Crime Witnesses' Non-Cooperation in Police Investigations: Causes and Consequences in Nigeria

Crime Witnesses' Non-Cooperation in Police Investigations: Causes and Consequences in Nigeria

Usman Adekunle Ojedokun (University of Ibadan, Nigeria)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1088-8.ch005
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The importance of crime witnesses in policing and crime control cannot be overemphasized. In Nigeria, a constant impediment in the effective operation of the criminal justice system machineries is the non-cooperation of crime witnesses with personnel of the Nigeria Police Force. Against this background, this paper examines the causes and consequences of crime witnesses' non-cooperation in police investigations in Nigeria. Rational choice theory was employed for its theoretical anchorage. A wide range of socio-cultural factors were identified as sustaining the traditional communication gap between the Police and crime witnesses that possess vital information which can aid their crime investigation. The Nigeria Police Force is urged to develop a holistic road-map through which the level of public confidence in its operation can be boosted.
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Crime witnesses are among the globally recognised important actors contributing to the operation of the criminal justice system. In every criminal case, witnesses have an important role to play as necessary facts cannot be determined without them (Bhushan & Pranati, 2007). Indeed, the process of investigating and prosecuting offenses, grave or not, depends largely on the information and testimony of witnesses (Kramer, 2010). Similarly, it is only witnesses who can prove the case if the testimony of the victim is insufficient; and in cases where the victim is dead, the role of the witnesses becomes all the more important (Bhushan & Pranati, 2007). Hence, witnesses are the cornerstones of a successful national criminal justice system (Kramer, 2010).

Many studies have revealed that police investigators agree that eyewitnesses usually provide central leads in their investigations (Berresheim & Weber, 2003; George & Clifford, 1992; Kebbell & Milne, 1998). Witnesses often have extensive first-hand information about a target event which frequently plays a vital role in uncovering the truth about a crime (Fisher, Ross, & Cahill, 2010; Reno, Fisher, Robinson, Brennan, & Traver, 1999). The evidence they provide can be critical in identifying, charging, and ultimately convicting suspected criminals (Fisher et al., 2010).

Aver (2011) maintains that the Police cannot succeed in the role of crime control, prevention and enforcement of law without having a good relationship with the community in which they dwell. However, Kebbell and Milne (1998) observe that witnesses rarely supply sufficient information to the Police. In a similar vein, Krammer (2010) contends that witnesses neither want to cooperate with law enforcement or judicial authorities because of perceived or actual intimidation or threat against their person or family member. In most of cases, witnesses do not face life-threatening situation, but they often suffer verbal threats, intimidation, harassment, assault, property damage or simply fear of reprisal as a result of their cooperation with the authorities (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2008).

Bakowski (2013) submits that in spite of the fact that an effective investigation and prosecution of a crime is not possible without witness testimony, making full use of such evidence is a real challenge to the criminal justice systems because many witnesses are intimidated by those against whom they are called to testify. Although most witnesses do not face life-threatening situations, however, the lives of some may actually be in danger (Bakowski, 2013).

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