Photograph — Business Insider/Omar Faruk

In a no holds barred, call-to-action opinion piece, civil rights activist and strategist, Charles Ibekwe, writes about the open way in which crimes and criminals in Nigeria are being encouraged when they receive the exact opposite of what they deserve – a ‘national reward.’ The crimes Ibekwe focuses on in his article are the ever unpopular militancy and terrorism which have steadily caused a great deal of damage to the Nigerian economy.

Ibekwe’s central argument is that the five-year amnesty initiative introduced by the late President Umar Yar’adua’s administration to ensure that unwilling criminals have a chance at socioeconomic rehabilitation has promoted a feeling of entitlement amongst conscious and willing criminals. His observation states that this latter set of criminals, primarily the Niger Delta Avengers and Boko Haram – and in fact, corrupt Nigerian leaders – take advantage of the fact that the amnesty programme exists, along with the support of corrupt Nigerian officials, to continue to lead a life of crime without consequences.

According to Ibekwe, the Rational Choice Theory (RCT) of crime suggests that often, group or individuals consciously make the decision to exhibit criminal behaviour as a means to get quicker and unmerited financial rewards. Therefore, if Nigeria continues to give in to the threats and irrational demands of these aforementioned economic terrorists, under the guise of handing them their ‘rightful inheritances’ or providing room for negotiating amnesty terms when all else fails, then the economy will continue to deteriorate.

But why do these socioeconomic criminals continue to thrive? By itself, the amnesty programme has proven to be a beneficial initiative for certain individuals in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, with “ex-militants” receiving allowances from the Federal Government and enjoying the provision of skill acquisition and entrepreneurial training to make them self-reliant.

However, it appears that others, with the apparent backing of top politicians, take the opportunity to threaten the peace and security of the country after they have been refused particular sensitive demands, such as the unconditional release of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, and former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki. And clear connections exist to prove that this other, more vocal set of could-be amnesty receivers operate under the sponsorship of powerful Nigerians.

Although the amnesty programme has been extended until 2017 by President Muhammadu Buhari because of its positive benefits, the criteria apparently need to be reevaluated and thoroughly clarified to protect the interests of the ‘right people.’ The suggestion of Senator Bassey Akpan, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Gas clearly exemplifies why this needs to be done.

On Monday, the senator proposed a “special amnesty” for the individuals alleged to have looted Nigerian Federal Government funds in order to allow them bring back the money to invest in the country’s economic growth. His intentions are certainly noble, but the method advised is probably not.

Stealing from the government is a crime and should be treated as such to the very end, particularly when there is no strand of justification whatsoever for why the individuals involved resorted to the selfish act. Certainly, their actions were not done in response to a premonition about the current state of the Nigerian economy and how they can emerge the heroes in such an event.

Nigeria needs to address the collective notion that we need to make provisions to reward certain hell-bent criminals so as to deter them from committing crimes against the state. Criminals need to know, first, that their actions have consequences, before thinking of the possible options available to rehabilitate themselves. Judging by Mr. Ibekwe’s analysis, the more we create an enabling environment by subconsciously encouraging their actions, the longer it will take to raise a generation of Nigerians that will be ‘fantastically incorruptible.’

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