Legal Nigeria

How to Get Away with Murder in Nigeria by Seun Lari-William

By Seun Lari Williams
Murder is, simply put, the unlawful killing of a human being by another human being. There isn’t much difference between murder and assassination. Some say, if the person unlawfully killed was important enough, then the media will refer to such a killing as an assassination. For example, killings carried out for political purposes are often termed assassinations.
Hopefully, you haven’t come across this piece because you Googled up the exact topic. But if you did, this wouldn’t help you. Go here: Wikihow this will. Seriously, follow that link.
Okay, so some guy called Dr. David Buss of the University of Texas conducted a set of surveys and found that the most cited reason a lot of people don’t follow through with their murderous fantasies is the fear of getting caught, and a life behind bars. This made me write this article.
Perhaps in Nigeria though, a stronger reason not to commit murder may be because our dear Nollywood played their role well by having us believe that the ghost of the dead will come back and haunt you down. And it will. (And yes, the wind will blow the curtains and all that stuff too …) Because I do not believe the fear of getting caught, and a life behind bars is the biggest reason discouraging the average Nigerian in Nigeria at the moment.
In response to Dr. Buss’s findings, someone commented that he had hoped that the reason why most people don’t commit murder had something to do with our unshakable moral convictions. Sadly, this is mostly not the case. Generally, there is a cultural assumption that getting away with murder is virtually impossible. Governments of most countries will do almost anything to have you believe, and for good reasons too, that chances of getting away with murder is really slim.
A sweeping report by the National Public Radio (NPR) of the United States, has said that in the United States, only two out of every three murders result in an arrest. Further, an even smaller percentage of those arrests result in conviction. Phrased differently, some say today, that there’s a one in three chance that you can get away with murder in the United States.
I am sure by now you will understand my concern as a Nigerian who lives in Nigeria. I am thinking, what is the situation in my beloved country? It is well established that the US is some kind of a Big Brother to us. I mean, isn’t that why everybody had something for President Buhari to report to and ask of “Uncle Sam”?
Anyway, my issue is this: The US is the home of CCTV and omnipresent surveillance (with no PHCN wahala o). It is also the home of DNA evidence and thumb-printing technology and other wonderful things that an average Nigerian is not used to. If with all these, 36% of murderers can get away with it in the US, what can be said of the true situation of things in Nigeria?
On the “assassinations” list, we still don’t know who killed Dele Giwa. Who exactly killed Tafawa Balewa? How about MKO Abiola or Bola Ige? Funsho Williams? For the rest, who are on the “mere murders” list, the list is endless. It is terrible because no one seems to beat drums about them and no crowds come out to shout their names. They are not known or valued by society. So this class of runaways, homeless people, prostitutes and the likes normally have fewer people who will pressure the police for action. That is, the action that couldn’t get result for even the ‘high profile murder’ cases.
As it is, very few criminal cases end in convictions in Nigeria. This is actually not surprising. It is hard to obtain a conviction without witness accounts. Even though the Police have consistently tried to ram it down our throats that “the Police is your friend”, the relationship between the public and the police is still strained in Nigeria. But the truth is, even if the police are willing to catch murderers, they often cannot. They are simply not able and ready.
Also, there’s a growing culture amongst people, especially young people. It is called “no snitchin”. It used to be that you speak up when you see something that threatens the peace of your town. But nowadays, what is actually considered the bigger ‘offence’ is telling after the crime is committed. No matter the crime. But, as an aside, can a witness trust that he can be protected adequately after “snitchin”?
Jungle-Justice and other extra-legal actions have been the way many have lost their lives. Others were killed on the streets because they were caught stealing or because they were accused of being homosexuals. What’s the bigger offence? Stealing or Murder? How can you feel justified by killing somebody because the person stole something from you? What’s even more confusing is that this class of murders are often recorded on camera phones yet most of the time, justice isn’t seen to be done.
Definitely, the police in Nigeria will take a huge chunk of the blame for all the instances where people get away with murder. I mean, how many cases are properly investigated? Do we have sufficient forensic laboratories to fight this type of crime in Nigeria?
The rest of the blame will go to the average Nigerian citizen. That is, if you have let the endless news reports about the recent senseless killings in Nigeria make you become indifferent to murders. Many don’t even react normal to news of killings. You know, the normal, Naija reaction to sad, unfortunate news about unjust and unreasonable killings. Well, this should worry you. This should worry you a lot. This attitude has, in its own way led to even more unlawful killings than you can imagine.
From the records, only 32 people in every 100,000 Nigerians have been convicted of an offence. Certainly, only few of those people will have been convicted murderers. Is this the kind of information that will give confidence to Nigerian citizens that their right to life is adequately protected under the law?
Investigation by Daily Independent Law shows that about 56,785 inmates are in the 239 prisons across the country. And in the entire country, only 18,042 persons are convicted prisoners. Statistics obtained from the Nigerian Prison Service further confirmed that as at June 2014, a total of 1,484 were condemned. That is in a country of almost 200 million persons. With the number of deaths we hear about daily in Nigeria, these numbers are just sad. Simply sad.
So to our question; how do you get away with murder in Nigeria? The answer is simple. First, keep the police untrained, unmotivated and ill equipped to fight the crime. Second, don’t ask people how to get away with murder.