By Osehobo Ofure Victor

These are terrifying times for Nigerians. Families are going through pain and suffering. Men, women and children are victims of assorted crimes happening across the country. From petty thievry and burglary to armed robbery, assault and battery to murder, female genital mutilation, incest, bestiality to domestic violence and rape. Its a long list. Kidnapping, assassinations, manslaughter and several others.

All the above mentioned crimes have over time created an army of victims across Nigeria. Some of these victims, even receive double the agony by the system which marginally punishes the perpetrators of the crimes when caught and also abandon them to wallow in avoidable pain, suffering and deaths.

Apart from developed countries there are several low income countries smaller than Nigeria with Crime victims compensation plans. Take Bermuda, an Island nation in the Caribbean for example. Bermuda has a crime victim compensation program to provide financial compensation to victims of violent or personal crime. Claimants are:
Victims of crime
Dependents of homicide victims
Foreign citizens.

They get awarded amounts that cover
Medical expenses
Mental health
Lost wages for disabled victims
Lost support for dependents of deceased victims
Funerals
Travel
Rehabilitation for disabled victims
Services to replace work in the home previously performed by the victim.

The Philippines has a victim compensation program to provide financial compensation to victims of violent or personal crime and claimants are victims of crime,dependents of homicide victims and foreign citizens. They get compensated for
Medical expenses
Mental health
Lost wages
Lost support for dependents of homicide victims
Emergency Awards
The program does not offer emergency compensation awards.

The United States has a Crime Victims Fund, administered by the Office for Victims of Crime, used to recompense victims of offenses against U.S. law. The Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) is United States federal government legislation aimed at helping the victims of crime through means other than punishment of the criminal. The US Crime Victim’s Fund, is a scheme to compensate victims of crime established as part of the 1984 Victims of Crimes Act. The special assessment on convicted persons is paid into this fund, as are certain other criminal fines and penalties, and forfeited bail bonds.

Each of the 50 States in the U.S., plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands operate the Crime victim compensation program to provide financial assistance to victims of violent or personal crime. Each State also administers its own program in accordance with its State statute, but the U.S. Department of Justice is in charge of supplemental funding and technical support to all the States.

Compensation is usually payable for residents and nonresidents who are injured by crimes involving terrorism occurring within the State or, in the case of U.S. citizens, outside of the U.S.
The claimants are:
Victims of crime
Dependents of homicide victims
Relatives of victims of crime and
Foreign citizens; eligible in most States. The compensable cover the following:
Medical expenses
Mental health counseling
Lost wages for disabled victims
Lost support for dependents of homicide victims
Funeral.

Can Nigeria compensate crime victims with part of the huge security votes on the annual budgets of Federal, states and local governments? This has become necessary because the monthly allowance running into billions of naira depending on the level of security alleged by the individual state, is for the sole purpose of funding security services. The security votes have not been widely accepted by citizens, because the funds are being abused by the state governments, who are not accountable to any agency. A Crime Victims Fund in Nigeria ciuld be funded in addition with criminal fines and penalties, and forfeited bail bonds.

Writing in the Nigerian Lawyer, Onyekachi Umah, Esq says, “…during a criminal proceedings or while delivering a judgment, a court can order an offender to pay COMPENSATION (a sum of money) to VICTIM of his crime. A VICTIM is a person injured by the offence of an offender. He/she is the person that has suffered from the crime of the offender.

“A victim may be a human person, company, state, government agency, organisation or group among others. Hence, while government performes its constitutional duties, which includes the protection of lives and property, by investigating and prosecuting offenders using pubic fund, COMPENSATION goes to a VICTIM (person/persons that suffered from the crime).

” In some cases, government may also be a Victim, it can be a local government, state government, federal government or even all, and as such they will be entitled to compensation. Government does not get compensation for investigating and prosecuting offenders unless such government is also a victim. It is also not impossible to have a particular government prosecute an offender while another government is the victim”.

Relying on sections 319, 320, 321, 322, 323,324, 325, 326, 494 and 495 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 he concludes that, “compensation can be paid where a person was arrested or arrested and charged to court without sufficient evidence or over a false/frivolous accusation”.

A Senior Advocate of Nogeria, John Odubela SAN, once averred that for victims of crimes, “… government should be able to give them monetary compensation depending on what they suffered from in the hands of their attackers. We must not forget that the government is bound to protect her citizens and their properties. So in the event that the government fails and citizens were attacked and suffered in the hands of their attackers, then the government should be able to compensate such victims”.

Giving the example of kidnap victims who were later released after paying huge ransoms. “I believe it’s a government that has failed in her responsibility and should be able to pay back to such victims the amount they parted within the course of negotiating their release”.

….Osehobo is a Public Affairs Analyst in Benin City.

By Admin

Teacher, Reporter, and Blogger

Leave a Reply