With trepidation and anxiety, I write you this memo. Even though you may be located in major highways at odd hours of the night, and in remote areas of the country in the daylight, the fear that you may summarily exterminate my life like Sallah ram and tear into shred this memo, prompted me to use this medium. I strongly believe you read nigerian newspapers and magazines regularly to monitor the successes or otherwise of your operations. Since you are now like some rising and reigning superstars whose names and activities feature daily in our livelihood, it is compelling to acknowledge your daring courage in doing the impossible and unimaginable acts that are beyond human reasoning.
I am bewildered by your incomprehensible acts of defiance and boldness when the rich, the powerful, the foreigners and indeed poor masses, where you always claim to belong to, are the victims of your audacity. Not so long ago, you attacked the offspring of our national leader, inspite of her bodyguards; you harassed a state governor and even killed his heroic security guard; you disallow legislators from visiting their constituencies as you lay ambush, probably to get your share of the monetisation policy; you arrest bullion vans including the police escorts and cart away millions of Naira in the process; you saunter into banks in the day light as if they are your offices; and without any emotions you walk into hospitals to terrorize the patients and medical personnel, only to take away lifesaving drugs.
To an ordinary poor citizen, you intimidate him to the extent of asking his family to provide you food and to play music for your amusement. Notwithstanding the desire of your victims to cooperate, you occasionally send breadwinners to the world beyond; rape newly wedded brides, smash the skull of innocent children, naked academicians, invade the houses of God and by extension you humiliate clergymen. The lists of your monstrosities are endless.
Since you have remained the daily issue of discussion by your network of escapades, I wonder if you are not part of the sponsors of the Bill for the Abolition of Death Penalty in our Penal Code. When all the motions passed by the legislators to curtail your cruelty failed, the passage of the proposed bill on the abolition of the death sentence, may give you the open ticket to advance your criminality. Your victims may therefore be ruthlessly annihilated to minimize the rate of witnesses against your arrest and subsequent prosecution. After all whether you are merciful or merciless to one’s life, you not only have assurance, but the guarantee by law to spare you from the gallows.
Sometimes I wonder how you remain an enigma in our national life. It beats my imagination that with the recruitment of more policemen and provision of more vehicles in addition to communication gadgets and bulletproof vests to the security personnel, you are not deterred, it only increases the tempo of your fiendishness. In other African countries including developed worlds, houses are built without fences, but because with your brutal incursions, houses in major cities and even villages in Nigeria, are well fenced with fortifications reaching high heavens and defensive arrow-like decoration on top.
We have listened to some of your grievances that prompted you into your reckless war against the society, even though they do not constitute any justification for banditry. One is mindful of the pain some of you undergone before embarking on robbery. To a degree, one may agree about your inability to secure good jobs, even when overgraduated and overqualified Nigerians, who are unemployed, roam the streets searching for jobs. We are aware that student-members of your group were disenchanted over the frustrative and intermittent closure of higher institutions, which resulted to their idleness and had to take consolation in your devilish workshop. It is also unfortunate that some custodians of our noble culture and religious leaders promote accumulation of wealth from whatever means. While some of your parents refused to give you a proper upbringing by neglecting your childhood, it is public knowledge that some of your guardians too, force you to fend for your self through street begging, touting, area-boying after dropping out from school, if you even started and subsequently graduating to robbery. It is painful too that even though it is the responsibility of the government to provide education and welfare to its citizens, the rich amongst us prefer only to take care of themselves to the detriment of the larger society.
I must admit that none of your parents, and I doubt if you too, would pray to have children to grow into armed robbery. But in the mosques, churches, public and private circles, you are daily cursed and denounced. I wonder if other citizens ever sat down to study and understand the rising crime rate in the society. We have seen emergence of your group cutting across all strata of social class. From rich homes, political class, royal courts, religious families, women’s folk not to talk of drivers and okada riders engaging in this nefarious activities. We learnt about the arrest and police parade of preachers, businessmen and sometimes members of security agencies who participated directly or indirectly in armed robbery.
In fact the rest of us may be guilty of other kind of robberies, which go on unnoticed and unchecked. What can we say about pen robbery, where public officers are alleged to have doctored documents to enrich themselves in service without being reprimanded; armed extortion by which some security personnel robbed their victims through coercion; intelligence robbery, where smart guys cleverly defraud foreigners and Nigerians alike, erotic robbery undertaken by beautiful ladies to seduce and corner juicy contracts without owning an office; spiritual robbery, employed by fake preachers to extort their followers; Oil robbery, in which bunkerers and connected barons illegally siphon our natural resources for export to their foreign accomplices; political robbery, in which the politicians hoodwink the electorates only to fail to deliver and instead undertake fictitious projects to embezzle the public funds. In fact there is even GSM robbery by which some operators charge subscribers on failed connection and extremely poor services. From the aforementioned robberies, an individual may make a profit that is higher than what the entire armed robbers generate.
While the society keep condemning your behaviours, it would be fair if we all rise to the occasion and cooperate with you in taming the menace of this ill in the society. Though no sane person could pray to have an armed robber within the family, no one knows what a child may become in future. It is therefore the responsibility of all of us to work assiduously at checking the threat of this ill.
The governments at all level must address the need for welfare for its teaming youths, by engaging them in activities that would improve their morale and encourage them to work towards self-reliance and the development of the economy. Back to farm policy and self-help projects are veritable-tools applicable at the moment. Since must of the arrested suspects always confessed of taking hard drugs to enable them commit their nefarious acts, the relevant agencies should arrest the situation by blocking the promoters of those illicit drugs and confiscate their properties to serve as deterrent. Programmes of activities such as sports, farming, small scale industries etc. need to be formulated that would keep the teeming youth busy at all time. Occasional camping in decent environments with recreational facilities could be provided for social interactions. Religious leaders and respectable elders in the society can be invited for interaction and healthy dialogues in those centres.
Considering the fact that government’s actions so far, in conjunction with National Assembly passed resolutions to stop your further exploit but to no avail, the individuals in the community have a stake to ensure that the crisis is reduced to a barest minimum. Every member of the society is a potential victim whether one is surrounded with all the advanced security networks or traditional charms. Therefore, each household should bear the number of children they could sustain economically and provide them with sound education. They should also strictly monitor their behaviour and that of their peer groups who have greater influence in molding their character and characteristic as they grow up. The parents should also disabuse the mind of their wards on the craze for wealth considered as the source of all-evil by admonishing them on the virtue of self-contentment with the little their right-hand purchases. They should guide them against some foreign and local movies that promote ostentatious life and violent crimes. In fact, a lot must be done by the government, the society, individuals and spiritual institutions in stopping this atrocious rampage.
While I pray to God to change your devilish way of life and join the righteous ones, I may find it difficult to give you my address which may be in Aso Rock, Army Barracks, Central Bank or even in places like under the bridge, cave, prison and slum areas. But I give you the benefit of my name, which several people bear, so that you may not think I am a ghost of your numerous victims.
This article by Yushau A. Shuaib was originally published in Daily Trust September 12, The Sun September12, New Nigeria September 12, Nigerian Tribune September15, Daily Independent September 18, Daily Times Oct6-7, 2003