By John Amoda
VANGUARD, Tuesday July 24, 2012, Crime Alert carried a story by Evelyn Usman and Ruth Chukwuemeka titled: “We were caught after renewing our charms on penetration of bullets”. This is a story of eight-man trans-state gang of armed robbers.
When they were arrested they were in possession of five AK 47 and nine magazines. In the story they were described as a gang that “specialised in operating in almost all the parts of the country. “Three members of this violent gang spoke freely of their roles in the gang and what made them decide to become members of the gang-in-violence-crime operations.
One of them, Wale Adeniyi, 28 years old, described himself as the gang hit man. ‘Whenever we were going for an operation, I was usually given a rifle first before any other person. This was because of my boldness.
It was Akin, our leader, who introduced me into the gang…’. 27 years Taofeek Bukola said he was the gang’s driver, while 20 years old Oladun Agemo declared himself the gang’s armourer”.
The story even in its sketchy biographical details of the three arrested sheds light on the economics of militant violence criminality and the transition from the working poor into full time armed robbery.
From the tit-bits gleaned from the interview of these in police custody, it appears that the pathway into full time armed robbery is not along the continuum from poverty into incorporation into an operational gang but from the inadequacy of income present in some occupations. If this is the case, then the policy of job creation may be an ineffective response to the issue of armed robbery, kidnapping, militancy and insurgency.
Job creation that merely provides a subsistence income may not provide sufficient disincentive to those taking on the invitation to join a more “lucrative enterprise”. Taofeek Bukola, the gang’s driver explains how he got recruited into this trade.
“He was tempted to join the gang because of his inability to get money for his mother’s medical bill… he said he had to cater for himself, his wife, two children and his siblings. But meeting some of the financial obligations of his mother, like buying of herbs and other things was the most tasking. ‘As a result of this I would work in the bakery until 6am and then work as commercial bus driver, shuttling from Oshodi and Iyana-Ipaja.
Yet I could not meet up, as I normally got N1,500 to N2,000 everyday, which I used to feed my family’. Taofeek, from his narrative, put in more than a 10hours to earn at most N2,000 per day- averaging N200 per hour.
Compared to Taofeek who could earn on six days working week about N50,000 per month(remember the N18,000 per month minimum wage that Governors claimed they could not pay), office workers living in Iyana-Ipaja and working in a Lagos Island could spend 10 to 12 hours, eight working and four travelling hours to earn about a third of Taofeek’s two jobs income.
The poor workers may depend on the unions to argue their case for a better deal- the Taofeeks are entrepreneurial in attitude and have their eyes wide open for better deals than on offer from their back breaking two or more jobs engagements. The interview continues:
“I met Akin who introduced me to the gang. My job was to drive them to the venue of the operation, wait in the car while they went in and I drive immediately they come out. So far, I have gone on operations in Ibadan, Ogun and Akure with them.
I was given N150,000 and in another N70,000 while in the third I was given N100,000. The money shared at the end of each operation depended on how much we realised in the operation. We usually operated with information. We don’t just go to anybody’s house”.
What each got also depended on an hierarchy of jobs.
Wale Adeniyi, the 28 years old Akure born, the gang’s best hit man, got between N400,000 to N600,000 in some of the operations, with the least earned by him being N100,000. Wale could make between N2million to N3million in five operations. When only the economic facts are focused upon, the elite lifestyle that can be purchased from this deadly business is magnetically attractive to the Wales who become intoxicated from the bloody business.
Wale boasted about his prowess during operations. “Whenever we were going for an operation, I was usually given a rifle first before any other person. This was because of my boldness. It was Akin, our leader who introduced me to this gang”.
I have gone into these details, albeit from a sketchy but fascinating interview of these self-confessed professionals in organised planned armed violence raids of homes unsecured by the police, to bring to the fore the fact that what we are dealing with are alternate economies competing with the legal economies that have failed those who transit from the legal to the illegal economies.
Wale Adeniyi with average per operation returns of N500,000 can purchase an upper middle class lifestyle in their milieu or launder the same into acceptable legal business upon retirement from the business of armed robbery.
The fact is that the business of the gang grows insecurity for the households and householders within the legal economy and as such the gang itself is a national security threat. Before addressing the issue of the gang as the national security threat, what sustains the viability of the gang as gleaned from the interview is an important detail.
Those who trade in violence from the military to the bus drivers believe in charms and prayers, and this gang was arrested on the day “they were going to renew their Ijaya (charm to instill fear on their victims) and also that which will not make bullet to penetrate into them. “It was on our way back to Otta that we were arrested”.
Gang members know that theirs is a war as opposed to a peace profession. Their operations may involve the taking of lives and they in turn run the risk of being captured and or killed. The provider of surgical services to the wounded and the provider of magical protection and insurance are components of the gang’s business corporation. The owners of gangs know these economic details when they appoint their chief operation officer in the likes of the “Akins” who introduced Wale to the gang. From these details a glimpse of light can be shone into the darkness of the “underworld” of the foot-soldiers of criminal gangs. The police-journalist partnering in the publication of Crime Alert can be developed as a segment of national security intelligence research grounded in a multi-disciplinary security programme in our faculties of law and social science.
The new I.G needs a new regime of intelligence and information to develop a crime fighting economy to undermine the crime promoting economy of gangs of armed robbers and kidnappers. From that which has been presented above, all that is needed to turn a gang into mercenary outfit is economic. There are already gun runners, pirates and militant touts waiting for the Akins to introduce them into ongoing mercenary and insurgent operations.