Nigeria: Hooligans as “final arbiters”

September 6, 2018 Nigeria , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS

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Abdulyassar Abdulhamid



The recently vaunted peace in the northern Nigerian states of Kano, Kaduna and Plateau is being marred by the activities of hooligans. They attack, mug, rob and sometimes kill their victims at will. This has been going on for some time now.


These days, their operations, I do not know whether it was due to sallah celebrations and that they must have known that people carry either valuables with them, have multiplied. They dictate where one goes and where not to go, when to possess a phone and when not to do so; when to withdraw money from ATMs and when not to do so, when to smile and when to cry and, how mind-boggling it may sound, to live and when to die.


They are on streets, in markets and at night they occupy public schools; they seem to be everywhere. They block every alleyway and backstreet. They waylay passers-by, take what they want and send them away.


These final arbiters have their own laws and courts. It is not an understatement if one says, “They are a law unto themselves”; that is why they break laws that are not meant for them.


In their ‘courts’, unlike constitution-governed ones, rewards and punishments come in the form of letting go of your possessions or face a death of glory and die like an intrepid legend who dies with honour; and if one is lucky enough, he leaves with both mental and physical scars. In their ‘court’ you have no right to a defense counsel but your possessions will be your passport to life.


“They sent a boy who grabbed my cap. When I turned to talk to him, he ran. I pursued him to take back my cap. Near a huge tree, the boy suddenly stopped. Before I knew it, I saw two young men heading toward where I was each menacingly holding a dagger. What could I do if not to run for dear life? Look here; can you see the stitches? I survived with two deep cuts. I reached the main street bare-footed. My expensive shoes and cap are gone and the reward for seeking them back are two deep cuts,” said a young man who was attacked by lawless ‘yan sara-suka (gangs).


The mourning of the wounded, the cries of the tortured, the sight of live bodies hemorrhaging and the thudding sound of a falling lifeless body after stabbings are horrific enough that nobody dares to clear their voice or utter a word, let alone intervene. People just watch in silence.


You see them armed to the teeth with daggers, clubs, flat-headed machetes, sharpened horns and pairs of scissors. Their bloodshot eyes and scarified faces are enough warning for any recalcitrant to their laws. Give-and-go-untouched is their final word and a pointer that speaks, “Keep off our area of operation.”


Many have been stabbed, some are with no finger or two as a token of their refusal to give out something worthwhile and some are living witness to such despicable operations of the “almighty” gangs for the scars they bear as signs of their encounters with them.


On Sunday 26th August, 2018, a friend wrote on his Facebook timeline on how his father broke the news of the demise of his brother. The deceased, who was a father, was “brutally stabbed to death” just because he tried to intervene in a dispute between two gangs that flared up in his neighbourhood during the just concluded sallah celebrations in Jos, the Plateau State capital.


The hooligans, according to him, within some communities in Jos North, Plateau State, never discriminate between the young and the old or men and women. They rampage and kill mercilessly at sight; and destroy property. This has been going on continuously. Are the authorities concerned not aware of this?


About a month ago, the Tecno K-7 phone of a co-worker of mine who is undergoing his master’s degree was snatched by a mugger at a knife-point. He was on his way to Bayero University, Kano, and the phone was in his breast pocket, when the criminal pickpocketed it and then brandished a sharp dagger menacingly at him. What else could he do? He chose his safety, as every sensible person would, over the phone.


This was after they had stolen his new motorcycle, Companion, at the premises of one of the courts here in Kano State. All efforts to retrieve proved abortive. Imagine what a setback this would bring to his studies.


Reports have it that at Hawan Nassarawa (equestrian, elegant processions organized to mark sallah celebrations in northern Nigeria) many people were attacked, robbed of their possessions and some even wounded when security agents were not in sight.


An eye-witness told me, “They time their attacks and calculate their movements. Once they notice there are not security agents nearby, they attack their targets. I saw somebody who was slapped with a machete after they had taken his phone and that of a lady he was going alone with. They slapped the lady too and seized her purse. Both left crying.”


“Another was a vendor who was selling biscuits, sweets and chocolate. As they descended on him, they threw some punches and beat him repeatedly with big sticks; then took away his money and goods. The saddest thing was that nobody was bold enough to face them. They went away with it.”


About three months ago, the Sauna area in Nassarawa Local Government Area of Kano State was in total anarchy. About four boys were stabbed to death. It was a dispute between two rival gangs over a girl. One of my students’ father had to sell his house and relocate to another area for the safety of children.


Two months later, two boys were stabbed right in their chests. Both of them died right on the spot: the first one was due to a disagreement over the age between two boys at Tudun Murtala. Because he said he was older than the culprit, he stabbed him to ventilate his anger. There he was laying dead. The other had just come back from a rehabilitation centre. He was stabbed for demanding a fair share of his pay from his co-worker near Tudun Wada Mini Stadium of Nassarawa Local Government Area.


However, although the Kaduna State government has outlawed the activities of ‘Yanshara (a very dangerous gang) some months ago and seven years is stipulated as prison term for any person found guilty, their operation is still a great threat to peaceful co-existence in the state.


They will descend upon their targets like shadows beating, hitting, kicking, stabbing and slitting whosoever stands in their way. They identify an area, perhaps a street, survey it and then launch their ferocious attack on innocent and defenseless citizens without any qualms.


A Kano-born cellphone retailer, who resides and owns a phone kiosk there, told me, “I had to quit one street I first set up my phone kiosk. They steal from people, rob them, kick them and sometimes wound them. Thereafter they will identify another area for their operation.”


Ultimately, to avoid this moral degeneration especially amongst youths, parents should take up their parental responsibilities such as giving proper education, feeding, sheltering and clothing their wards.


Until the authorities concerned and all stakeholders are ready to find lasting solutions to this nagging threat, ‘yan sara-suka, kalare, area boys or ‘yan daba will continue to operate freely thereby threatening the lives and properties of innocent Nigerians; may God forbid.





Abdulyassar Abdulhamid

Abdulyassar Abdulhamid, Kano based, is graduate of B.A English from Bayero University, Kano. He is a budding writer, social analyst, freelancer at Sunrise Language Practitioner (SLP) and regular contributor to Nigerian dailies. 
His writings have appeared in The Communicator, a magazine published by Kano State Polytechnic and in Dailytrust, The Triumph and The cable newspapers. He has a strong interest in literary theory.

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