Violent crimes such as murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and terrorism are the most inhumane crimes that continue to plague Nigeria. Lately, kidnappings for ransom and terrorism have taken the centre stage leading to bloodshed and economic set -backs. The causes are not farfetched as studies have associated rising youth unemployment to the increase in violent crimes. By using the deprivation theory proposed by Ted Gurr, this study has explored the proximate and ultimate causes involving the youths in violent crimes. If factors that create the feeling of deprivation and frustration created by unemployment are addressed, Nigeria‟s youths will not engage in violent crimes.
Keywords: Youth; unemployment; poverty; violence; crime
Creativity and high energy are the characteristics of young people in any nation and if the energy is channelled positively, it will greatly benefit not only the economic prosperity of nations but also enhance the moral values of the youth. When the same energy is used negatively, it will lead to social unrest and economic instability. Labour force of a country is used to measure unemployment and Feyisetan (1991) defines as a set of people or citizens of a country who are willing and are able to make available at any given point in time their efforts for gainful employment.
Therefore unemployment is a situation where people are willing to work but could not find employment. According to the International Labour Organization people who are without work but available for and seekin g work; including those who have lost jobs and those who have voluntarily left jobs (World Bank, 1998). On the other hand, violent crime is defined as a crime in which the offender uses or threatens to use violent force upon the victim. This entails violence including robbery with and without arms (Wikipedia, 2010).
Global unemployment remained stable at 8% between 2010 and 2011, according to Gallup surveys of 148 countries. Unemployment was highest in the Middle East and North Africa (22%) and sub-Saharan Africa 17% (Marlar, 2012). However, Nigeria‟s unemployment rate is above the sub-region‟s average that increased to 23.9% in 2011 compared with 21.1% in 2010 and 19.7% in 2009 (National Bureau of Statistics, 2012); and is projected to hit 25% by the end of 2012 (USA Embassy in Nigeria, 2012).
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (2009:238; 2010:2; 2012), the national unemployment rates for Nigeria between 2000 and 2011 showed that the number of unemployed persons constituted 31.1% in 2000 and it reduced to 11.9% in 2005 but again increased to 23.9% in 2011. Nigeria has a youth population of 80 million, representing 60% of the total population with a growth rate of 2.6% per year and the national demography suggests that the youth population remains vibrant with an average annual entrant to the labour force is 1.8m between 2006 and 2011. Yet, majority of the youth has been either unemployed or under -employed between 2006 and 2011. The overall unemployment rose from 12.3% of Labour force to 23.9% (Awogbenle and Iwuamadi, 2010). A surge in unemployment was witnessed in 2009 due to global/local economic meltdown. The World Bank estimates that 74 million people between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed, which accounts for 41% of all unemployed person s (UNHabitat, 2008).
From 1990-2000 youth unemployment data showed that the largest group of the unemployed were secondary school graduates. Also, 40% of unemployment rate were among urban youths aged 20 – 24 and 31% of the rate were among those aged 15-19. Two-thirds of the urban unemployed ranged from 15-24 years old. Moreover, the educated unemployed tended to be young males with few dependents (Okafor, 2011). In 2011, the situation became even more critical with 37.7% of Nigerians aged 15-24 and 22.4% of those between ages 25-44 were willing to work but did not get jobs. On average, youth unemployment rate in Nigeria is 46.5% in 2011 (BLG, 2012). As of 2009 when National Bureau of Statistics published unemployment rate at 19.7%, Issa Aremu the Deputy President of the National Labour Congress said, “Find out about the number of people who applied for the last recruitment by the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Customs Service.
When more than a hundred thousand people apply for just about 3000 vacancies, then you should know whether the figures are true” (Ekott, 2010). Unemployment appears to be the root cause o f violence in Nigeria. Research suggests that unemployed youths are disproportionately more likely to be perpetrators, as well as victims of crime and violence (Okafor, 2011). The growing gap between the rich and poor affects the society through increased violence. The self employed are in quandary as scant infrastructure makes it impossible for them to ply their trade (Okafor, 2011). This is exac erbated by political corruption, poverty, poor governance, increasing population, and lack of policy initiatives and implementation to some extent encouraged criminal groups to thrive across Nigeria. This paper examines how youth unemployment contributes to violent crimes across Nigeria.
Deprivation Theory of Ted Gurr
This classical theory explains why people engage in violence (riots, rebellion, coups, criminal activities etc.). It examines the psychological causes involving frustration and aggression as the primary source of human capacity for violence. Frustration is neither necessary nor sufficient ly leads to violence but greed may drive to violence. Frustration is a much stronger motivating force and prolonged frustration may cause greater probability for aggression. Relative deprivation is the discrepancy between what people think they deserve and what they actually think they can get (Gurr, 1970).
It is noteworthy that Gurr does not look to a more absolute or objective indicator of deprivation as the source of violence. People can get used to a bad state of affairs, even one that offers so little access to life-sustaining resources that members of the group are starving or dying of remediable diseases or exposure. However, if there is a significant d iscrepancy between what they think they deserve and what they think they will get, there is a likelihood of rebellion. Gurr posits this to be the case because there is a feeling that their expectation cannot be met if the current statuesque is maintained. The first situation may be a desperate one, but it is the se cond that will be frustrating. So frustration produces aggression at individual, group and societal levels.
This theory could be used to link rising number of unemployed youths and violent crimes in Nigeria. A country that produce thousands of university graduate every year without commensurate employment opportunities may be creating a fertile ground for a feeling of frustration among these unemployed graduates. Naturally, there is a feeling of joy and great expectations when a student graduates from a university- these expectations gradually fades away and is replaced by feeling of frustration after some years of joblessness caused by little opportunity the society offers the young graduate. As frustration prolongs and the feeling of deprivation of what that is expected increases, there is a greater probability that the individual or people can resort to illegitimate activities in order to actualise their expectations in the society.
The rise in violent crimes (robbery, kidnapping, thuggery, terrorism) committed by youths is a sign of „gap‟ in the society. The society already has expectations for individuals and established means of achieving them. When the means are limited as the youth unemployme nt is 46.5% in 2011, people are forced to achieve the goals through illegal means to fulfil societal expectations. Kidnappings are on the increase across Nigeria and the unemployed youths view the business lucrative.
They are available for recruitment by p oliticians. In the Northern part, they are recruited both by politicians and religious groups to be used in political, religious and terrorism acts. In the SW Nigeria, they find easy employment in petty criminal activities. The culture must at least accept , if not approve, violent action as a means to an end. This could be the reason why suicide bombing is exclusive to the Northern part of the country as violence is encouraged by some Islamic sects. Political violence is also likely if the current leadershi p and or the socio-economic and political system are seen as illegitimate.
Causes of Youth Unemployment in Nigeria
The level of unemployment is highly dependent on the overall status of the economy (Awogbenle and Iwuamadi, 2010). Despite its riches from o il economy, employment in Nigeria is actually falling. The years of corruption, civil war, military rule, and mismanagement have hindered economic growth. Nigeria is endowed with diverse and infinite resources, both human and material but years of neglige nce and adverse policies have led to the under-utilization of these resources. These resources have not been effectively utilized in order to yield maximum economic benefits. These are primary causes of unemployment; however s cholars have identified other causes of unemployment as well ( Adebayo, 1999; Alanana, 2003; Echebiri, 2005; Ayinde, 2008; Morphy, 2008; Awogbenle and Iwuamadi, 2010; and Anyadike et al, 2012) .
The first is population growth (140,431,790 as per 2006 census) and is projected to be over 1 80 million by 2020 if the annual growth rate of 3.2% continues (National Population Commission and ICF Macro, 2009). While the population increases, the number of industries growth is dwindling and if nothing serious is done, both population and unemployme nt will continue to rise. The second is outdated school curricula and lack of employable skills: Some scholars have argued that as far as the formal sector is concerned, the average Nigerian graduate is not employable therefore, does not possess the skill s needed by the employers (Anyadike et al, 2012). This is due to the curricula of most Nigerian schools that do not include entrepreneur skill acquisition to benefit job seekers.
The third is adoption of untimely economic policy measures that contributed to the demise of small scale and cottage industries operated in both formal and informal sectors. Following the introduction of Structural Adjustment Program in September 1986 that ushered in liberalization, deregulation and devaluation program of the domes tic currency, many of the teething domestic firms collapsed that resulted in serious job losses (Bello, 2003). The fourth is over emphasis on university certificates and neglect of skill acquisition trainings that contributes to youth unemployment. According to Manning and Junankar (1998), the total number of graduates produced in Nigeria was 73,339 in 1986/1987 that rose to 131,016 in 1996/1997. Over 97 universities occur in Nigeria with a demand for higher education while there is problem of unemployment. The reality is that the economy does not have the capacity to absorb all unemployed graduates because over 800 industries and 37 factories were closed down in 2009 alone (Anyadike et al, 2012).
Nigeria’s Unemployment and Crimes
Security is a contextual issue which no state in the international system consigns to the periphery; it is a core-value that makes the state relevant in the international system (Ndifon, et al. 2012). Death rate attributable to violence in Africa is estimated at 60.9 per 100,000 p eople more than twice the global rate (WHO 2004a). Crime and violence have been increasing in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa among unemployed young people. The causes are not farfetched as studies have associated rising youth unemployment to increase of violent crime in Nigeria. The accelerating level of prostitution, armed robbery, rape, terrorism and all facets of violence can be largely attributed to the incidence of unemployment. Growth has not been in line with the aspirations of the people and has not been driven by higher productivity. The public perception is that there has been little job creation. Many young people who fail to gain employment have become a burden to the employed that bear the responsibility of meeting the needs of millions of educated but increasing frustrated group, a wasting generation.
The problem of violent crimes in Nigeria has been exacerbated by the high rate of unemployment and economic hardship which has pushed many jobless youths some of whom are graduates into various deadly crimes (Edward, 2011). A 2009 World Bank report on ‘Employment and Growth’, warned that, “The share of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 outside the labour force is growing, despite the country’s strong growth performance over the years”. Mass sacking in the Central Bank of Nigeria affected 7,500 banking jobs (Allafrica, 2010). The UN-Habitat study on crimes and violence stressed that socio -economic inequality and the lack of opportunities for social advancement and employment are some of th e root causes of crime and violence. Children and youth from disadvantaged families are vulnerable to fall prey to criminal networks. Of the estimated 1 billion people living in slums, over half are under the age of 25, and 40% are estimated to be under the age of 19.
They are the primary victims of social exclusion through unemployment, lack of access to health and education (UN -Habitat, 2008). Furthermore, an empirical survey of Children and Youth in Organized Armed Violence in Nigeria, reported that disenchantment and frustration of young people due to mass poverty and unemployment, has increased the number of aggrieved youths and resulted in the emergence of „area boys‟ and Almajiris who target the very society that alienated them (Ibrahim, 2006). The survey concluded that armed militant groups in Nigeria namely Bakassi Boys, O‟ odua Peoples Congress (OPC) and Egbesu Boys were made up of youths within 16 – 17 years (40%), 18 – 19 years (10%), 20 – 21 years (20%), and 20 – 23 years (20%). Approximately 60% of them were unemployed (Awogbenle and Iwuamadi, 2010).
Bennel (2000) argued that urban society is becoming increasingly criminalized, especially with the proliferation of youth gangs. Neither homes, nor markets are safe in Nigeria because of frequent o ccurrence of armed robbery incidents. Unemployment problem, which now seems beyond remedy, has produced army of idle hands and some of them have decided to punish the society that fails to provide them with means of livelihood and dignity by robbing its members of their property at gunpoint (Ideyi, 2005). The police cannot perform effectively because they are overstretched by the amount of cases that awaits them daily, and is worsened by outdated instruments they use that are no match to the modern sophisticated weapons used by the criminals. The Research Director of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), Dr Sope Wiliams Elegbe revealed that:
“The increasing poverty in Nigeria is accompanied by increasing unemployment. Unemployment is higher in the nort h than in the south. Mix this situation with radical Islam, which promises a better life for martyrs, and you can understand the growing violence in the north. Government statistics show that the northern states have the highest proportion of uneducated persons. If you link a lack of education and attendant lack of opportunities to a high male youth population, you can imagine that some areas are actually a breeding ground for terrorism” (Oxford Research Group, 2012). The Inspector General of Police, Muhammed Abubakar, has called on the three tiers of government to tackle unemployment in order to reduce crime rate in the country. He expressed concern at the rate youths were resorting to crime as an alternative means of survival due to unemployment:
“We have a lot of graduates and even those who have not attended any school who have nothing to do. It becomes worrisome, when you go round this country and you see the faces of unemployed persons. You begin to wonder that we just have to do what we have to do at the level of federal, state and local governments to begin to plan and put policies in place for the employment of these persons”. (Cruise news, 2012)
No nation can achieve growth in an atmosphere of violent crimes. The role of Nigeria‟s government must include the formulation of policies and laws that could help improve the economic and social wellbeing of its citizens and deter criminality. There is a need to increase jobs through small enterprises and poverty alleviation schemes. Economic gr owth in Nigeria is not the only solution to curb unemployment as the official statistics illustrate that previous unemployment did not decline economic growth. Other solutions such as the provision of right skills to youth should be given an importance. The study concludes that feeling of deprivation produce frustration and could be expressed through aggression. Therefore if factors that are responsible for youth unemployment in Nigeria are addressed, violent crimes will be reduced.
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