By Peter Osalor
As a rule, crime is inversely proportional to economic development. Nigeria faces the extreme end of this problem, with activity emerging as one of the biggest challenges to its economic stebility of late.
In 2008 alone, the country lost $20.7 billion in oil profits due to militant violence in the oil_rich but volatile Niger Delta region.
A presidential Technical commitee report to the nigerian government attributed the fiscal loss to armed militant activity on oil installations that resulted in shutdowns and spillage. the conflict has significantly hamstrung oil exports_the country’s prime revenge earner_from 2.6 million barrels in 2006 to a current figure of this economic tragedy is even more appalling: at least 1,000 lives lost and an additional 300, including 44 foreign oil workers and businessmen, taken hostage.
The nigerian government considers four of the nine states in the delta region as conflict Zones, and foreigner travel to these location is strictly restricted.
The 70,000 square km area, a mainstay of the country’s economy, accounts for 85% of state revenue. Armed insurgency in the region traces its roots to a perceived sense of neglect by both oil companies and the national government, a sentiment that is corroborated by empirical evidence.
Despite its strategic and economic significance, human development indices for Niger Delta region are starkly behind national averages. Further, the pollution resulting from oil and gas prospecting have decimated indegenous sources of livelihood like fishing, and brought home diseases, malnutrition and high fatality rates, besides serious environmental repercussions.
The localised symptoms in Niger Delta are however only part of the problem. Poverty remains endemic despite the billions flowing into the national coffers. Successive government policies in the last century failed to include the wide majority of nigerians; 76 milion of whom are officially classified below the poverty line, while an astounding 35% of the population continues to live in abject poverty.
Poverty however exacts an inevitable social toil, and for an impoverished people, crime is often an easy step from deprivation. Although reliable independent data is hard to come by, nigeria has a massive unemployment rate that adds thousands of new graduates to its list of jobless each year.
The country’s prominent ‘This day’ newspaper reports in a september 2007 story that nigerian youths constitute half the population, 95% of which is unemployed. By the government’s own admission, over 70% of the population was unemployed that year.
The figure has since been slashed to just vbelow 29% to coincide with recent independent world bank findings. Even at this rate. however, over 40 million nigerians are currently Jobless. Significantly, policy changes effected 1999 have done little to assuage the situation, largely because of a misplaced focus on capital_intensive ventures that generated few employment opportunities. The situation was made worse by acute infrastructural shortages, forcing hundreds if factories and informal sector industries to lay_off workers.
Consequently, youth crimes has steadily been on the rise, fed by decades of under_investment in the social sector, together with deficient poverty_allevation and ineffective unemployment_reduction initiatives. Over the years, bilions in annual oil revenue pouring in to the contry hiked the bar of its economic and social aspirations, resulting in a climate of criminal proclivity.
For a nation with millions of jobless youths, the gross outcome has been a surge in violent crimes by individuals and gangs, including frequent muggins, assault, burglary, carjacking, extortion and kidnapping.
Fraud is an especially huge sub_sector here. Infact the US state department specifically warns Nigeria_bound travellers to be wary of innovative scams hatched over the internet that pose the risk of both financial loss and personal danger.