Psychiatric aspects of criminal homicide in Nigeria

East Afr Med J. 2001 Jan;78(1):35-9. doi: 10.4314/eamj.v78i1.9110.


Objectives: To investigate the Psychiatric aspects of homicide in Nigeria, and, the psychosocial and forensic background of homicide offenders in Nigeria; to determine the role of the mental health services in the disposal of the accused by the criminal justice system.

Design: Retrospective study, involving interview of homicide convicts and, the scrutiny of court and prison documents for relevant clinico-forensic data.

Setting: Federal Prison, Jos, Nigeria.

Results: One hundred and eighteen subjects participated in the study. Psychotic disorder (mainly paranoid schizophrenia) and alcohol intoxication accounted for the offenses of 28 (24%) accused. Amnesia for the events occurred in psychotic offenders. Psychiatric services were underutilised in the trial and disposal of the accused. Marked psychosocial maladjustment in offenders was suggested by a high rate (45%) of substance use disorders predating the homicide events. Thirty three (28%) offenders had dysfunctional family circumstances. Eighty six per cent of the accused were first time offenders. Adverse life events, predominantly in relation to the victims, were reported by 33 (28%) of the accused in the month predating the events.

Conclusions: Psychiatric disorders and substance use are significantly involved in homicide events in Nigeria. There is a need for close liaison between the psychiatric and criminal justice systems, in the disposal of all homicide accused. A continuing study of homicide in Nigeria is recommended, to bridge the gap in our present level of knowledge.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / standards*
  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / trends
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Homicide / psychology*
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Insanity Defense*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nigeria / epidemiology
  • Prisons
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Distribution