Worrisome – The Nation

  • Social media recruitment of teenagers, into cult groups, should worry everyone

Two troubling arrests, that could paint a worrisome trend: the arrest of the 22-year old Maliki Bello, the ‘Supreme’ leader of Berry Boys, a cult group in Lagos; and, a few months before, the nabbing of 16-year-old Adewale Ayuba, another cult gang member, in the Ojo area of Lagos.

Both cases, by the Special Strike Force on Social Miscreaants, may point towards a growing Hobbesian state. Both arrests were confirmed by, DSP Bala Elkana, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), for Lagos State.  That should worry everyone.

Elkana reportedly confirmed that Maliki Bello was barely 12, and in the Junior secondary school (JSS3) when he joined Berry Boys. He rose to become its ‘Supreme’ leader. Of course, ten long years was enough time to rise through the ranks to become a supreme leader.

His arrest, with eleven other youths after many years of deadly cult operation, is as worrisome as it says a lot about intelligence gathering amongst the different security forces in the state.

Having an operational base in the semi-slum area of Itire in Lagos says a lot about the diligence of security agencies, including the very notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) that have instead constituted themselves into a torn in the flesh of law abiding citizens.

The Lagos Neighbourhood Watch Unit must also have introspection for not being able to burst the group at the grassroots level.

The murder and arson that have made headlines in the Mushin/Itire axis of the state are enough crimes to spur these agencies to have earlier diligently fished out those cult groups.

Sadly too, the said Malik is reported to have been on the police wanted list for a very long time. While we commend the police for at least busting the gang, there are worrisome details coming from the confessions they have allegedly made to police.

They claim to have been responsible for all the arson, robberies and murders in the whole of the Mushin area and beyond.

The most worrisome part of the Supreme leader’s confession is the fact that he was recruited through the social media at the tender age of twelve. This information is as heartbreaking as it is worrisome.

The information gives a clue to what use the youths have turned the social media. A phone and internet data have been turned to weapons by the miscreants who wantonly cause deaths and chaos around Lagos. The social media is a very powerful medium.

The internet density in Nigeria is one of the highest in the world; and this information must be the red flag the governments at all levels need to map out policies to urge the tech companies to monitor, close down and/or  seriously control groups and individuals, to get a hold on the unscrupulous users of the Social media platforms.

On the other hand, we suggest that tiers of government must fashion out policies to engage youths beyond regular education.

Sports, entertainment and other extra-curricular activities must be invested in to absorb the idle hands in the society, given that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.

Vocational schools for skill acquisition must be a priority at this time to absorb those that might be unable to acquire formal education, either due to cerebral capacity or financial reasons.

Nigerian tiers of governments must be ready to compel parents to live up to their responsibilities. Parenting seems to have been neglected as individuals now wait on government to wave the magic wand of leadership.

Parents must be compelled, through laws and their implementation, to do their duties. That might just be a panacea to parental abdication of responsibilities.

For teenagers who ought to be still under parental control to be involved in deadly activities, like cultism, is a huge indictment on both parents and government.

We believe that it is not enough to express outrage at news of these crimes. Governments and parents must play their roles more effectively and the suspects prosecuted and punished accordingly as deterrent to others.

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