Kidnappings in Nigeria as a class act: Implications for the criminal justice system

Author: Dr Akinola Akintayo
Lecturer and researcher in the Department of Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Nigeria

Nigeria is a country steeped in inequality. Reports indicate that a minimum of 86 of the 140 or so million Nigerians live in extreme poverty. The country’s richest individuals are also said to earn 8,000 times each day what their poor counterparts spends on basic necessaries in a year. To further underscore the severe level of inequality, studies also indicate that the combined wealth of the top five richest Nigerians can end extreme poverty in the country. That is how bad the income and wealth gap in Nigeria is.

However, this kind of inequality underpinned by exploitative and oppressive capitalist mode of production tends to weaken what some scholars have referred to as the ‘social instinct’ and breeds discontent, opposition and conflicts between society’s classes. In this kind of clime, the less privileged and deprived members of the society may well feel entitled, either within or without the law, to demand what they considered their own fair share of the commonwealth from the more opulent part of the society. The main purpose of this short piece is to interrogate emerging evidence which suggests that recent dimensions of kidnappings in Nigeria is a class act where the deprived class may be demanding what they perceived as their fair share from the more opulent class and examine the omens that this bids for the criminal justice system.

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The tragic dialectic between happiness and apartheid

saul_lealAuthor: Saul Leal
Vice-Chancellor Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for International and Comparative Law in Africa (ICLA)

Some political speeches announce tragedies. In South Africa, the tragedy was announced during a radio broadcast on 17 March 1961, when the people heard the following statement: “The policy of separate development is designed for happiness, security, and stability (…) for the Bantu as well as the whites”. It was the first phrase proclaimed by the Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, Hendrik Verwoerd, in his Address to the Nation. The policy of separate development would prove to be a scandalous euphemism. Verwoerd continued to promise that “we shall provide all our races with happiness and prosperity”.[1] Verwoerd would become known as “the architect of apartheid”.

The South African Governor-General was Supreme Chief in the Transvaal up until 1956. At that time, Cape Africans were considered too advanced to be treated as an underclass. Elizabeth Landis, an American expert on Southern Africa affairs, explains that the government had to change this consideration, with the explanation that ‘if we want to bring peace and happiness to the Native population (…) then we cannot do otherwise than to apply this principle which has worked so effectively in the other three provinces, to the Native population of the Cape as well (…)”.[2] Happiness therefore becomes a scapegoat.

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Of stereotypes and the ‘unsound mind’ clauses

Patricia_MwanyisaAuthor: Patricia Mwanyisa
Human Rights, Justice and Rule of Law Programme Officer, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA)

Recently, during my studies I delved into the concept of stereotypes and their effects, albeit from a gender perspective. This academic encounter has become an important one to both my personal and professional frames of reference. I have discovered that my prior use and appreciation of the term stereotype was presumptuous, without depth and assumed familiarity. I had nonchalantly used the term often, in writing and conversation without fully appreciating the intricacies of this concept.

Quite worrying one might say, coming from a professional working on human rights, justice and equality issues – but I believe that my nonchalance is common among many of us. We tend to have a general over familiarisation with issues that form part of the realm in which we work and operate without necessarily appreciating the rudimentary theories underpinning particular terms or concepts.

So I think I deserve some credit for acknowledging my deficiency, and urge that we do not rush to deem as catastrophic such inadequacies in all circumstances because it is impossible to know everything about everything, even in your most familiar of territory. To be expected to know and fully understand each and every detail about a subject is a naïve expectation on the part of peers and an arrogant unintelligent assertion on the part of any such declarants. The universally renowned great mind Michelangelo, is remembered for his famous quote “ancora imparo” reportedly made at the age of 87 which means ‘I am still learning’ – well, so am I. So I ask for your indulgence as I share some of my learning on how stereotypes perpetuate inequality and marginalisation – you might just also learn that we all are still learning and need to keep learning.

I have learnt that stereotypes are a component of stigma. They assign negative attributes to socially salient differences forming what social identity theorists call in-group and out-group categorisation. People tend to stereotype as a means of screening people into either the in-group (us) or out-group (them) which in eventuality determines whether a group is accepted or rejected.

This categorisation (stereotyping) of other(s), provides people with a feeling of comfort and confidence based on what they are accustomed to, for predictability and personal security’s sake. Whilst it may be argued in some quarters that categorisation is useful in, for example, target marketing or planning of community and development projects among other mass planning purposes; unfortunately the cumulative effects of general categorisation and consequent stereotyping in most circumstances reinforce and perpetuate inequality.

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Tanzania’s proposed new constitution and the fate of social and economic rights

daniel_marariAuthor: Daniel Marari
LLM, International Human Rights Law, Lund University, Sweden

The United Republic of Tanzania is currently in the process of enacting a new constitution. In the text of the final draft of the proposed constitution (http://sheria.go.tz/index.php?option=com_docman&task=cat_view&gid=44&Itemid=68) currently being deliberated by the constituent assembly, are interesting proposals to include important social and economic rights (ESR) as justiciable rights. But the specific content of rights and scope of obligations to be incorporated therein is a matter that is likely to be controversial. Indeed, judicial adjudication of ESR is a matter that is often still disputed or even entirely rejected in many national legal systems. Like many other domestic jurisdictions, Tanzania adopts the idealized distinction of human rights and the popular perception remains that, for lack of constitutional recognition, ESR are simply objectives and principles of state policy as opposed to legally enforceable rights. Nonetheless, socio-economic rights occupy a central place in the well-being of the human person and the international community has accordingly recognised a positive international legal framework imposing varied obligations to advance these rights.

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