Trend Analysis of Poverty And Urban Crime in Nigeria since 1999


This paper analyzes the impact of poverty on social crime in urban areas in Nigeria. It attempts to link the spread of urban crime to three important variables. These are bad governance, poverty, and inequality. The choice of Nigeria as the case study is informed by several considerations.  The  first  and  the  most  important  is  that  it  has  been  always  assumed  that democracy  promotes  good  governance  and  social  equality;  the  two  components  that  are necessary for addressing urban crime. Nigeria’s failure in this regard provides an interesting lesson through which the phenomenon of urban crime can be studied, its causes analyzed, and its effects revealed. The period covered is between 1999 when democracy was restored to the present. In the final analysis it is shown that bad governance, poverty, and social inequality are responsible for the spread of urban crime in the country over the last twelve years.


Keywords: Nigeria, Poverty, Crime, Inequality, Bad Governance, Democracy, Violence.


Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999 brought a number of expectations among the people (Maier,

2000). Years of military rule, political instability, policy reversals, weak economic growth, and endemic corruption have entrenched within the country alarming levels of poverty, inequality, and alienation among  vast  majority  of  its  citizens.  The  return  of democratic  rule  in  the  country,  quite  naturally, generated   euphoria   and   great   expectations,   especially   among   those   who   felt   alienated   and disenfranchised. Looking at how many countries that were democratic were doing in terms of economic development, one would understand why millions of Nigerians had pinned their hopes for development and justice on democracy. Democracy, it is generally agreed, promotes stability and accountability in the political system (Yagboayaju, 2011). These two elements have been universally recognized as indispensable to economic development and by extension elimination of poverty and inequality in the political system (Ringen, 2004; Dellapiane-Avellaneda, 2009). Looking back twelve years after democratization in Nigeria, one would be tempted to wonder whether those expectations were after all misplaced.  For indeed, twelve years into democratic rule, economic growth continue to be stunted, distribution of wealth remained uneven, and political stability elusive. In simple language, in the last twelve years, the levels of poverty, unemployment, and inequality have steadily increased especially in the urban areas (Ucha, 2010).


        Parallel to this development is the corresponding explosion in crime, especially its urban variant, which include prostitution, drug peddling, armed robbery, kidnappings, human trafficking, militancy, thuggery, hooliganism, youth violence, and even terrorism. While many of these social problems have been very much part of the Nigeria’s socio political landscape, two important observations are in order at this  point.  The  first  observation  is that  some of  these  problems  such  as  human  trafficking  and kidnappings  are recent  developments.  The  second  observation  to  be  made  here  is that  even  those problems that have for long been part of Nigeria’s urban landscape such as prostitution, drug peddling and armed robbery; their intensity has multiplied many folds since 1999 when Nigeria democratized. What are the possible explanations for the rise of urban crime in Nigeria; what are the factors and or conditions that facilitate the rising level of urban crime in Nigerian cities?

Bula Hannah Orwar