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Get-rich-quick syndrome breeding juvenile killers

By Eno-Abasi Sunday (Lagos), Odita Sunday (Abuja) and Timothy Agbor (Osogbo)
06 February 2022   |   4:15 am
For nearly seven years since the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government assumed office, President Muhammadu Buhari, and his team have repeatedly assured Nigerians that the security of their lives remains a priority of the administration.

For nearly seven years since the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government assumed office, President Muhammadu Buhari, and his team have repeatedly assured Nigerians that the security of their lives remains a priority of the administration.

But the reality on the ground is completely at variance with the government’s claims. New dimension of banditry, kidnapping, castle rustling and other social vices has compounded the security challenge of the country.

Sadly, the 13-year-old insurgency, which the country has witnessed seemed to have reached its peak with the loss of value, which human lives is now accorded. This much was, last Wednesday, buttressed by a report released by SBM Intelligence, a socioeconomic research firm.

The organisation in its Media Reported Killings in Nigeria report for Q4 2021 (October to December 2021), said that at least 2, 085 persons were reportedly killed in the country in the fourth quarter of 2021. The deaths resulted from violent incidents, including attacks from Boko Haram, militia herdsmen, abductions, gang clashes and terrorists. This raised the tally of deaths to 10, 366 in 2021.

The SBM Intelligence report explained that the 2,085 reported deaths mean that the country experienced a 47 per cent increase in media reported killings, from the 7, 063 fatalities it recorded in 2020 to 10, 366 in 2021. Of the 10, 366 casualties of violent deaths last year, Kaduna State alone recorded 1, 192 at the hands of bandits.

A breakdown of the Quarter Four (Q4) numbers revealed that civilians made up nearly half of the reported violent killings at 972, followed by Boko Haram at 629, terrorists at 288. Forty policemen were reportedly killed in the same period, followed by 35 soldiers, while members of the proscribed Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), a secessionist group recorded 20 casualties.

While the government appears to have found itself between a rock and a hard place as far as containing violent deaths is concerned, the rise of an army of youthful killers, who are hell-bent on getting rich without breaking a single sweat presents a different kettle of fish altogether.

In the last couple of years, the country has been inundated with blood-chilling tales of ritual killings. In most cases, the ruthlessness that ritual killers display is not only worrisome but also benumbing.

Even before the country emerged as the poverty capital of the world, some clerics and public-spirited individuals had cause to warn that all was not well with the way and manner that the praises of the wealthy (no matter how questionable they were) was being celebrated in the society.

Be that as it may, the advent of teenage ritual killers finally presents us as a nation that has reached the nadir as far as moral decadence, slothfulness, and disdain for hard work is concerned.

Only last Thursday, an Abeokuta Magistrate’s court remanded four boys who allegedly beheaded a 20-year- old, Sofiat Okeowo, in Ogun State.

The boys, Mustakeem Balogun (20); Soliu Majekodunmi (18); Abdulgafar Lukman (19) and Waris Oladehinde (19) were charged by the police on a two-count charge of conspiracy and murder.

The police prosecutor, Lawrence Balogun, an inspector told the court that the defendants committed the offence on January 28, 2022, at about 11:00 pm, at the Kugba area of Abeokuta.

The cop, who alleged that the defendants conspired among themselves and murdered Okeowo, who until her death was befriending Soliudeen, one of the defendants, added that the defendants killed her by cutting off her head with a cutlass.

The prosecutor maintained that the defendants murdered Sofiat with the plan to use her for money ritual, an offence that contravened sections 324, 316 of the Criminal Code Laws of Ogun 2006.

While Magistrate, I.O Abudu, did not take the defendants plea, he ordered that they should be remanded at Oba Correctional Service, pending the legal advice from the Director of Ogun State Public Prosecution. She, thereafter, adjourned the matter till March 14 for mention.

The Plateau State Police Command, last month, paraded 20-year-old Moses Okoh, the suspected killer of Miss Jennifer Anthony, his girlfriend and a 300-level student of the University of Jos (UNIJOS).

Anthony’s lifeless body was found mutilated on January 1, at a guesthouse in Jos, with the alleged killer vanishing into thin air after committing the crime. He was later trailed to Benue and arrested.

Okoh, a suspected Internet scammer better known as “Yahoo Boy,” was also alleged to have plucked the deceased eyes and harvested some other organs.

Earlier on, the Lagos State Police Command had arrested an 18-year-old Ikechukwu Friday, for allegedly killing a 12-year-old girl for money ritual.

Friday, while being paraded before newsmen by the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Panti, Yaba, alleged that a pastor that he solicited for money instructed him to kill a young girl and obtain her faeces. The pastor, he said, promised him N100, 000 if he accomplished the task.

Endeley Comfort has her stars to thank for still being alive as plans by the trio of Emomotimi Magbisa (16), Perebi Aweke (15), and Eke Prince (15) to eliminate him failed to materialise.

The spokesman of the State Police Command, Asinim Butswat, disclosed last month that the three boys were arrested recently after they allegedly lured Comfort to Emomotimi’s apartment, at Sagbama community in the state.

He added that the suspects cut the victim’s finger and sprinkled the blood on a mirror for heinous purposes,” adding that “the vigilant girl noticed the suspects’ suspicious movements and raised an alarm.

“The suspects were subsequently arrested and some substances suspected to be charms were recovered from them. The suspects have confessed to the crime while the victim was rushed to the hospital for treatment.”

Turning Blind Eye To Looming Danger 
WITHOUT a doubt, the loss of values in the society, the unbridled craving for quick wealth without commensurate hard work, the scant attention paid by parents to the sudden prosperity enjoyed by some youths have contributed immensely to the raising of an army of youthful killers that are ready to do everything to cover their tracks, and shield them from law enforcement agents while they carry out their nefarious trade, especially Internet fraud.

Indeed, the blame for the menace, which is gradually holding the country by its jugular, must be shared equitably between parents, religious leaders, political elite and indeed the entire society for failing to nip the rot in the bud at the teething stage.

However, conscious of the national menace that has enveloped the country, the wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo, not long ago appealed to youths to desist from copying the lifestyle of people on the Internet insisting that it was a mere illusion.

Osinbajo while speaking during the 49th session of the “Benue Women in Prayers” organised by the wife of Benue State governor, Mrs. Eunice Ortom, held at Chapel of Grace Government House in Makurdi, explained that women had responsibility for looking after the life of their loved ones and praying against every challenge confronting their homes.

But despite the warning, many parents and their children are still brazen in their approach to criminality. The shocking existence of an association of Mothers of Yahoo Boys, as well as the existence of “Yahoo Training School” in some parts of the country, lends credence to this.

The former acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, while speaking at an EFCC stakeholders conference on a crusade against cybercrime fraudsters lamented that mothers of cyber fraudsters were now unionising.

He regretted that such parents justified their children’s illicit activities with the argument that they stood in the gap for their deadbeat, irresponsible, runaway or dead fathers.

Magu, who appealed to parents, as well as, the media to join the war against cybercrime by not celebrating unexplained wealth, added, “We are looking at how we can rehabilitate the Yahoo boys; these are young boys, who have graduated, who are in the university. We want to see how we can sensitise them; how we can make them know that the Yahoo Yahoo business is wrong.”

Another troubling indicator that the war against illicit, unexplained wealth was still far from over, is the proliferation of infamous Yahoo Yahoo training schools.

Last year, some training centres that are better known as Yahoo Yahoo training schools were uncovered in Abuja, Ondo, Lagos, Akwa Ibom states, as well as in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) where youths are prepared for scamming roles.

One of the training centre for would-be Internet fraudsters in Abuja, was located in Arab Contractors Area of Mpape Hills, a suburb of the FCT.

The EFCC operatives, who acted on intelligence, stormed the base and arrested 27 suspects, including its coordinator, 30-year-old Emmanuel Clement, and his ‘students,’ who were predominantly young school leavers (male and female) all within the age of 18 to 25. The EFCC on May 22, 2019, equally arrested Mr. Frank Chinedu, who was alleged to be the proprietor of a Yahoo Yahoo training school, located at 14, Animashaun Street, Progressive Estate, Ojodu Berger, Lagos State, while receiving lectures on Internet fraud activities.

The 22-year-old Chinedu was arrested alongside eight students of his training centre while they were receiving lectures

Among items that were recovered from the suspects were nine laptops, 16 mobile phones, an Airtel Internet modem, Orange WiFi, and a Toyota Camry with registration number EPE406FN.

Down South, operatives of the EFCC, Uyo Zonal Office, in a joint operation with some of the commission’s operatives from Abuja, also stormed a Yahoo Yahoo academy Akwa Ibom State, where 23 suspects, including operators and trainee scammers aged between 19 and 35 were arrested.

The “Uyo Yahoo Academy,” which was allegedly used for the training of youths in aspects of cyber fraud, including love scam, online trading scam, and theft identity was located on Essien Essien Street, Ikot Ibiok village, in Eket Local Council. The suspects were between the ages of 19 and 35. They have confessed that they were undergoing training in various aspects of cyber criminality.

Loss Of Values, Crave For Wealth Acquisition As Key Drivers Of Menace
AS concerns continue to mount over the rising cases of ritual killings in the country, some are of the view that restoration of family values has a major role to play in bringing back sanity.

According to them, the deterioration of moral, societal norms and standards, including the abandonment of the esteemed and value systems that most cultures and traditions accepted are some of the factors attributed to the menace.

A human rights advocate and founder, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), Emmanuel Onwubiko said: “First, let us begin from where the rain started to beat us as a country. It started when standardised schools that were built by religious missions were taken over by the government and the teaching of social studies, history and ethics were jettisoned. Thereafter, the government that took over these schools failed to maintain the infrastructure and make the schools fit for purpose.

“These governments did not implement effective quality control in terms of recruitment of teachers and enrolment of students. Because some of these schools lacked basic facilities and quality teachers to instil discipline, and impart knowledge in the students, public-owned school system became what many would call ‘anything goes,’ just as the same government officials that undermined the standardised educational system that was set up by the religious missions of both Christians and Muslims, made laws that empowered individuals to build and run schools. Most of these persons who got licenses to establish private schools were basically government officials,” he stated.

Onwubiko noted that the advent of private schools saw the deterioration of moral standards because all that mattered to the rich owners of private schools was profit-making. This, he said was the origin of the falling standards of moral education in schools, and by extension, the virus struck the young stars at home.

While noting that the police alone cannot check the scourge of ritual killing, the activist added: “The police can only do so much and not everything because the foundation of this issue is connected to the schools and homes. The policing institution in Nigeria itself is sick and requires rehabilitation and fundamental restructuring. There is a need for a holistic approach that will see synergistic cooperation of parents and teachers, who would work in tandem with law enforcement agencies to curb the menace.

“The government also has a fundamental role to play in ensuring that a lot of publicity is carried out and youths sensitised on the futility of embracing lifestyles that push them into the mutilation of human beings for money rituals, and other heinous crimes.

“Youngsters need to know about the far-reaching implications, and consequences of committing murder, whether or not they get caught in the process. A government that looks forward to defeating this social menace must not be the type that is composed of secret cultists that used foul means to advance their political careers.

“It is an open secret that a lot of public office holders today belong to different cult groups, and these groups usually make sure that their members are strategically placed in the right places to maximise their command, and control of different levers of government at the state and at federal government level. First, there has to be a comprehensive fight against secret cults, after which killings for ritual purposes should be made a very serious crime that is deserving of rapid justice delivery,” the HURIWA boss said.

While calling for public execution of ritual killers “to serve as a deterrent,” Onwubiko regretted that “capital punishment does not have 100 per cent deterrent value, but public execution has up to 90 per cent deterrent value on youngsters.”

He also canvassed the reformation of justice administration in order “to meet up with the demands of the times, such as these incessant killings of human beings for ritual purposes, and kidnapping for ransom. These types of crimes should be classed into one and treated especially just like terrorists.”

For a retired deputy inspector general of police, Taiwo Lakanu (rtd): “Police by extension should immediately rise to end these killings by speedily investigating and prosecuting the offenders and giving it extensive coverage to serve as a deterrence to intending culprits. The federal and state governments should organise symposia and workshops as a way of enlightening the populace and erase the erroneous belief.”

A crime editor and security expert, Christopher Oji, while also commenting on the development, noted that between September 2021 and January 30, 2022, over 20 persons have been murdered for money-making rituals in the country.

He said: “These are reported cases, but there are many more unreported cases, even as many more families just report cases of missing persons not knowing that their loved ones have been used for money ritual. The very sad thing now is that many of these culprits are young boys between the ages of 17 to 21, and a majority of them are students of higher institutions or secondary school leavers that are aspiring to write the JAMB.

“The easy preys that they are pouncing on are either their girlfriends, friends or relatives, especially mothers. The cause of this embarrassing trend is traced to moral decadence in the country, and the value that we place on money, not minding the source. Others are joblessness and bad orientation. The solution to this malaise is for parents, relatives and the society at large to begin to question the source of wealth that is being flaunted, especially by youths.

“Our religious organisations, community leaders, non-governmental organisations, and the National Orientation Agency should start serious advocacy on the evil of ritual and unquestionable wealth. The police should, as a matter of urgency, begin a serious investigation of peoples’ source of wealth. The police authority should create a special unit that should begin to question peoples’ source of wealth.

“They should visit streets, know the house owners, and inquire about the source of wealth of the house owners. The police special unit should be able to discretely ferret, through intelligence, the source of income of youths that are driving posh cars. If they fail to convince the law enforcement agency of their source of income, they should be arrested and prosecuted.”

He added: “The police team should, from time to time, visit hotels and get the identities of lodgers and question some of them since most of the killings are now done in hotel rooms. The police should liaise with local vigilante groups and neighbourhood watchers to know people that are of questionable character in communities. Importantly, the police should always get search warrants before searching houses and hotel rooms.”

Time To Move Against Ritual Killings
CONCERNED by the spate of the malaise, some well-meaning members of the public have promised to rev up efforts aimed at ending the scourge.

One of those at the forefront of this is the Oluwo of Iwo, Abdulrosheed Adewale Akanbi, who has declared that he would lead a protest against the menace.

The Osun State-born traditional ruler through his Press Secretary, Alli Ibrahim, said: “Ritual killings are becoming so rampant and consuming than Boko Haram and terrorism. Only the Oluwo has come out to publicly wage a war against it (ritual killing) and suggested legislation that would spell the death penalty for perpetrators. He still reiterated that at a national conversation on rethinking and uniting Nigeria held at the premier university in the country, the University of Ibadan.”

Also commenting, a humanitarian, Izuu Mike Ofiaeli, called on civil society organisations, and non-governmental organisations to rise against the ugly trend, as well as strive to end the urge to accumulate unexplained wealth by youths.

Offiaeli said: “We have a major social crisis in Nigeria and most people don’t seem to realise it. The unruly display of unexplained wealth is destroying the minds of our teenagers and no one seems to care as much to address this fast-growing menace. With what I have seen happening, I can only pray we haven’t crossed the Rubicon in this country – a point of no return.”