Subsidy removal-induced hardship fuels renewed criminality

Adebayo Obajemu

The moral, well secured fabric of the Nigerian society seems to have snapped over the removal of subsidy on fuel, giving way to a growing assault on social order.

In the past three weeks, the insecurity that characterised the Buhari years has grown a notch higher, taking a new form, a development, analysts have attributed to the economic pressure on the vulnerable and flash- point category of individuals occasioned by the removal of subsidy on oil, which has brought untold hardship, spiraling prices of foodstuffs, electricity, tuition fees payable in tertiary and government- owned unity schools, and transportation.

Nothing further demonstrates the growing unease and hardship Nigerians are facing, which have spurred a renewed crime wave than the looting of public property in Adamawa State about two weeks ago.

In the wake of crowd looting of warehouses of the National Emergency Management Agency in Yola two weeks ago, the Governor Ahmadu Finitiri of Adamawa State as a response declared a curfew .

Recall that hoodlums in large numbers chanting ‘Enough of Hunger”, stormed the warehouses in the early hours of Sunday and looted items that the government ordered to be distributed to cushion the effect of subsidy removal.

The hoodlums were seen carrying food items including gallons of vegetable oil and bags of rice. The ensuing pandemonium led security operatives to fire teargas and gunshots but that did not deter the hungry mobs.

In a statement, through his Chief Press Secretary, Humwashi Wonisikou, Finitri condemned the act,
which his Chief Press Secretary, saying the curfew became necessary due to the dangerous dimension that the activities of hoodlums had assumed.

“The hoodlums have been reportedly attacking people with machetes and breaking into business premises, carting away property.”

“The curfew will restrict movement throughout the state, and only those on essential duties with valid identification will be permitted to move around during the period of the curfew.”

In the aftermath of the looting, which Professor Asaju Adedamili, a sociologist attributed to hunger, the Adamawa police command confirmed the arrest of over 100 persons allegedly involved in stealing food and non-food items from government warehouses.

“By qAs far as sociology is concerned, behind every crime there is a factor, in this case what led to the brazen looting was hunger. Arresting the suspects is not the solution, what the Tinubu administration should do is to stop the rhetoric and bring out concrete palliatives for these vulnerable populations”, Adedamili stated.

The project manager of Network Against Hunger, Phillip Nwankwo, the event in Adamawa and the return of robbery in Lagos “is an affirmation that the approach of the Tinubu administration to his economic reform is not well thought out and wrong- footed.


“The government ought to have come out with the palliatives first before the execution of the reform, or at least concomitantly.”

He warned that unless government expedites action in coming out with the set of palliatives, there may be further threat to social order, heightening the worst state of insecurity in the country.

In Lagos, which had hitherto enjoyed relative peace undisturbed by armed robbery thanks to the support the Fashola and Ambode administrations extended to the police, the situation seems to be gradually changing.

On April 5, the Lagos State Police Command confirmed the arrest of three suspected members of a one-chance robbery gang operating along the Oshodi–Gbagada Expressway.

According to a statement signed by the Lagos State Police spokesperson, SP Benjamin Hundeyin, the suspects were arrested by the operatives of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS).

Also on June 22, a deserter-police sergeant, who was transferred out of Lagos but failed to report at his new duty post was arrested by the police in Lagos for robbery and abduction.

Twenty-nine other suspected criminals, including cultists, traffic robbers, armed robbers and impersonators were also within that week alone arrested by the police in Lagos. The arrested suspects were later paraded before newsmen at the state police command headquarters .

Hundeyin told newsmen that eleven (11) of the suspects were traffic robbers, seventeen ( 17) were cultists, two were armed robbers, while the other two were impersonators.

Reports of robbery cases across many of Lagos hotspots and some neighbourhoods have intensified, especially after the removal of subsidy on oil. On July 19, residents of Lawani Street, off Ishaga Road, Surulere, Lagos State drafted a Save-Our-Soul (SOS) to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and security agencies, complaining of incessant robbery attacks on the street.

According to the residents, their neighborhoods had been robbed four-times in two weeks in the month of July alone by armed robbers, who came in a group between 2-3-30am, have been attacking the street since last year. The residents lamented that property worth millions of naira have been lost to the frequent robbery attacks on the street.

According to residents,the robbers came with various dangerous weapons, including guns, cutlasses and knives, collected assorted items such as television, money running into thousands of naira, laptops and mobile phones from the residents of the neighborhoods.

A resident of Abule Egba area, a Lagos suburbs gave an account of how he was robbed of his phone. Craving anonymity for fear of reprisal, he said some hoodlums wielding knives robbed him of his phone and subsequently emptied his account the same day.

Narrating his experience to an online daily ( not Business Hallmark), he said ” I was returning from the Afrikan Shrine where I went to attend Seun Kuti’s show last week. But in the morning when we were returning, I alighted from a tricycle when some boys in the area accosted me. They took my Tecno phone. They both had knives. It was around 7am. Before I got to the bank that day, I discovered that N27,000 that was in my account had gone.”

Also in the Akowonjo-Egbeda area ,residents bemoaned the rising cases of armed robbery. Police report said some robbers raided houses in the early hours of July 13 and made away with cash and properties.

A man, who identified himself as John told Business Hallmark that about two weeks ago, some where in Mile 12 at around 1 pm, he was attacked and robbed of his money and phone.

Following incessant complaints by Lagosians, the Lagos State Police Command said it had conducted a major operations around hotspots in Lagos leading to the arrests of no fewer than 88 suspected criminals 24 hours after the launch of Operation Flush.

The state police commissioner, Idowu Owohunwa, had three Thursdays ago launched Operation Flush to identify trouble spots, especially along construction areas, and flush out criminals, particularly traffic robbers and other miscreants.

Media reports quoted the CP as saying that during the raid, some hard drugs and arms were recovered, stressing that the suspects would be paraded before journalists this week.

According to Owohunwa, one of the locations of security concerns raised included the Orile/Iganmu area, adding that the current tension in the area was linked to the bridge.

He said, “On Thursday, we held a meeting and we launched the Operation Flush. So, many divisions have undertaken raids of black spots.

“We have taken some actions; if you pass through Orile, you will see it and we are going to have permanent police deployment along that stretch, but it didn’t stop there.

“I had to call the local government chairman; the truth is that the place is under construction.

“So, I think the best way to manage it is to have palliatives, and then there will be some raids to complement it.”


There are also reports of robberies in other cities such as Kano, where phone theft has become a pandemic, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Bauchi and others.

Professor Moritiwon called on the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to immediately address hardship in the land to stem the rising crime wave.

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