Sadly, but true, there has been an increase in cases of rape, stealing, kleptomania, burglary, homicide and prostitution among teenagers in Nigeria. Going by the recent arrests of such juvenile delinquents nationwide, Fidelis David examines a society’s failure to instil the right values and teenagers’ propensity for crime buoyed by get-rich syndrome
No doubt, teenagers’ propensity to commit crimes for money in Nigeria today is increasingly alarming and disturbing, but can we say our society’s approval of moral laxity is a source of this malady? Should we blame parents and guardians for failing in their responsibilities to bring up their children and wards uprightly? Or we should hold government responsible for failing to provide good leadership and governance? The effects of these cankerworms in our society are glaringly adverse.
Teenagers on the RampageIn what could be described as unbecoming in our society, on Thursday 14 April 2022, the Ondo State Security Network Agency, codenamed ‘Amotekun’ paraded two juveniles who specialised in armed robbery at Ijare In Ifedore Local Government Area of the state.
Most disturbing was that the juvenile armed robbers adopted names of renowned notorious armed robbers in the country. They are, Timilehin Femi (Anini), 12 years; Ojo Sunday (Oyenusi) 16 years and 20 year-old Odeyemi Ayodele (Osumbor), who supplies them with guns.
Recall that Lawrence Nomanyakpon Anini was a Nigerian bandit who terrorised Benin city in the 1980s along with his sidekick, Monday Osunbor, while Ishola Oyenusi (popularly known as Dr. Ishola), was a notorious Nigerian armed robber, who was active during the 1970s. The leader of the gang, 16-year-old Ojo Sunday, who claimed he was named Oyenusi by people in his neighbourhood in Ijare, Ifedore Local Council Area of the state, having discovered his prowess in robbery, said they were usually armed by Odeyemi Ayodele (20).
Timilehin Femi, also known as Anini, who was paraded with his mother, Iyabo Femi, said it was his mother who usually fortified him and his gang with charms so that they won’t be arrested.
Meanwhile, Odeyemi, who also adopted the name of a notorious armed robber, Monday Osumbor, who terrorised the old Bendel State, admitted that he only released the dane gun to the boys and not the double barrel rifle.
Parading the suspects at the headquarters of the corps in Akure, the Ondo State Commander of Amotekun, and Special Adviser(Security) to the state governor, Mr. Adetunji Adeleye said the suspects were arrested for armed robbery and terrorising residents of Akure, Ilara -mokin and Igbara-Oke.
He said: “One of the three juveniles (Oyenusi) was arrested last year, taken to rehabilitation centre and was later released because of the age. His mother was arrested too because Oyenusi confessed to us that his mother has been the one preparing charms for him to prevent his downfall and arrest by security agents and his mother too has been a benefiting of proceeds from the crime.
“This time around, we will write to the Ministry of Justice for possible advise on what to do about them. But for their mothers who have been aiding them, they will be charged to court”.
Adeleye explained that items recovered from them include guns, bullets, phones and money, stressing that they confessed to the crimes and will be charged to court soon.
It is difficult to get crime statistics related to teenagers crime in Nigeria, courtesy of poor record keeping system but recall that on January 29, 2022, three teenage boys were caught burning the head of a girl, said to be in a relationship with one of them, for money ritual in Oke Aregba area of Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
The state police command named the suspects as 17-year-old Wariz Oladeinde, 19-year-old Abdulgafar, 20-year-old Lukman and Mustakeem, all residents of Abeokuta.
Report has it that Soliu, who was the boyfriend of Rofiat had, with the aid of his friends strangled her, cut off her head and burnt same in a local pot, purportedly for money ritual, but luck ran out on the teenagers when a local community guard, Segun Adewusi, sighted their activities and reported to the police at Adatan.
Pronto, Nigerians who could not hide their feelings for the boys barbaric act took to social media to express their worries. While some blamed parents and guardians for failing in their responsibilities to bring up their children and wards uprightly, others said it was a result of the dwindling value system in the country.
In January 2022, two teenagers were paraded in connection with the murder of Pastor Babatunde Dada of Chapel of Resurrection situated on 13 Road, 6th Avenue, FESTAC Town, Lagos.
Parading the teenagers simply identified as Farouk, 15, and Jamiu, 17, before journalists, the state police command explained that police eventually succeeded in arresting them in their hideouts in Ilorin, Kwara State, and FESTAC area. According to the police, the suspects, who introduced themselves to Dada as musicians, stabbed him to death to steal his valuable and ran away, confessed that they killed Dada with a bottle and stick.
On March 18, 2022, an Abuja Upper Area Court in the Gwagwalada Area Council sentenced a 19-year-old student, Hillary Yunana, to four months imprisonment for stealing spaghetti and noodles from a shop.
The prosecuting counsel, Abudulahi Tanko, told the court that the convict broke and entered the shop of one Gift Ugochukwu, on March 4. Tanko said the convict stole seven pieces of spaghetti, five pieces of noodles and a cash sum of N10,000, all valued at N13,000, an offence that contravened sections 346 and 287 of the Penal Code.
The convict was charged with burglary and theft and the judge, Sani Umar, jailed Yunana after he pleaded guilty to the offence. Umar, however, gave the convict an option to pay N10,000 for each of the charges, or serve a jail term of two months for each of them.
Also, on February 20, 2021, the Cross River State Police Command paraded a man, Okon Effiong, said to be the owner of the locally-made double barrel pistol seized from a 17-year-old female student of Government Secondary School, Ikot Ewa in Akpabuyo Council Area.
The girl, Promise Idorenyin, who was an SSII student and member of a local cult group, Sky Queen, was reported to have gone to school with the gun with an intention to shoot one of the teachers for insisting that she cut her coloured hairdo, and subsequently confessed that the gun was owned by her sexual partner, Effiong, a farmer with six children.
On March 5, 2022, the Kano State Police Command arrested an 18-year-old boy, Abdulsamad Suleiman, of Dorayi Chiranchi Quarters, Gwale, Kano, alongside an accomplice, Mu’azzam Lawan, 17, over the alleged murder of a housewife, Rukayya Jamilu, (21years).
The police spokesperson in state disclosed that at the end of discreet investigation, the principal suspect confessed that on February 12, 2022, around 4pm, he went to the house of the deceased and met her on the bed. He saw three mobile phones and took them. Having realised that the housewife would recognise him, he used a wooden pestle to repeatedly hit her on her head, as well as hit her two children and disappeared with the mobile phones.
Moving back to the South-west, on October 13, 2021, police in Osun State and local hunters busted an all female armed robbery gang in Osogbo. The suspects, who are all teenagers, were arrested after robbing a resident of an undisclosed amount of money, while eyewitnesses revealed that the girls, ranging between 14 and 16 years of age, were masterly in their operations
Also, don’t forget that baby factories where teens are kept and made to bear children for a token and the babies sold have become the order of the day and it will interest you to know that as shocking, immoral and unreligious as it may seem, some Nigerians still indulge in the act.
Parental Decadence in the 21st Century
On parenting, a Senior Lecturer, Dept of Mass Communication, Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo Dr Rahman Abubakri, asserted that parenting responsibility in Nigeria has not only fallen, but is dead, and has since been buried.
Abubakri said: “There is tremendous increase in the number of broken homes. Many of the criminal teenagers have single parents who can’t afford to sponsor their education.They easily drop out of school and invest in criminality. Though, the federal government has failed to adequately equip, train, re-train and motivate the Nigeria Police, so, the criminal- minded teenagers have noticed police laxity and decided to quickly exploit the opportunity to take hard drugs, rob, rape, kidnap and kill their victims for rituals.
“There is no more orientation of the young ones towards developing self-reliance spirit, get-reach syndrome is now on the high gear and the society gives too much regard to very reach ones whose sources of wealth are not questioned by the the state security agents as they too would want to have their own shares of the ill-gotten wealth due to very high level of poverty in the land.”
Dr. Abubakri, who is also the Polytechnic’s Director of Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES), noted that many more people, including the public and civil servants are being impoverished persistently by the state governments who decided not to pay the workers’ salaries.
Symptomatic MaterialismAlso, Dr Raphael Olugbenga Abimbola, a Senior Lecturer, Dept of Mass Communication, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, posited that the increasing wave of the involvement of young minds and underaged in crime in our country is symptomatic of the materialism and morbid acquisition tendency that has become the order of the day in the present day Nigeria. This, he said, can be traced to Nigeria’s culture of misplaced values where money is the sole factor to measure success.
He said: “Our political space has been monetised where winning election or getting political appointment is a gateway to get rich quick while the masses are impoverished. By this, the minds of the young ones has been conditioned, sadly enough, that hard work does not pay but shortcut to wealth by all means fair or foul. That is why they now see nothing wrong in kidnapping for ransom, robbery, rituals and other criminal activities as long as they bring money believing the end justifies the means”.
A Pastor, Kehinde Ogunkorode lamented that some parents go as much as taking their children to where they can learn Yahoo-Yahoo and get them fortified.He stressed that It takes the grace of God, family background, and self-discipline for juveniles look away.
Drug Abuse among Teenagers
The latest global estimates released by UNICEF indicate that about 5.5 per cent of the population aged between 15 and 64 years have used drugs at least once in the past year, while 36.3 million people, or 13 per cent of the total number of persons who use drugs, suffer from drug use disorders.
In Nigeria, with 14.4 per cent the drug use prevalence is significantly higher than the global average.
It indicated that a prevalence of 20–40 per cent and 20.9 per cent of drug abuse was reported among students and youths, respectively. Commonly abused drugs include cannabis, cocaine, amphetamine, heroin, diazepam, codeine, cough syrup and tramadol.
Even though there are many people who take alcohol on a daily basis, alcohol is usually abused at parties or any gathering, which involves youths and juveniles. Findings revealed that on average every person in the world aged 15 years or older drinks 6.2 litres of pure alcohol per year.
Thriving Amoral Music ContentNowadays, hardly can one watch a movie or music without finding scenes where drugs are being abused or nudity promoted.
Musicians also abuse drugs to conquer stage fright and suppress stress. But most Nigerians are seemingly comfortable with the lyrics and musical videos released for public consumption across the country.
Study shows that some of these songs and videos are rather vulgar, highly sensational and tend to promote drug abuse, nudity, internet fraud, domestic violence, and crime, just to mention but few.
The most striking about crime committed by delinquents is that most couples procreate at a faster rate than rabbits without proper care. Therefore, parent must be enlightened on the effects of unmet needs like starvation (food), parental care and affection on their children to enable them (parents) make adjustment.
Reno Omokri, popular author and former aide of ex- President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, once advised that couples must realise that marriage goes beyond just being a baby-making union; they must come to terms with this reality to avoid the wild desperation to have a child at all costs.
He said: “An adult male without money is already a problem to himself. If a woman marries him, they both become problems. If they have children while still broke, they create even more problems. So, to avoid a problem chain reaction, learn to make money legally.
“You need to be a money making machine before you start being a baby making machine. Don’t increase the world’s population if you can’t first increase your own personal remuneration. It is disruptive to breed without having bread to feed those you breed”, Omokri asserted.
Therefore, we all owe it a duty to help the security agencies and the government to arrest the situation and save our society from looming destruction.
Negative Image on Society
Can we say that these acts of criminality by teenage Nigerians have negative image on our society? Absolutely yes! Suffice it to say that there are negative implications of this unabated crime by our teenagers, because it gives Nigeria negative perceptions and soils our image in other climes but has the law enforcement agencies, put up strategies to control the ugly trend?
Way ForwardAs posited by Dr Rahman Abubakri, “Ministries of Social Development and Orientation at the state and federal levels should conduct research into the growing rate of broken homes and establish a structure that will give succour to jobless single parents, teach values to the young ones through the mass media and empower the parents and the children through vocational training centers, so that they can have legitimate economic sources of income.
“Aside these, state governments should pay workers salaries regularly as a way of feeding the informal sectors of the economy”, he added.
On the part of Dr Raphael Abimbola, to address this, “we need a multiple approach mechanism whereby we first re-orientate our minds from materialism and make political offices less attractive. Most importantly, our laws must be made superior to any individual whether high or low, so offenders can hardly escape punishment, which would serve as deterrent to others.”
A Social Worker, Mathias Taiwo averred that wards who lack parental care and attention mostly find succour in whatever can fill the vacuum and such may end up engaging in unconditional acts.
According to her, “children need proper attention because there are many things going on around them that can make them go astray but if there is a strong bond between them and their parents, it might be difficult for them to engage in delinquency”.
Also, the Nigeria Police Force must strengthen its special branches, including Juvenile Welfare Centres (JWC) and Anti-Human Trafficking Unit that handle cases of child trafficking and such other exploitation of women and children. Government should provide employment opportunities for youths, greater thought should be given to setting up more amenities in the rural areas, stoppage of pornographic films and some American films, where our teenagers learn techniques in stealing and destroying properties. A divorce is an unpleasant thing that can translate into several issues, where children may often have to grow up with only one parent and may suffer from this by engaging in criminality, so that factor must be thoroughly considered except in life-threatening situations.
On a final note, education coupled with empowerment are some of the tool that can be used to reduce the rate of criminal delinquents. Meanwhile, given that the rate of poverty and illiteracy is too high, kids who should be at school but have ended up on the streets like Timilehin Femi (Anini), Ojo Sunday (Oyenusi) and Odeyemi Ayodele (Osumbo), should be re-absorbed.
“Can we say our society’s approval of moral laxity is a source of this malady? Should we blame parents and guardians for failing in their responsibilities to bring up their children and wards uprightly? Or we should hold government responsible for failing to provide good leadership and governance?”
“We need a multiple approach mechanism whereby we first re-orientate our minds from materialism and make political offices less attractive. Most importantly, our laws must be made superior to any individual whether high or low, so offenders can hardly escape punishment, which would serve as deterrent to others”