Once upon a time, apart from the normal people in the neighbourhood, there used to be some other people, mainly young men, who seemed abnormal. They hung around the junctions from the beginning of the setting of the sun. The scent from their Indian hemp wraps ushered in dusk. They collected your money, claiming they were receiving payments for the land (owo-ile). The money fuelled the flow of dry gin and beers. The happier they were, the louder the music. But if things got too fast, bottles got broken and blood began to flow. The normal people hid in the safety of their homes, traders closed for the day and passers-by took cover praying reverently for sanity to be restored. But it could take days, and the Police dared not interfere. They had probably been settled. The local government chairman couldn’t put them in order. They had carted away ballot boxes and threatened his weak opponents when he asked them to. They had to teach someone’s hopeless grandmother (Iyalaya anybody) a lesson. And, woe betide the great grand mother of anyone who would come between them and their goals.
In this present time, they are still at it. They now even have factions. One faction just robbed the neighbourhood close to Oyingbo Market in Ebute Meta (unsuspecting traders and market women). The faction based over there regrouped and struck back. Even routine patrols by the Police are not enough. It all started with machetes and broken bottles. Now, both factions have guns and rumour has it that the war has just started. Business is at a standstill and everywhere is deserted. Residents are holed up in their homes. All this started since Thursday. Today is Saturday.
The Lagos State Government must do something about them. They are wreaking havoc everywhere. They extort money from owners of undeveloped, selling the same land to different people and issuing receipts for same. They claim to be members of the NURTW, collecting money from Danfo drivers each time they pick up passengers at the bus stop. They are readily available for the rigging of elections. If they get too happy, they fight amongst themselves and cause damage to anything and anyone in the vicinity. They commit all sorts of crimes which they get away with, because they are either protected by the local government chairman or they have settled the DPO.
On my part, I am grateful to be alive. If I had come home five or ten minutes earlier on Friday evening, I would probably be telling another story now. While NGOs and churches may have programs trying to reintegrate them into the society, the success is based on voluntary commitment on the paths of these boys themselves. The law is the only instrument capable of requiring compulsory action, and the effective enforcement of the law clears all doubt as to its relevance. This may not be as big an issue as Boko Haram, but that also started on a small-scale. The Government must act swiftly.