This chapter looks at the phenomenon of armed banditry, as well as the socioeconomic ramifications for the offenders and victims. The goals of this study are to determine the impact of armed banditry; identify and evaluate the various efforts made by individuals, communities, and government law enforcement agencies to address the threat; and determine the socio-demographic characteristics of identified perpetrators and known victims of armed banditry in these border communities.
The researchers did a complete examination of relevant theories that have the ability to explain the research issue in order to build suitable model(s) that might successfully handle the problem of armed banditry and its attendant repercussions on the communities of Niger State.
In order to establish suitable model(s) that could effectively address the problem of armed banditry and its attendant implications on the communities of Niger State, the researchers conducted a comprehensive assessment of relevant theories that have the ability to explain the research topic.


Applying a generalized theory on armed banditry will have attendant difficulties due to the conspicuous literary barrenness on the subject, particularly the paucity of academic analysis of its nature and regional implication. This problem may however be explained in part by the limitation of empirical investigation due to the insecurity experienced by field researchers which arises as a result of the hostility that will be experienced in a bandit’s environment, where it is physically dangerous to be a stranger.

In contemporary Nigeria, violent crimes such as armed banditry, its growth and advancement over time, is yet to be given appreciable academic attention. Therefore, in trying to understand the crime of armed banditry, we must appreciate that we are living in a fluid and dynamic society consisting of individuals with a sharply different structure of sentiments and collective feelings (Otu, 2003:4).

Crime is a problem largely because of the accompanying negative consequences that the victim experience, and that one of the major preoccupations of criminology over the years has been, to conceptually and empirically establish the forces that dictate the interaction between the victim and the victimizer (Gyong, 1994). Gyong further stated that the theoretical model that accounts for the nature and character of crime should also suffice for the nature and character of the consequences of victimization. Maguire (1997) also observed that what could be regarded as a crime specific study should take a particular type of crime, the circumstances under which it is committed, the motives and behavior of those committing it, and the experiences and impact of such victimization on its victims.

A number of theorists have tried to explain criminal behavior that appears to be heavily concentrated in the lower class social groups, and several theorists have based their explanation on the concept of anomie originally described by Emile Durkheim in the 19thcentury.Following on the work of Emile Durkheim, strain theory have been advanced by Robert K. Merton 1957; Albert K. Cohen 1955; Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin 1960; and Robert Agnew 1992.

Robert K. Merton, an American sociologist, adopted the broad concept of anomie and used it as a means of new theorizing. Jones (1998:141) however notes that in trying to understand the concept of anomie, it is important to appreciate the different settings in which Durkheim and Merton were writing. That, although both lived in the midst of considerable social inequality, Durkheim lived in a Europe still under the influence of the aristocracy and the privileged, while Merton on the other hand, lived in the midst of “The American Dream” where it was believed that hard work could bring countless rewards, and where it is possible to aspire to become President.

For Durkheim, a situation of anomie arose only when weak social regulation was unable to restrain people’s aspirations during economic turmoil, while for Merton, it resulted from the lack of a structured and legitimate means for most people in the society to attain what is indiscriminately held out to all as the ultimate goal – material wealth. However, not everyone will be able to attain such wealth but, everyone is expected to try, or risk being called lazy or unambitious.

Merton developed the structural strain theory as an extension of the functionalist perspective on deviance. According to Jones (1998:136)

The essence of functionalism is that there is a consensus of core values within a society which corresponds to the needs of its members, and it is the task of institutions such as the family and school to socialize individuals to conform to those values. And it becomes the concern of sociologists to explain why some people violate these commonly held values.

Jones (1998:137) further argues that, each type of society would be characterized by a particular form of collective consciousness. That is, the set of beliefs which is common to the whole society and acts as a powerful force in shaping the way it behaves. In a mechanical society, this will take the form of strict conformity and uniformity of culture. On the other hand, in an organic society, the members are associated through structural interdependence rather than shared life experience. Jones further notes that, Durkheim considered that all societies are at a stage between being mechanical or organic; no society is entirely one or the other.

Just as matter reacts to external stimuli, so man reacts to forces external to his being. Social and natural behavior is therefore determined and can be explained in terms of cause and effect relationship. Members of society are therefore directed by collective beliefs, values and laws, and by social facts. Collective ways of acting or thinking have a reality outside the individual and social facts such as armed banditry therefore constrains the individual to behave in a particular way.

Katkin et al (1976) argued that, in tradition-bound societies everyone knows what is expected of him, and people tend to suffer hardship without protest. However, in modern industrial societies, progress tends to destroy tradition, and the rules of acceptable behavior change from generation to generation. Individuals feel that their horizon is limitless, and with limitless ambition, the prospects for dissatisfaction, disillusionment, and frustration become greater. The implication of the breakdown of the moral fabric of society therefore may be that, there would be a loss or inadequate means of social control, and the rules of acceptable behavior also changes. Though everyone knows what is expected of him, people tend to protest and consequently, the level of dissatisfaction, disillusionment, and frustration increases.

Merton’s Strain theory traces the origins of deviance to the tensions caused by the gap between cultural goals and the means people have available to achieve those goals. Feldman (1993:219) cites Box (1971:105) as noting that Merton (1957) conceives of anomie as:

A disjunction between the cultural goals of success and the opportunity structure by which this goal might be achieved. Since the lower strata were discriminated against in educational and occupational market places, this was the group least likely to realize the American dream …….. No wonder that from these strata so many pursued deviant activities; only such activities offered an available route to success.

The implication here is that in a well-integrated society, people use accepted and appropriate means to achieve the goals that society establishes. In this case, the goals and the means of the society are in balance. This imbalance between cultural goals and structurally available means can actually lead an individual into deviant behavior. In other words, if legitimate desires cannot be achieved or satisfied by socially accepted behavior, this forces the lower class persons into delinquency.

In the United States, economic success is a goal that everybody strives for. The legitimate means to economic success are seen to be education and jobs.Since the legitimate means for achieving material success are not uniformly distributed, which implies that, those from wealthier backgrounds usually have considerably more access to legitimate means than do those who are economically disadvantaged, the consequence is strain, which generates and produces certain ‘modes of adaptation’. Simply put, it produces coping strategies, which the disadvantaged use to deal with pressures that are brought to bear on them.

Strain theory states that strain may either be:

Structural: this refers to the processes at the societal level which filter down and affect how the individual perceives his or her needs. That is, if particular structures are inherently inadequate or there is inadequate regulation, this may change the individual’s perceptions as to means and opportunities; or
Individual: this refers to the frictions and pains experienced by an individual as he or she looks for ways to satisfy his or her needs, i.e. if the goals of society become significant to an individual, actually achieving them may become more important than the means adopted.

Crime and delinquency have been explained as reactions or modes of adaptation to strain or frustration caused by a dislocation between the culturally prescribed goals and institutionalized means for the realization of such goals. According to Merton (1957) in Wolfgang et al, (1970) some social structures exert a definite pressure upon certain persons in the society to engage in nonconformist rather than conformist conduct. One such pressure is that, the social structure determines the nature of aspiration of its citizens. The society prescribed goals that its citizens should aspire to.

Alemika and Chukwuma (2001:17) noted that, the institutionalized means for realizing these goals and aspirations are restricted by distribution of talents and opportunities, and by structural inhibitions. Furthermore, cultural goals are emphasized without corresponding opportunities on the means of attaining ends. Deviance therefore results from the disparity of society placing undue emphasis on realization of material aspirations and at the same time not adequately providing approved means for the achievement of these goals.

This anomaly cannot however be said to directly lead to deviant behavior, rather, it creates avenues for individuals to evolve alternative modes to pursue those goals. According to Merton (1957) in Wolfgang et al(1970) the pressure experienced by those who are excluded from the institutionalized means for realizing cultural goals can lead those individuals to adapt five modes of adaptations. These according to Merton are: Conformity ++, Innovation + -, Ritualism – +, Retreatism – -, and Rebellion ++. Merton further notes that, it is the innovation, retreatism and rebellion modes of adaptation that represents deviant ways that may involve crime and delinquency.

These adaptations are accounts of how people may react under strain. The different reactions are also not mutually exclusive. The relationship between these alternative responses and other phases of the social structure must also be prefaced by the observation that persons may shift from one alternative to the other as they engage in different social activities, and these categories refer mainly to role adjustments in specific situations. The question then is which available means is most efficient in attaining the socially approved values?

Jones (1998:142) notes that, “the particular form of reaction will depend on the strength of the individual’s commitment to the challenge and the availability of

Institutionalized means to pursue it. The institutionalized means are based on the ‘protestant ethic’ of hard work, education, honesty and deferred gratification with the antithesis involving ‘gets rich quick’ notions, including fraud or force.”

Strain theory therefore assumes that:

The poor often feel the effects of crime more severely than others, as they lack the resources – both financial and otherwise – to deal with their losses or harm.
Most crime is committed by the lower class, as they are subject to the greatest strain.
When job opportunities dry up, the resultant strain may lead to crime and the use of violence is seen as a measure of last resort.
The fundamental cause of crime is the feeling of relative deprivation and that the residents of deprived areas face a different reality every day, with their lives blighted by violent crimes.

Lynch (2008) notes that, studies concerning the influence of economic factors on criminal behavior have attempted to link economic deprivation to increased motivation to commit crimes, especially property crimes. Such studies assume that when economic conditions worsen, more people experience deprivation an turn to crime to reduce that deprivation.

Lea and Young (1984) also argued that relative deprivation, a conflict between socially diffused goals and needs and the restricted availability of the legitimate means for their achievement would likely be resolved by a turn to criminality among those groups additionally marginalized from participation in the political process of modern industrial societies.

It is noteworthy that, relative deprivation in itself is not, by itself, a sufficient explanation of why people turn to crime as not everyone who can be seen to be relatively deprived turns to crime. Secondly, relative deprivation may be a significant factor in explaining various forms of economic crimes (such as theft, robbery, armed banditry, etc.), but wholly inadequate in explaining why people murder each other or commit acts of sexual crimes among others.

The implication of the strain theory is that, crime can be prevented or reduced if there is a concordance between cultural goals and institutionalized means for their attainment, and that crime and delinquency will increase whenever there is a dislocation between the means and goals.

The theory has been criticized on the basis that:

Although it could explain crimes such as fraud and theft on the basis of innovation, it is unable to explain youth crimes that are often engaged in for social status rather than material acquisition.
It assumes that there is a consensus in society and that everyone is pursuing the ultimate goal of material wealth.
Strain theory fails to adequately address issues such as race and gender.
Strain theory is unable to explain the phenomena of white-collar crime.

This study adopted the Strain theory propounded by Robert Merton (1957) to explain the problem of armed banditry in border communities of Adamawa state because the Nigerian state is experiencing overwhelming emphasis on monetary and material wealth and those who fail to meet these aspirations and goals experience tremendous pressure and subsequently evolve other means of attaining their aspirations. The incidents of armed banditry in the border communities of Adamawa state could therefore be explained by the disconnection between culturally prescribed goals and institutionally accepted means for attaining those goals.

Secondly, the border communities have for long been deprived of socio-economic development leading to lack of social and economic privileges. These communities lack good roads, electricity, good schools and there are also very few employment opportunities for their teaming youths. Armed bandits from the neighboring countries may exploit the inability of youths of the border communities to achieve their aspirations through the institutionalized means to commit acts of armed banditry by collaborating with such youths who know the terrain very well. A high correlation therefore exists between unemployment and crime, and the structural strain theory helps to explain this relationship.

The activities of armed bandits who are suspected to be remnants of rebel soldiers from Chad, Niger or Cameroon may be explained by Merton’s Strain theory since it is believed that when job opportunities dry up, the resultant strain may lead to crime, especially in a post war era. The armed bandits suspected to be from neighboring countries who were engaged in the various internecine wars that have come to an end have no option than to use their training and weapons to earn a living, thus engaging in acts of armed banditry. While it is true that not everyone who is unable to utilize legitimate means to attain legitimate ends will engage in acts of armed banditry, it is also true that most people will, given the availability of arms at their disposal coupled with poverty and mass unemployment, particularly among the youths.

The theoretical conclusion therefore is that, the incidence of armed banditry in the border communities of Adamawa State are driven by the general lack of socio-economic and political opportunities. Consequently, armed banditry will continue to thrive, and bandits who have acquired arms to prosecute their acts would never stop as long as that sense of alienation, injustice, deprivation and oppression continues.

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  • This topic contains:
  • Chapter 1-5
  • Abstract
  • References
  • Appendix/If applicable