The Press and Criminality in Nigeria

The escalating rate of crime and criminality with particular reference to ungodly activities of armed bandits, killer-herdsmen, commercial kidnappers and Boko Haram has left the country aghast. Series of abduction of school children has become a big business in Nigeria. The viciousness with which these illegal activities are carried out in succession signals organized crime. Although pundits finger conspiracy theories, the media in Nigeria appears napping.

Apparently, the media has not shown leadership as the fourth estate of the realm. Sadly, there is dearth of investigative reporting. While media outfits are quick to break the news, there is hardly any media organization that is engaged in thorough investigative journalism which afflicts suspected terrorists or criminals and comforts the afflicted citizenry. Lack of insurance cover for journalists, brown envelope syndrome, and monopoly of media-ownership by the rich, politicians, government and religious institutions are factors that militate against counter-insurgency narratives.

Unfortunately, some journalists allow their humanity and sentiments to have a better handover and above professionalism. Despite the Cybercrime Act in Nigeria, the spread of new technology brought a challenge to people’s struggle for access and freedom of information and a government’s attempts to control the narrative. The prevalence of fake or false news and hate speech causes annoyance, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation and enmity in the country.

An apparent failure of the press has created an army of amateur journalists otherwise known as citizen journalists. Citizen Journalism comes with a false license which places in the hands of members of the public to report as eyewitnesses. Importantly too, social media is gaining prevalence in rural spaces which are not widely covered by traditional media. This makes them conflict difficult to analyze and determine if it is wagged on the basis of ideology or ethnicity. The reportage crime and criminality in Nigeria has suffered setbacks as a result of these factors.

In counter-conflict narratives, tackling insecurity is a strategic component. As a matter of urgency, the state must strengthen its security architecture and use security votes for what they are meant for. The media ought to remind the President who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, that the central government needs to rise up to the occasion by prioritizing security of lives and property. The media needs to ensure that those who give criminals financial and moral support are identified and prosecuted.

Tackling illiteracy is a key component of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In a society where the political class easily manipulates illiterate masses who are used as thugs, providing education for all would go a long way in reducing crime and criminality.

Recruitment into the military or paramilitary, admission into tertiary institutions and allocation of key ministries, the so-called “juicy ministries” are often based on ethnicity and religion rather than merit, media educational leadership based on merit and ensuring justice remain sacrosanct.

For peace to reign there must be justice in the land. Where people were born and bred and they are entitled to political rights and privileges, they should not be denied. The media should drum support for the establishment of a special humanitarian commission so that victims of crime can tell their stories and be helped. While that is done, the media should educate the citizenry on mutual respect and the desire to live in peace with one another.

Poverty reduction is key to curbing incessant crises in Nigeria. Therefore, both the central and state governments should come up with relevant policies that are inclusive in nature towards alleviating the suffering of citizens who are impoverished. Youth empowerment initiatives should be guided along patriotic rather than ethnic lines. The young especially students should be trained to respect diversity, be Peace Ambassadors and global citizens who are detribalized.

It is important for government and NGOs or spirited individuals to provide victims of abduction and their families with rehabilitation and reconciliation programs as well as ensuring reconstruction of their homes, restitution and reintegration. There should be better coordination of the humanitarian response where a central coordinating body which oversees all humanitarian activities with clearly defined goals and objectives tailored towards fulfilling local needs.

While journalists are urged to be objective in their reportage of armed banditry and criminality, it is the responsibility of the press to engage in media saturation towards finding respite. It behooves on the press to hold the government accountable for developing the requisite political will to tackle the war on terror. The onus lies on various security agencies to stamp out criminality as well as spread of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALWs) across the country. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Fr. Dyikuk is a Lecturer of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Editor–Caritas Newspaper and Convener – Media Team Network Initiative (MTNI), Nigeria.

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