• Jail or rehabilitation, the bottom line is crime does not pay
Rehabilitation or prosecution (and eventual jail, if guilt is returned), the point must be made: cyber-crime is abhorrent, and every decent society must frown at it, and reserve its right to mete out stiff punishment to offenders.
If rehabilitation does not vitiate that stern message, then the EFCC’s new agenda would be welcome. But rehabilitation must not be interpreted, nonetheless by the Yahoo-Yahoo boys themselves, as though the state is getting soft on that aspect of the crime. Should that interpretation come, the society is sunk?
That is why the EFCC, in implementing this new approach, must strike the right balances to ensure this reform, of the approach to law, does not turn a deform of the society’s moral fiber.
Still, the two principles propelling this new approach is both welcoming and alarming.
From the EFCC’s explanation, exploring rehabilitation, over prosecution and jail, is recourse to that good, old adage: prevention is better than cure. You could even throw in another concept: that of hating the crime but loving the criminal.
Loving the criminal but hating his crime entails that the person involved is only human; and that if he can do crime — and time — he can also, with the right approaches, be weaned of crime. That means though crime is to be condemned and punished, a criminal who has served his term need not remain a criminal forever. Everyone, after all, deserves a second chance.
This thinking is behind the relatively new approach of regarding prison less as punishment, more as the correction. Incidentally, the EFCC new thinking is coinciding with the Nigerian Prison Service changing its name to Nigerian Correctional Services. We hope both are not happenstance; and are fired by the common philosophy that the Nigerian state won’t give up on even criminals until they are reformed.
But even better than reform after the crime, “prevention is better than cure” averts crime ab initio, by ensuring proper and decent behavior. That is why the EFCC proposal to go
work closely with universities and other tertiary institutions, to ensure less and fewer undergraduates travel that criminal route, is welcome.
The question though is if prevention, at that stage, is not already too late, since these youths would appear to have imbibed the bad habit; and also developed friends and peers that reinforce the bad habit, of wealth without a sweat.
Inasmuch as the EFCC should not be discouraged from its new approach, it will perhaps achieve more if it does a more basic family enlightenment drive, maybe in concert with the rather comatose National Orientation Agency (NOA). That way, it targets the home and the virtual cradle.
That brings the matter to the alarming aspect of EFCC’s revelation — its claim that most of the cybercrime suspects it has arrested (and been arresting) are undergraduates. That really must trigger some alarm — except if that statement was a careless hyperbole, to underscore the unacceptably high number of undergraduates involved in cybercrimes!
Undergraduates as leading cybercriminals — how did we get to that terrible pass? By its Nigerian evolution, universities were not only beacons of hope (for the socially humble to climb up the social ladder, by a dint of intellect and scholarship), it was also a peer leveler, as youths from every background: rich or poor, high or low; products of expensive private schools or those from cheap public schools, find themselves as peers studying under a common atmosphere.
In such a setting, crime would be an anathema, as everyone is focused on a brighter future, dependent on how they push their young minds, during their university days. What then has changed? Is the situation now then so hopeless that even undergraduates now see a better future in cybercrime, and not the sweat of their brow?
That is the grim question that came from EFCC’s communication. The governments, federal and state, would do well to pay special attention to this new plague.
That pushes the argument back to the very beginning: rehabilitation, in lieu of jail, is a wonderful idea; but only if it doesn’t give the wrong impression of justification or abdication.