John Shiklam writes on how street gangs have been terrorising residents in some parts of Kaduna metropolis.
The activities of deadly street gangs known as “Sara Suka” and “Yan Shara” are making life unbearable for residents of some parts of Kaduna metropolis.
The gang members are youths between the ages of 17 and 23 who operate as rival groups, engaging themselves in violent and bloody clashes and terrorising people within their communities.
They are a law unto themselves and nobody dares to challenge them.
Most of them are school dropouts and are chronic drug addicts. They take drugs like Indian hemp, codeine and tramadol.
They are always armed with dangerous weapons like knives, daggers, machetes, sticks and even guns.
They are found in areas like Angwan Rimi, Zangon Kawo, Badarawa Kwaru, Rigasa and Anguwan Shanu all in Kaduna metropolis.
Until recent onslaught on them by security agencies, residents in these areas were hopelessly at the mercy of the gang members.
“They are a law unto themselves, they commit all kinds of atrocities and nobody can challenge them. We live in perpetual fair of them” said a resident of Zangon Kawo who pleaded anonymity.
“They take all kinds of dangerous drugs and they do anything they like. They destroy your property, they collect phones from people, they still things and you cannot go and report to the police.
“You are risking your life if you go and report them to the police. So we have been living under their terror with great pains” the resident said.
Each time two rival groups clash, it leads to death and destruction of property as blood flows freely.
It was learnt that in Angwan Rimi, two people were killed by the gang members.
In Kawo, the hoodlums were said to have invaded the Goat Market in the area and slaughtered the goats brought to the market for sale.
Also a 16-year-old girl was reportedly raped by the gang members and her boyfriend killed.
It was learnt that after about two months of manhunt, one of the culprits was arrested by the police.
Sources said however that few days after the arrest, the suspect was released by the police, following “order from above.”
The community was said to have accused the mother of the boy, a relatively wealthy woman, of allegedly bribing the police to release of her son.
Angry youths in the area were said to have descended on her. She was killed by the mob and her house was burnt. The bakery of the boy’s father was also not spared as the mob set it ablaze.
“That was the price the parents of this notorious criminal had to pay for protecting their murderous son. One of the problems we have is that sometimes when some the boys are arrested, their parents will go and bribe the police for their release.
“Everybody was angry with what happened and people had no choice than to resort to jungle justice” a resident of the area, said.
Also in Anguwan Shanu area, a retired army sergeant, had one of his hands cut off by the hoodlums when they invaded a street in the area at about 7:00 pm attacking residents with dangerous weapons.
Abdullahi’s hand was cut because he refused to run like other residents that were running away from the hoodlums.
“When they came, everybody was running away, but Sani Abdullahi, a retired army sergeant, refused to run. The boys overpowered him and cut one of his hands,” a resident of the area who witnessed the incident said.
They also vandalised 12 vehicles parked on the street.
In Abakpa area, the vigilante group, repelled the gang members by killing two of them.
The gang was said to have invaded Ostrich Bakery, along Katuru road, wielding dangerous weapons. After parking loaves of bread, they collected money and mobile phones from customers and vandalised the place before they left.
Members of the gangs have clashed with the police on various occasions during attempts to arrest them.
THISDAY gathered that some politicians patronise the gangs and hire them as thugs during political rallies. They also sponsor them to attack their political opponents.
Therefore arresting and prosecuting them always meet brick wall as politicians often intervene to facilitate their release whenever they are arrested by the police.
People within the communities where the gangs operate also accused the police of not doing enough to address the problem.
According to them, each time confidential information about the gang members is given to the police, they divulge the source of the information to the gang members who come back to deal ruthlessly with the informant.
Aliyu Isa, a resident of Rigasa, said “when you provide information to the police about them, the police end up revealing the person that gave the information.
“We know all these boys, but if you tell the police, you will end up in danger.
“The unfortunate thing again, is that each time some of the boys are arrested, their parents will go and bribe the police and they will release them.”
But police sources, said the communities were not supporting the police in combatting the menace.
In Rigassa, when the community could no longer live with the activities of the gangs, the people took their destiny in their hands by constituting a vigilante group made up of youths in the area to stand up against the gang members.
The youths were said to have confronted them in a more ruthless manner and succeeded in taming them.
The state government has however put in place security measures to end the activities the gangs.
The measures led to the recent arrest of 50 of the hoodlums who were charged to court and are currently in prison custody.
The state government enacted a law to deal decisively with the menace.
At a news conference in Kaduna, the state solicitor general, Chris Umar, said the law tagged: “Unlawful Societies (Declaration) Order, 2018″, is aimed at promoting public safety and uphold law and order.
The law prescribes a seven-year jail term for anyone convicted.
Umar said: “This Order, which has been gazetted, became effective on 27th June 2018. It declares as unlawful societies urban gangs that have been unleashing mayhem on innocent persons.
“The violent, criminal actions of these gangs pose serious threats to peaceful and harmonious coexistence in our communities, and threaten the tranquility, security and development of the state.”
The solicitor general noted that street gangs known variously as “Sara-suka”, “Yanshara” and other names “have acquired notoriety for involvement in criminal activities, including petty theft, armed robbery, rape and murder.”
He said “based on the powers granted to the governor by sections 45(1) and 5(2) of the Constitution, and other extant laws, the Unlawful Societies (Declaration) Order, 2018 declares all groups under whatever name, appellation or mutation with the propensity of causing a breakdown of law and order or operates in a manner dangerous to the security and good governance of the state as unlawful societies.”
Umar said further that “upon commencement of the Order, any person who manages, or is a member of the said societies or groups commits an offence and shall be prosecuted in accordance with the laws of Kaduna State.”
He noted that “there have been several and repeated arrests of gangsters, who are then quickly bailed pending prosecution, allowing them to continue their illegal activities and even menace those they suspect might have reported them, sometimes creating a spiral of reprisals and needless violence in our communities. The new order closes a lacuna in extant laws” he said.
According to him, the law enables law enforcement agencies to be more proactive and empowers them to arrest and prosecute gangsters even before they perpetrate violent acts.
He added that membership of a gang is sufficient ground for arrest and conviction under the law.
He called on parents to explain to their wards the consequences of partaking in or associating with gangs.
For now, residents are hoping that the measures put in place by the state government would bring an end to the activities of the gangs.