, although he is still being probed by the Nigerian police hierarchy, however, his indictment by the FBI says it all. The entire police system is bedevilled with the culture of harbouring high profile criminals, hackers, yahoo boys, thugs, bandits, goons and so on. They connive with criminals by providing them with useful information on how to operate and escape arrest. The police system, if it is to be efficient, ought to be re-examined.

The culture of harbouring criminals has today matured and Nigerians are harvesting the fruits therefrom. These are hostage taking, abduction, kidnapping, banditry, herdsmen attack, raping, child trafficking, drug peddling, pickpocketing, high way robbery in whatever form, burgling, arson, ambush, the list is endless. People are overwhelmed with fear of these monsters the culture of harbouring criminals has created for the country.

The entire country is already caught in the web as a result of this ugly trend by relatives of criminals and their supporters, making it difficult for crimes to be tackled in recent times. What is the way out of this? Some stake holders have been clamouring for the establishment of community police, vigilante, neighbourhood watch, hunters’ association and the likes. I am sceptical about the efficiency of this proposal because many of those to be recruited into these bodies are the same criminals the communities have been harbouring. There is a saying that “you don’t give a bone to a dog for safekeeping and expect the dog to do so.”

The family institution should be readdressed. Parents should go back to the drawing board to refine their children. We can never have peace in the larger society if the family is decayed or decaying. The traditional rulers should be of good conduct by shunning cash gifts from criminals and concentrate on their traditional roles. Communities should provide useful information about criminals rather than misleading law enforcement agents. The political system should be reviewed; persons with criminal records or questionable wealth should not be allowed to contest elections, because they will protect their fellow criminals when they get the mandate of the people. The nation is overwhelmed with high level of security challenge, adhering to these helpful tips will go a long way in helping the nation to minimise crime in the society.

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