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Monday, 2 July, 2001, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
How serious is crime in Africa?
The Lagos police have been ordered to shoot armed robbers on sight if they refuse to surrender.

This is in response to extraordinary crime statistics showing that more than 270 Nigerians died at the hands of armed robbers over the last 10 months.

A Lagos police spokesman said that 12 Lagos policemen alone had been killed in cold blood over the past month. He claimed that armed robbers took joy in killing officers.

Just how serious is crime in Africa? Is shooting armed robbers the answer?

This Talking Point is now closed. Read your comments below.


I think that shooting armed robbers is wrong because it's not right to kill another human being. However, I've known of cases where armed robbers create hostage situations and even rape one's wife or daughter and can shoot anyone who tries to stop them. I know because it's happened before in my neighbourhood more than once. I've known of people getting killed when armed robbers strike so why should we succumb to such action? Don't we have a right to defend ourselves? Sure killing is wrong but what are we to do when armed robbers come to a house with intent to kill anyone who get in their way? It's clearly self-defence. I say shoot them if our lives are at stake because that's usually the case anyway. We've got the right to defend ourselves.
Sonkhani Sakala, Zambian student in England


The last thing that Africa needs is more guns being fired

James, Canada
The last thing that Africa needs is more guns being fired, for any reason. In Nigeria, as far as I know, armed robbery is punishable by death. This has resulted in many needless killings of victims because the criminals have every reason not to get caught, and no reason to leave any living witness. This extra step of shooting suspected armed robbers on sight will only lead to more innocent victims.
James, Canada

Armed robbers sign their own death warrants before a robbery. As a result shooting on sight is not a deterrent to them at all if anything it's a recipe for disaster as these guys will only arm themselves with more sophisticated armour. The most important issue will be to address the causative agent. Why do once law-abiding citizens suddenly become violent? Armed robberies are a relatively new thing to Africa and its a sign pointing to the intensity of economic hardships which are worse off than dying trying to rob someone or an institution violently. Currently Africa is a sick nation economically despite being awash with resources there is no hope for an ordinary person. Most politicians do not make the situation any better. The way some leaders get to power is just as good as robbing their people. Whoever has the gun rules in most African countries.
Rufaro Kaitano, South Africa

The reason why crime is getting the better of us in Africa today is because we are being pressurised by the western world to adopt western norms for dealing with criminals. The obsession with human rights is a case in point. What human rights could possibly be claimed by someone who breaks into another person's home in the dead of night, holds them at gun point and takes away all of their hard-earned belongings?

In Liberia, we have a saying that "Only Crazy Medicine can cure Crazy Sickness". In keeping with this axiom, the Liberian Government empowered the security forces to deal decisively with violent criminals. Thanks to that strategy, Liberia is today comparatively one of the safest places in Africa, although ours is a country recovering from one of the most savage civil wars. Nigeria and other Africa countries, would do well to ignore western norms of human rights and follow our lead in dealing with armed robbers.
Mike T. James, Liberia

Everybody has a right to there opinions. But I believe all those who think shooting armed robbers who RESIST arrest is unfair should come and live in Surulere, Lagos with there spouse and kids. I live in Surulere, Lagos and face the fear everyday. I have since sent my wife and daughter out of the country where I believe they will be safe and moved out of our home back to my parent's home which is next to a police station and gives some sense of security.

While still staying with my family we constantly faced armed raids in which neighbouring streets are held to ransom for as much as four hours from about 1am to 5am.People are killed, woman raped and properties you spent your life time acquiring carted away. I work for an American company which has spent thousands of dollars in training me but unfortunately I am looking at the possibilities of migrating to another country and take with me all the knowledge I would have used in developing my country.
Bolaji, Lagos,Nigeria

The real armed robbers are those in power who rob from the national treasury, the only difference here is that those in power have the "armed forces" to protect them. Go figure!
Nebro, Ethiopia

Not a good idea. Violent criminals would just get more violent, particularly if they see no means of escape.
William Robertson, South Africa

When a criminal points a weapon at people, he will be and should be shot on sight. Even in America, if you point a toy gun at police, can and will get you shot on sight. Criminals are criminals. All the talk about IMF, World Bank, respecting the criminals' lives are just rubbish talk from the crazies. Next time when you look down the barrel of an assault rifle pointing at you, tell the doped-up, drunken robber how much you love him and how much you value his life, and how much the IMF the World Bank and the society are to blame for what he is about to do to your face.
Amando, Congo

I believe armed robbery occurs when society fails to provide its citizens with the basic needs of life. It is not good to shoot on sight armed robbers. Try to arrest them and find out what their problems are so that as a government a solution can be found instead of killing good human resource.
Norman Cooper, Ghana

I can not believe that in the 21st century, we Africans are propagating state sponsored killings. The high crime rate is a result of a dysfunctional society and therefore should be addressed in a manner whereby the causes are clearly identified and a lasting solution be found. Unless the society tackles its problems at the root, every attempt of a cure is a waste of time and human life.
A. Selassie, Ethiopian, USA


If you make the life of an armed robber cheap then what respect will he have for yours?

Konkole, Zambia
I believe that armed robbery is the result of the World Bank and IMF policies that are forced down the throats of developing countries. I do not support or condone armed robbery, banditry or any other kind of criminal activity but the sources of these crimes need to be found and addressed. If you make the life of an armed robber cheap then what respect will the armed robber have for yours? I believe a vicious circle of bloodshed has now been started.
Konkole, Zambia

Obviously shooting or hanging armed robbers has not been successful in curbing arms-related crimes. And quite frankly, thou shall not kill! The meagre resources of developing countries should be utilised in determining and prosecuting the sponsors of armed gangs, the shadowy figures that create the gangs and supply logistics. But over all, good leadership at home, the community and government would make the difference.
Ademola O., Canada

I was in my country (Nigeria) recently, and can confirm that violent crime is a very serious problem indeed, and that life is very cheap. It is, however, also true that the real criminal gangs are those that were supposedly elected as the people's representatives. Reason: they are obviously more interested in looting the national treasury than in addressing the ROOT causes of this, and other problems within society. As for the idea of shooting at sight, it has to be remembered that this policy has always been in operation, and that it often results in the killing of completely innocent citizens by a largely ill-trained police force. Solutions: A better trained/ equipped police force, combined with a determined effort aimed at finding employment for the millions of young people who have literally become hopeless and desperate. However, knowing our "leaders" as I do, I would not bet on these being taken seriously.
UE, Nigeria/UK


Tackling crime with gun battles on the streets is primitive

Garth, Zimbabwe
I think that tackling crime with gun battles on the streets is primitive although it may be the only way to do it under the circumstances. However, a more effective but difficult way to do it is to condition the citizens to become law-abiding through enforcing the more mundane laws and maintaining a database of all criminal activity for use by the law-enforcing agencies. This way, the criminal class can be identified earlier on in their criminal careers and removed from society before their deeds can bring death and destruction to the society.
Garth, Zimbabwe

I fervently hold the view that armed robbers should be shot on sight. Their intention to rob and in most cases to kill their victim at the slightest resistance corroborate my view. Just for a few hours and sometimes few minutes, people stand to lose all their life-long possessions to greedy gangsters. This is more than killing the individual and the price has to be paid for by the robbers. In my view, the continuous killing of these people will go a long way in reducing their numbers and eventually eradicating them. African governments should not renege on their stance in creating peaceful atmosphere for their people. A brutal war should be waged against these criminals.
Peter Kenah, Sierra Leone

Shoot to kill in a democratic country sanctioned by the state is unheard of, unless the police commander in Lagos is living in the past. The rule of law has to prevail. As a lawyer by trade, I know you are innocent in the eyes of the law until proven guilty. The Nigerian police requires a lecture about justice in the newly acquired democratic institutions. Unless this is done, Africa is living in the past regimes of the Amins, and the like.
Osagyefo, Ghana


The best solution is to form local quasi-militias

Eric Rwiliriza, Rwanda
The issue with armed robbery, especially in the East African region, is the tacit involvement of economically disgruntled members of the armed services. Since the authorities have trouble 'funding' and upgrading these forces to combat crime, the best solution is to form local quasi-militias who operate in their neighbourhoods. The locals are well informed and quite willing to participate if given clandestine support. 'Los Pepes' successfully did it in Colombia against the Medellin cartel. In this case I am sure once these issues are resolved our 'sensitive' governments would have no trouble disarming them.
Eric Rwiliriza, Rwanda

Africa does not need to shoot people. If you are an African leader, speak to your people and explain the problem. Shooting not solve the problem.
Xasan Seeteye, Somaliland

Armed robbers are a menace to society and must not be spared when they get to grips with the law. The whole problem of increasing armed robbery in Africa is due to the fact the military governments are no more and the police who have been very ill-equipped during the period of military regimes are facing difficulties controlling crime. Fire arms and ammunitions should be surrendered to the police and they must also make the conscious effort to arrest any civilian found with firearms. Any armed robber who is found resisting arrest should be shot on the spot to send clear signals to prospective armed robbers. The police must be properly armed with very modern and sophisticated firearms so as to counter attack armed robbers in the course of their duties. The police are there to protect life and properties and once a robber is arrested, he must be excluded from society all means possible.
Sedinam Akepdonu, Ghana


This is the law of the jungle playing itself out

Phil, Nigeria
This is the law of the jungle playing itself out. The so-called leaders and politicians have plundered and looted from the people. Some of those people are now duplicating the actions of the leaders and politicians. The moment we start executing our leaders and politicians for plundering our economy you will see civility and sanity return.
Phil, Nigeria

Africans should wake up and realise that shooting armed robbers on sight is something barbaric. They should realise that there is something called miscarriage of justice and corrupt policemen would only exploit this order to carry out their own evil desires. Moreover, killing armed bandits without conviction is a violation of their fundamental human rights.
Babatunde, Nigerian in UK

Unfortunately, the reality of armed robbery is only best understood when one actually goes through it. The robbers come to a house, armed, and begin to shoot through doors and windows. When they enter the house they harass the occupants before taking their household goods. Sometimes the occupants are killed just for screaming for help! In some instances, wives are raped in full view of their husbands and children. By any standards this behaviour is worse than that of wild animals!

Lack of jobs, yes. But does it mean you need to steal another person's property as if he is the one who prevented you from getting a job? Shooting on sight is the only solution, the best way to teach robbers how to behave like humans and not like wild animals. I even wonder why some people seem to be more concerned about the rights of the robbers than those of the victim who works tirelessly to achieve the little that the barbaric robbers will take at will. I have no kind words for armed robbers. To me they don't deserve to live!
Chibamba Douty, Zambian student in Brunei Darussalam


It is the cry against the plunder and misuse of the resources in the continent

Walter Awinda, Kenya
Rampant violent robberies in across Africa is a symptom of economies that have gone wrong. It is the cry against the plunder and misuse of the resources in the continent. While "shoot armed robbers on sight" might sound like a solution, it is not. African leaders should spend energy and resources used to kill robbers on sight for the development of the economy.

This is not meant to deny the role of the police in containing such violent robberies. We can all agree that the poorer the country is, the more violent its robbers, and the more people are killed through violent robbery. A hungry man will risk his own life to make a living
Walter Awinda, Kenya

These robbers act because they have lost hope in the system. The more you shoot them, the more they get sophisticated at the job. So the solution to this is education and creation of jobs. There has been a mismanagement of the huge oil revenues which has led to anger as jobs are hard to get.
Bunduki, Kapweta, Southern Sudan

Travelling routinely within West Africa, I am struck by the effectiveness of summary execution as a method of crime control. Yes, of course it is barbaric. Yes, of course it results in the deaths of innocents. Yes, of course it does not solve the underlying problems of appalling leadership, appalling economics, appalling moral standards, etc. But yes also, it works, ask anyone who works or lives there! Desperate barbaric circumstances produce desperate barbaric people and acts, on all sides of the many social divides that exist in Africa.
David, UK

Shooting on sight won't work any more in Lagos than it does in LA. Just ask the LAPD...
Scott, USA

The government should create more jobs for its citizens. Equip and train the police to handle robberies and if necessary shot the ones that refuse to surrender.
Ambrose, Liberia in USA

I think that the problem first and foremost is the lack of employment. However, this is not the only problem as I see it. I imagine that the vast majority of these armed robbers are young people. I understand that they have no jobs and nothing to do and little money. Besides, even if they did have jobs, they are probably low paid jobs.

I don't know about the Nigerian police, but I imagine they are not particularly professional. One sometimes wonders in these situations, who is the criminal? The "police" or the young, bored and unemployed? Do the police regularly take bribes - like the Kenyan police? That said, and all things considered, I say shoot them. I seriously doubt whether the police are capable of getting to the scene of the crime or deterring these criminals in any other way.
Andrew Ahn, Kenyan, living in UK

What we need to delve deep into the root of the problem. Robbers shoot to defend themselves not from arrest but from what happens after arrest. Usually when arrested, robbers undergo unbearable torture at the hands of law enforcers, which culminates in lifetime disabilities and in most cases death. Thus in as far as we condemn criminals, there needs to be a change of attitude among the law enforcers. The law enforcers should respect human rights and no one should be labelled guilty until proved so in a court of law. In this way robbers will also change their tactics as they will be guaranteed that justice will prevail. In the end all humanity will rejoice, and every one will have their peace.
Job Kibii, Kenya

What is so strange about shooting an armed and dangerous robber who refuses to surrender? Most police officers in the U.S. and some European countries would do exactly the same thing when faced with this dilemma. In some cases the alleged "robber" is not even armed, but is shot at anyway for his defiance of their orders.
Efosa, USA

Whoever ordered this shooting on sight, I think he/she is not either a good leader or decision maker. It is a pity for me to see such a rich country harbouring robbers. For me it is rather a shame to the government rather than claiming to maintain order in the country. I think the Nigerian government, as well as other African governments, should instead create vast job opportunities to combat crimes. Shooting people who have lost any hope in living will never, never, never combat crimes, but creating jobs, budget for the jobless would combat the crimes.
Lukudu John Kengere, Sudan


It is not good to kill

Francis, Germany
It is not good to kill. The police officers should be trained well enough to deal with the robbers. And the community should bear part of the blame. We need not look away when personal liberties are being trampled. Killing on sight would be freedom to judge over life. Only God has this privilege.
Francis, Weimar, Germany

Serious situations such as the incessant harassment and killing by armed robbers in Nigeria requires drastic measures such as this. But in every initiative to rid the society of unwanted elements, there are bound to be innocent people who might get killed by over-zealous trigger-happy policemen/women. So in order to avoid making this fatal error, I propose this compromise, that the government create jobs for its citizenry, especially college/university graduates and also ensure that they are paid by the end of the month, as this will be an incentive to discourage armed robbery, as those that have the highest propensity to commit these crimes are the "jobless educated" who must find a means to survive, hence armed robbery.
Temple, USA/NIGERIA

I say bring back the firing squad to teach these criminals a lesson. The governor is not getting any help from the federal government. The police and military should be investigated because you will find out that a lot of these killings are connected to them.
Bukola, Nigeria


Get the bad boys, now, and clear the society of these rats!

Njuguna Mwangi, Kenyan in USA
There is much price to pay when one is confronted by an armed robber. The media in Kenya is centre-staged by the acts on a daily basis. But however much we would hate it, robbers, armed or not, should be stopped at any cost. They don't even wait to surrender, they hit to get away with their heinous acts. The way forward is to disarm the bad boys at the very opportune time, then deal with fate (justice) later. Many might argue against it, but if you're in the armed forces (or confronted by one bad guy), the first option is your life, because his is behind a gun. A bullet from a robber is meant to kill, not surrender. Get the bad boys, now, and clear the society of these rats!
Njuguna Mwangi, Kenyan in USA

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