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With gangs aplenty, Lagos inner streets know little joy


PHOTO: REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye

On Monday, July 23, Mariam Abiola told the police how she has killed four persons for her gang leader, each person’s life only worth ₦10, 000.

Runaway Abiola, 20, a member of Eiye confraternity, according to the police, was recruited into the gang by a certain Sodiq.

She had dreamed of being gainfully employed in Lagos when she ran away from her parents’ home in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital city.

Abiola’s tragic story is not an isolated case. She is one of the many teenagers who are often recruited to further the reign of terror in the poorly policed streets of Lagos.

While her temporary homelessness, when she got to Lagos, may have made her a prime target for the merchants of death, there are hundreds of teenagers, in more fortunate circumstances, who are co-opted into street gangs right from their secondary schools.

The rising cases and spread of cults and gangs in Lagos are all documented in an investigative report by SBM Intelligence, Nigeria’s leading geopolitical intelligence platform.

Unlike the deadly Badoo gang that operated mostly at night, Lagos street gangs such as Aiye, Eiye, Awawa Boys etc. distributed among the upscale medium and low-income communities, strike even in daytime. Their membership, which was largely limited to university campuses, has since spilt into the inner streets of the city, with kids from even junior secondary schools recruited by different groups.

The spate of their violent acts is one of the key reasons the state was adjudged the third worst city in the world after Dhaka and Damascus earlier in the year.

The state is rife with “petty crime, violent crime, the threat of terror, a threat of military conflict and/or a threat of civil unrest/conflict,” according to the Global Liveability Index.

In May 2017, Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics rated the country’s commercial capital and one of its most populated states, as the most crime-infested in 2016.

Atop the damning crime index for Lagos State is the crime against persons, which NBS said included murder, manslaughter, infanticide, and concealment of birth.

The statistics released by NBS for 2017 are even grimmer with Lagos retaining its spot as Nigeria’s crime capital.

Gang activities are fuelled, in part, by an ever-ballooning population, squeezed in a limited space. An average of 86 migrants relocate to Lagos every minute, that is a daily average of 123,840 new persons. With limited economic opportunities, it is a lot easier for people like Mariam Abiola to embrace a life of crimes.

Also giving verve to gangs and thugs in Lagos is the strong National Union of Road Transportation Workers (NURTW). In Lagos, the organisation gained a lot of power and influence following a decision by the state government to empower the body to collect taxes from bus drivers. In 2006, they split into two factions: Team Lagos and Face Lagos. One of the factions is known to be loyal to a former governor and top leader of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).

The problems are not limited to just that.

SBM Intelligence notes “Gangs are able to thrive in large part because of the economic disenfranchisement, social deprivation and lack of access to the basic necessities that enable a decent form of living which leaves large swathes of Nigerians with a feeling that there is no other alternative to a life of pillage and crime.

“Creating lasting and broad-based economic opportunities for more Lagosians is the only effective countermeasure to this promising megacity’s silent menace,” SBM said in the report.

Apart from stifling economic realities in the overcrowded city, Lagos street gangs are more than a willing tool in the hands of self-centred politicians, who often find violence as a viable supplement to their campaigns.

As Nigeria enters another campaign season later this month, gangs-for-hire will be more than willing to vent their hunger for blood on the inner streets of Nigeria’s commercial capital.

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