Concerns over Proliferation of Thugs on Lagos Streets

Lagos State is witnessing a threatening security situation with the proliferation of thugs in various neighbourhood of the state. More worrisome is the fact that these non-state actors extort citizens boldly in the presence of security operatives and cannot be tamed. Sunday Ehigiator and Esther Oluku write that the increasing number of hoodlums pose more security threats to the people and government of the state

if you are a visitor or resident of Nigeria’s commercial epicenter, Lagos State, all you need to do is to observe the corners and junctions of any neighborhood to find young men with daring faces gathered who share a bond of brotherhood.

They are the ‘men’ a.k.a ‘Egbon Adugbo’ (area brothers) of the neighborhood. They are always outdoors.

They know every security information in the neighbourhood and can be friendly to get favours from passersby.

They routinely do not have a job but depend on charity from generous neighbors to make ends meet. In local parlance, these men are regarded as agberos and the charity given them could be variously described as mule (drop it).

Their disposition is generally defensive. As a visitor or unfamiliar resident in the neighbourhood, you dare not look them in the eye, your car dare not break down along the road, you dare not bring out your phone to take a call at night or in traffic as you may have to part with your property in the process and be forced to part with your hard earned money to bail it.

They are cold and bold. But if you are street smart and could part with a few naira notes while speaking with them as a son of the soil, chances are that you may have secured a soft spot in the mind of the men for the rest of your stay.

Lagosians Cry for Help

However, some residents of Lagos who spoke with THISDAY, decried the current state of their neighbourhoods where they now live in fear of hoodlums who brazenly threaten their lives and safety unless they can constantly part ways with valuables.

Narrating a close ordeal, a Lagosian, simply identified as Ms. Imisi  narrated that; “we kept calling a crew member of ours and he was forced to pick his phone on the streets of Agege and suddenly eight boys gathered him brandishing weapons. This happened at 9:30am. People were passing and everybody ignored him.

“They were pushing him around and telling him that they would stab and kill him and nothing would happen. He ended up parting with N5,000.

“This is a country and a state that has law and security. These boys are claiming their relatives are in power. We are begging because these boys are becoming brazen attacking people in broad day light, exploiting and threatening people. I am begging the governor to help us nip this menace. As it is it is a whirlwind but soon it would become a typhoon.”

In February, 2024, members of the Lagos State Trucks and Cargo Committee (LASTCOC) were hit hard by thugs during a face off which killed one truck motor boy, maiming and injuring many others.

In a press statement by LASTCOC, as sighted by THISDAY, it decried the accident while calling on the state government to come to its aid in sanitizing the port access raods of hoodlums.

Part of the statement read, “Our members came under heavy gun and cuttlass attack of miscreants/hoodlums generating revenue from traffic anarchy that is sabotaging Authorities effort to enhance traffic orderliness, trade facilitation and seamless evacuation of cargoes at the Tincan Port corridor.

“During the attack, a motor boy was shot dead by these miscreants while three others sustained matchet and bullet injuries.”

Another victim of thuggery who simply identified herself as Ms. Ngozi, in narrating her ordeal explained that she was accosted by thugs on her way from work under Cele bridge.

“I was returning from work with a colleague and the bus was heading to Mile 2. When we got to Cele, th bus was struggling for parking space and in the process, the tire got burst so everybody had to find their way.

“We had not collected our change so we just stayed around to collect it from the conductor. Just then, these guys crossed from the other side of the express towards us. They had cutlasses and poles and asked that we give them our bags.

“We didn’t see it coming. I heard someone behind me telling me ‘madam, bring your phone,’ and before I could understand what’s up, one of the guys used one of the cutlass to bit my head.

“That was when I knew that this was serious. I gave them the bag. My colleague had his laptop and his phone. The took both our phones and his laptop. As we went home, we just look for a way to block our accounts.”

UN’s Urbanisation and Violence Theory

The United Nations (UN) attributed the rise of criminality in urban areas to a challenge characteristic with the evolution and rise of cities in erstwhile rural areas or the springing up of new cities in developing nations.

Issues as the capitalist dream of wider opportunities for self-sufficiency, availability of modern infrastructure to aid business growth and the promise of better welfare has led to the over population of cities with inherent security risks posed by theThis challenge also presents the reality of a survival of the fittest mantra among new immigrants where only the strongest can survive.

According to a UN Habitat study, changing social norms which rule out gender roles of women as caregivers and open up avenues for both genders to work and earn and aspire towards career professionalism, also cause a shift in families as many working urban parents may not have time to care for their children.

These children may feel neglected and take to the streets for comfort.A multi-dimensional approach to curbing urban criminality would include; grassroots policing and alternative grassroots justice system, youth, women and children engagement, and promoting an environment which discourages criminality in general.

Thuggery as Feature of 2023 Election Campaign in Lagos

The problem of the security implications of thuggery occupied a central place in the 2023 Lagos gubernatorial election with candidates promising to put a decisive end to the menace if elected.

A strong opposition to the incumbent government and the gubernatorial candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Gbadebo Rhodes Vivour, had canvassed the need to completely erase thugs from Lagos roads saying that it not only de-markets the state in the eyes of investors but is a serious threat to safety of lives and properties.“We need to ensure that the state sets a policy on not accepting the ‘agbero’ (thug) system which is not system that has created a lot of bottlenecks and a lot of safety hazards in lagos state.

“You can only enforce when a system is moving smoothly. We are also have digital surveillance across the state so that we can enforce with evidence.”

On his part, the incumbent governor, Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu, during his campaign also condemned thuggery and vowed to meaningfully engage these youths to make them more productive in society, if elected.

However, the rising cases of thuggery and in some cases violent attack on innocent residents of Lagos should be a concern to the Sanwo-Olu-led government. The Lagos State government should take decisive steps to protect the citizens and those involved in all forms of criminalities and violent activities should be made to face the law. Lagos, unarguably is Nigeria’s gateway to foreign investments and insecurity in any form should not be allowed to fester.

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