Crime in Nigeria has over the years grown from strength to strength, demanding huge cost on the government and, overwhelming the security forces. There is certainly no day in the media that we do not read, hear reports of all manner of criminality happening everywhere in the country, ranging from robbery to militancy, kidnapping, bunkering, '419', rape, touting, and worst culprits are usually the youth - very energetic and restless members of the society. Many reasons can be adduced to the rise in crime in Nigeria but, that is not the focus here as that shall be dealt with some other time. Crime is as old as human society, dynamic hence the scientific study of it by university dons on the causes and, possible ways we can mitigate crime in our society. Crime it is said cannot be completely eliminated from the earth. There is no where the Government alone has ever fought crime without the support of other segments of the society; religious groups, financial institutions, aviation, oil, media, communication, manufacturing and other corporate bodies, traditional institutions, to also make their own practical efforts. These institutions can invest in our youth thereby engaging their minds, heart, and hands judiciously.

In the fight against crime, every hand must be on deck. While the government is doing its bit in the area of organizing a conducive environment, training and equipping the police, upgrading our security mechanism, other public and private institutions, the wealthy in the society must also contribute in this regard to show faith in building Nigeria of our dream. Nigeria is a country that can be salvaged from the grip of criminals if properly harmonized and administered by patriotic, committed and selfless leaders, but ably supported by the private, religious, traditional institutions in our society. One of the basic reasons why our youths are turning into crime is the fact that they are not engaged. Nigeria has one of the best traditions in the world that instills discipline and moral knowledge in children. This is one of the guiding principles that make us proud, endow us with good character, behavior, respect for people and property. Any society that chooses to abandon its youth does so at its own risk. Today, except for the government, there is scarcely any group investing heavily in the youth – a critical part of the society.

We cannot fight crime without investing massively in the youth of our society. It is a Must! The religious bodies must begin to earmark large percentage of their resources, pick a particular area(s) of focus, request for good hands that are also committed to the project and not for financial gains. There are several areas that our religious can engage our youth so as to quit crime rather than best at organizing prayer/miracle clinics that has become scam centers. The religious with the enormous resources at their disposal can organize sporting competitions, vocation centres, establishment of musical and drama clubs, etc., to engage the brain of our youth. The religious cannot win souls for God when a larger percentage of the population are hungry (Mark 8:1-9; John 6:1-13), jobless, hopeless. It is desirous for the religious groups in the country to immediately embark on sincere and serious youth programmes that would support good number of these young men and women quit the streets irrespective of their religious leaning.

Presently as I write this, in the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, the Archbishop, Alfred Adewale Martins donated a cup for football competition among the men in all the parishes. The championship is engaging, encouraging but demands more seriousness from parish priests and indeed the general members of the church as the competition serves as room for evangelization, keeping the young men away from social vices, discovering talents. Other religious bodies must tap from this and create programmes either in sports or other areas that will be very useful in engaging these restless members of the society, it is the country that benefits from such. In virtually every Local Government Area, we find large pool of youth loitering aimlessly and these are the willing tools usually used by politicians for dirty jobs. We must keep these hands busy with something beneficial else they become 'terrorists' to us all to borrow from my cousin brother.

Some years ago, individuals and corporate bodies in the society were behind sports development in Nigeria, such as Abiola Babes, Iwuanyanwu National, First Bank, National Bank, Julius Berger, Leventis United, El'Kanemi, Water Corporation, NEPA, LUTHCOL, Portland Cement, we can go on and on. This is not so again and, it is not healthy for the country in dissuading youth from crime. In the bid to curb crime emphasis must be put in building a solid social and economic force to check current wave of crime, militancy and other social vices.

Nigeria is in no doubt facing very stringent challenges in its efforts to fight corruption and criminal tendencies among our youths. The youth population represents the future and therefore remains a catalyst in steering and informing the change course in Nigeria. No amount of policing, intelligence network, weapons and training of officers can curb crime completely when we neglect investing in education, training, and engaging these youth positively. The corporate bodies; bank, aviation, shipping, communication, oil, political party, religious institution, school, ethnic nationalities and others indeed has a lot to do in engaging youths so as to quit crime. For instance, there is no reason why the South-South Peoples' Assembly should not be organizing swimming competition yearly among the Niger Delta youths. And the Arewa Consultative Forum organizing marathon races yearly to discover talents. Our people must begin to task themselves on the need to invest in our youth to sincerely wage a successful war against crime and also deepening our unity. With the support of these institutions in sports (table tennis, volley ball, basket ball, athletics, taekwondo, judo, etc.) development for the benefit of our youth; sponsoring of musical and drama trainings, vocational institutions all year round, there will surely be a reduction in crime with a viable youth in the country.

Written by Uzodinma Nwaogbe.

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