The spate of robbery attacks that have been reported since the COVID-19 lockdown began is not hunger-motivated.
If you’ve had the rare privilege of being at Oshodi and interacting with some of the boys; (many of whom are under-age by the way,) who rush after buses to offload goods; you will realise that most of them come from neighbouring western states.
The quality of their Yoruba is ‘ara oke-ish’ meaning people from the upper region; like from Ibadan, Ife, Osogbo, Ilorin axis. They are easy recruits for cultists, robberies, all kinds of evil planned by anyone who needs large scale mayhem.
They can easily be moved to different locations to wreak havoc; add to these, the hundreds of Okada and Keke Napep riders that were recently laid off; then you begin to get a sense of growing discontent and why we should prepare for war; especially with this COVID-19 lockdown.
Incidentally, it was a clear call for war that I heard in one of the videos I watched; where area boys in their hundreds descended on residents of Capitol road in Agege area of Lagos state.
The other day, I asked a question in one of my write-ups. I wanted to know what would happen to us if stored up food; finished before the end of the 14 days’ initial lockdown.
I didn’t assume everyone would have enough money to store food for themselves and even have money to replenish; as we would all be home. I didn’t assume 14 days was going to be adequate to quell the ravenous appetite of the COVID-19, either. Also, I didn’t even assume our government wouldn’t have thought to put as priority; the security of lives and properties.
I envisioned there might be looting on a large scale; people taking advantage of a precarious situation to commit evil. I thought these would most likely happen in the dead of night; so I asked that people be vigilant; that people be wary of how they conducted themselves even in the midst of the stay at home order; that despite the fact that most people saw themselves as having nothing; even the little they had could be taken from them.
But I didn’t see the daylight robbery that happened in parts of Lagos and Ogun states. I didn’t imagine we would have a horde of no less than 100 young men and women; some as young as 13 years, attacking people in their homes, demanding for money; stripping young girls naked and raping them and their mothers as their fathers begged for mercy.
These hoodlums were reported to have broken into homes with machetes, knives, and POS machines and forced even victims; who begged to be spared, to use their ATM cards to transfer their lean savings into specified accounts!
To be clear, those attacks were not fuelled by hunger. Otherwise, when victims offered them food, they would have taken them. Instead, they wanted cash, phones, laptops as well as wristwatches. These were drug-fuelled attacks; cult related attacks, to show supremacy, to show civil society who was boss!
I got a call from one of my mother’s former staff; who is a tailor in a one room somewhere at Alakuko axis of Lagos state; close to the Ogun state border.
In his early 30s and also living with two of his friends in a one room apartment; he reported that women and girls were being raped by these area hoodlums. He reported that those of them who didn’t have cash were asked to bring out their ATM cards. Subsequently, money was forcibly removed from their accounts.
Authorities can find these people or the people behind these attacks; if victims are encouraged to come forward and also tell the police when money was illegally transferred from their accounts; with the help of banks, such accounts can be frozen and the persons behind these found.
A good number of these ‘areas boys’ are kids who ran away from their homes; many from Midwestern parts of Nigeria. They boarded buses bound for Lagos to come find work; then Lagos surprised them! They discovered that Lagos isn’t the land of milk and honey. They had to work, find lodging.
With no work, or lodging to speak of, they became easy targets for cult groups as well as area fathers; who are quick to recruit them for a spot under the bridges of Lagos.
These are the bulk of the miscreants we see on Lagos streets!
The government needs to buckle up and find a lasting solution to these thugs. Police effort can, in the meantime, be supported with military assistance. This is the only way the civil society can begin to feel safe; especially as the lockdown has just been extended by another 14 days.