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AREA BOYS INVADE SOKOTO

By NBF News
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•Bello
So you think the 'Area Boy' menace is limited to Lagos? Well, not quite. In Sokoto State, the fear of social miscreants popularly known as area boys is the beginning of wisdom. The state prides itself as the most peaceful state in the federation. But residents are being troubled by the activities of area boys.

Criminal activities ranging from rape, theft, arson, intimidation to extortion are daily embarked upon by these elements even as they are hardly challenged by the appropriate authorities.

The hooligans have also started extorting money from non-politicians, and this has resulted in attacks whenever the victims pose any resistance. Many law-abiding residents have been attacked in their homes.

During elections, they masquerade as party supporters in order to cause chaos at peaceful gatherings in the state.

During the just concluded governorship election in the state, some politicians had engaged some of the youths to intimidate perceived opponents. That led to a lot of violence among supporters of the different parties.

'We are aware that these boys were being given brand new motorcycles, cutlasses and other dangerous weapons by some politicians to intimidates their opponents. Now that the election is over, the miscreants are after innocent citizens, using intimidation and harassment to forcedly demand money,' a resident told our correspondent.

Recently, residents of Rijiyan Shehu and Minanata area of Sokoto metropolis sighed in relief as the police nabbed a suspected kingpin of the area boys (names withheld) who has reportedly been terrorising the residents for a long time.

The arrest was considered as one of the major breakthroughs recorded by the police in its renewed onslaught against criminal activities in the state. According to a police source, detectives had for months been trailing the kingpin who allegedly specialized in rape, homicide and robbery.

The suspect was paraded at the Usmanu Danfodio University Teaching Hospital (UDUTH) where he was receiving treatment after the police had shot him.

Police Public Relations Officer, Al-Mustapha Sani, an assistant superintendent of police (ASP) described the suspect's arrest as a big relief. He said the suspect resisted arrest and was shot by the police on the leg.

A few back years back, a 25-year-old man, Aminu Abdullahi of Rijiya Area of Sokoto metropolis was allegedly murdered by four persons suspected to be area boys.

The tragic incident was said to have occurred at Kwannawa, a community known as a haven for notorious activities in Dange-Shuni Local Government area, few kilometres from Sokoto, the state capital.

The late Abdulahi was set ablaze by his killers after a callous beating. The assailants took to their heels immediately. They were never found.

Another victim was one Hamidu Mohammed, a police constable attached to Kwanni Divisional headquarters in the Sokoto State Police Command. He also met his death in the hands of the area boys.

Another victim was one Sanusi, a 25-year-old man said to be preparing for his wedding. He was stabbed to death by a man suspected to be a social miscreant.

During the 2011 elections in the state, another pathetic incident happened in broad daylight in Wurno, a sleepy town in the state when some miscreants attacked residents during a campaign rally.

In the process, one Yahaya Bello, an 18-year-old man, became a victim of the attack as he had his left arm chopped off. The restive youths were alleged to have been in the entourage of a politician in the state.

The police, while confirming the incident, said they had arrested four people in connection with the attack. They said the prime suspect, one Bashir Arzika confessed that he carried out the act.

Malam Ibrahim Kware of Mabera area of the metropolis was one of the many victims of the attack. He was, however, lucky to escape unhurt.

Said he: 'Please, journalists should help us appeal to the government to come and help us. We can no longer conduct our daily activities freely because of the fear of attacks from the hand of these area boys.'

Another victim who does not want his name in print said: 'The way these boys intimidate us with their dangerous weapons is alarming, and they operate freely, not only at offices but also in any residential houses. They demand for money with intimidation.'

Lately, however, some residents who spoke on condition of anonymity said the security situation has improved in the last one month since the new Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Baba Adisa Bolanta assumed office.

Also, officers and men of the Nigeria Civil Defence and Security Corps (NCDSC) in the state are said to have risen to the recent challenge posed by the restive youths by checkmating their activities.

A police officer with the state Criminal Investigations Department (CID) blamed the residents for not reporting most of the cases to the security agencies in their area.

'You know, they don't go to the police station to report their ordeal in the hands of these boys. They allow the miscreants to go free without any attempt to apprehend them, and they don't give us the appropriate information that can lead to their arrest,' he said.

Recently, about 41 suspected miscreants were paraded by the police who accused the suspects of terrorizing their environs. The youths were arrested with dangerous weapons including knives, cutlasses and arrows at their various hideouts.

Alarmed by the activities of the miscreants, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar, had asked the then acting governor, Alhaji Lawal Zayyana to quickly tackle the menace of area boys.

Said the revered monarch: 'These political thugs or area boys will not take us anywhere. So take a decision on them now. You should ask the security agencies to assist you to rid the state of the menace of area boys,' he said.

Some residents are, however, confident that the area boys menace will soon be over, especially with the youth empowerment programmes initiated by the Wamakko administration.

Under the scheme, over 150,000 youths drawn from the 23 local government areas have so far undergone intensive training in various vocations. Consultancy firms were engaged by the state government to train the idle youths.

The youths are being trained in tailoring, hairdressing, computer appreciation, video production, photography, motorbike repairs, cell phone repairs, local tanning, shoe making, sign writing, vulcanizing, leather artistry, hand pump repairs and pottery making, among others.

At one of the graduation ceremonies, the state governor, Alhaji Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko said his governmental would not relent in its efforts to end the unemployment and restiveness among youths, urging them to also reciprocate by remaining law abiding citizens all the time.

Wamakko admitted that there were some bad eggs in the society, but stressed that his government would explore all avenues to make them more useful and responsible.

He said the government's skill acquisition programmes was one of the several measures being used to address idleness and poverty ravaging the youths, warning that whoever did not abstain from committing vices would be dealt with decisively.

Some are insisting, however, that some of the targeted youths need rehabilitation to enable them integrate into the normal society as most of them have been addicted to hard drugs that influence them to become anti-social agents.