A band of robbers have held Lagosians to ransom. It’s time to put them out of business.
In the last one week, mainland Lagos has become a war-zone.
Residents have taken to guarding themselves as robbers lay siege on Agege, Idimu, Iyana-Ipaja, Egbeda, Ijesha and communities bordering Ogun State.
It’s been a tale of sorrow, tears and blood for residents who have been forced to stay at home no thanks to a coronavirus enforced lockdown.
Some of the robbers invade these communities in broad daylight, while looting, maiming and leaving residents for dead.
In parts of Agege and Idimu, residents no longer go to bed. They erect bonfires in the dead of the night and all through the morning, arming themselves with machetes and cudgels as they strive to ward off the rampaging robbers.
On Twitter, the hashtags #LagosUnrest #AgegeUnrest #OgunUnrest have been trending for days on end.
Some say the social unrest that has become the lot of Lagos because the federal government declared a lockdown of Abuja, Ogun and Lagos in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19). They say this is one more example of the inequality that has become the story of Nigeria.
They say street urchins or miscreants (otherwise called Agberos) who have been temporarily put out of the business of fleecing bus drivers and conductors or extorting motorists, have been left with no option but to raid homes for daily bread.
This school of thought posits that the robbers are driven by poverty and hunger.
While this is largely true, we would be making the mistake of excusing the dastardly activities of these robbers in the past week. There are a lot of our kinsmen and women who are poor and who aren’t raiding homes to survive.
While we should see the robberies as one more reason to address the endemic poverty and unemployment in Nigeria, we should be careful not to come across as making a case for youths who have decided to take the lazy option out of their predicament.
Some of the robbers, we have also learnt, are cult or gang members. Some have been called the ‘Awawa boys of Agege’ or the ‘One million boys.’ Twitter user @Adetokey says “the one million boys grew as a rival gang to Awawa boys based on ethnic lines. You see, the Awawa were mostly a mix of miscreant northern boys from moricas area and the Yorubas who housed them. The one million boys felt the Awawa had overshadowed them on their turf.
“It is far more organised and has faction leaders who report to their head. Their numbers grew because it was easy to join and their mandate was straight forward.”
All of which points to the fact that we are dealing with organised crime and gang wars here as well, and not a rag-tag army of miscreants looking for what to eat. This is also a commentary on the failure of our police and intelligence agencies to nip cults like this in the bud before they become a danger to society.
The resurgence of gang robberies in Lagos is unfortunately a sad reminder that Nigeria is a failed state.
It’s been a hard time for most residents of Lagos. To be asked to sit at home and then having to deal with armed robbers can leave anyone psychology scarred for life. Lagos Governor Babajid Sanwo-Olu and the police force have to swing into action and provide succour by dealing the Awawa and One million boys a devastating blow. There should also be a strategic plan of action to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
Our police force has become an extortion unit instead of a crime fighting one and that’s a sad thing to say. It’s also instructive that the infamous crime fighting unit of the police, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) has gone AWOL at this time.
Inspector General of Police Adamu Abubakar has to read the riot act to his men on this. Lagos and Ogun residents deserve their sleep at this most difficult time for our nation and humanity.