AN ASSESSMENT ON THE CRIME VICTIM STATUS IN NIGERIA
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
Crime and criminals, tragedy and violence have been a global phenomenon. Crime is a social occurrence. There is no culture, primordial or contemporary, no nation whether under developed or developing or developed is free from this menace. The outcome of the crime i.e. victim is definitely going to materialize. A victim is described as an individual who has experienced physical or emotional hurt, belongings damaged, or financial loss because of a crime. A victim of a crime is the particular individual who has been harmed personally and directly by the perpetrator, rather than by society as a whole. Nonetheless, this may not always be the case, as with victims of white collar crime, who may not be clearly identifiable or directly linked to crime against a particular individual. Victims of white collar crime are often denied their status as victims by the social construction of the concept (Croall, 2001). The concept also remains a controversial topic within women’s studies.
Victims of crime form an integral part of the subject matter of criminology. Nevertheless, they have really never been accorded that due recognition. The study and analysis of criminal phenomena particularly in developing societies/countries has been reduced to basically two approaches. One of these concentrates on the analysis of criminal offender. For this approach, crime is explained essentially in terms of physically identified features of the individual offender (Gyong, 1999).
The second approach concentrates on the circumstances outside the individual offender that precipitated the commission of the crime. This approach often points to the pattern of socialization, the socio-cultural process, the nature and extent of the distribution of political power, the type of development strategy adopted by a polity, etc. Consequently, on the basis of these two approaches, whenever there is a crime problem, intellectuals and policy makers are quick to ask of what can be done to the criminals and/or the circumstantial events that precipitated such criminality. Very few ever ponder over what can be done about the victim and/or his/her circumstances.
However, the total neglect of the victim of crime in either the study or understanding of crime is historical. Historically the trend that has characterized the development of criminology has been nurtured on a faulty foundation. Such a foundation has been characterized by a uni-dimensional approach to the handling of criminal phenomenon. This has manifested clearly in the development of criminological theories (Goldstein, 1994).
Starting from demo-logical explanation down through the Bio-Psychological to the socio-cultural forces that produce the individual offender or the situation of crime, and to the radical or even the Marxist perspectives, one common theme characterize them all: these explanation concentrate on the analysis of the individual offender and/or the forces that motivated his/her action (McDonald, 1995).
This historical anomaly reverberates most of the present day research efforts in criminology. After all, theories serve important guides in empirical research. But research efforts into crime and criminality have relegated the victim to the background. According to the United States President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, “one of the neglected subjects in the study of crime is its victim” (Marek, 2004). Odekunle (2007) reiterated this fact and further noted that governmental interests and efforts in criminology usually precede or forerun those in victimology.
The points being made is that most research efforts in the area of criminology have consistently sees the victim as playing a distinctively passive role. Yet, the victim and criminal are the parties in any crime. In other words, in realistic term, an understanding of crime and criminals cannot be said to be complete without due consideration being given to both the criminals and the victims.
The passive role accorded to the victim in the study and understanding of criminal phenomenon is further reinforced by the Criminal Justice System. A remarkable consensus of opinion demonstrates that contemporary justice administration both in the developed and developing worlds “are doing bad with crime victim” (Marek, 1984).
Right from the gate-way of the criminal justice system—the police through the courts and thereafter, the victim is subjected to a near-total neglect. The victim is shouldered with the task of playing a distinctively secondary role of mainly reporting crime. While police is required by law to treat the accused as innocent until proved guilty beyond all “reasonable” doubt by a court of law, these legal rights are denied the victim. The victim is completely at the merciful discretion of the law enforcement agents. In cases where the police decide not to effect an arrest, and prosecute or even to allow the offender to “plea bargain”, the victim’s rights to legal recourse are limited (Siegel, 1992).
Victims are required by law to serve as principal witnesses in courts. In fact, in some jurisdictions (Golsdstain, 1984), the victim is told that crime is an offence against the state and therefore, it is the business of the state to prosecute the offender on behalf of the victim.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The curiosity of the researcher in carrying out this study on the assessment on the crime victim status in Nigeria arouse from the general considerations that crime handling upon reportage determines the status of victim. Usually, the focus has mainly and always been on criminal and crime, none on victim. So, the forgotten man happens to be the “victim” for whose plight remedy we have the whole system. It is also worthy to note that still in some jurisdictions, notably in Nigeria, while the victim of crime is still suffering the effects of personal injuries, loss of property or both, the victim is legally bound to attend court sittings at his/her own expense. If, and when, the offender is convicted and sentenced accordingly, the victim does not benefit directly from either. In fact, by this development, the victim has lost two-fold; one in favour of the offender, and two, in favour of the state. Premised on these facts, the research is analytically assessing the concept of victim of crime.
In Nigeria where the criminal justice system is not at world class level, things are still very difficult for crime victims. They are frustrated by the police through the courts and thereafter, the victim is subjected to near-total neglect. The victim is shouldered with the task of playing a distinctively secondary role of mainly reporting crime. While police is required by law to treat the accused as innocent until proved guilty beyond all “reasonable” doubt by a court of law, these legal rights are denied the victim. The victim is completely at the merciful discretion of the law enforcement agents. In cases where the police decide not to execute an arrest, and prosecute or even to allow the offender to “plea bargain”, the victim’s rights to legal recourse are limited. It is on this note that the researcher decided to provide an assessment on the crime victim status in Nigeria through this study.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The following are the objectives of this study:
- To assess the crime victim status in Nigeria.
- To examine the effects of crime on its victim.
- To analyze the proper compensatory framework for victims of crime.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- What is the status of crime victim in Nigeria?
- What are the effects of crime on its victim?
- What is the proper compensatory framework for victims of crime?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS
HO1: The status of crime victim in Nigeria is significantly low
HA1: The status of crime victim in Nigeria is significantly high
HO2: There is no significant effect of crime on its victims
HA2: There is significant effect of crime on its victims
HO3: There is no proper compensatory framework for victims of crime in Nigeria
HA3: There is proper compensatory framework for victims of crime in Nigeria
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The following are the significance of this study:
- Findings from this study will be useful for the general public in understanding the concept of the victim of crime. It will also educate on the effects of crime on its victim with the presentation of adequate compensatory framework for victims of crime.
- This research will be a contribution to the body of literature in the area of the analytical assessment on the concept of victim of crime, thereby constituting the empirical literature for future research in the subject area.
1.7 SCOPE/LIMITATIONS OF THE STUDY
This study will cover in details the concept of victims of crime.
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