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Akure
Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Culture of intimidation of vulnerable Nigerians

Aribigbola Afolabi

One common occurrence pervading the entire landscape of Nigeria is the constant intimidation and harassment of helpless and vulnerable Nigerians. No section of the country is immune from the dangerous malady. However, this retrogressive and oppressive attitude used to be associated with people in uniform under the pretext of discharging their onerous responsibility of protecting the citizenry. They indulge in intimidation, harassment, and outright abuse of innocent and often helpless people.

Added to this group of oppressors are political thugs that hold sway during elections who harass members of the public, thugs, touts and miscreants and sometimes OmoOnile in increasing dimension, wearing hard and fearful looks to intimidate and harass people while trying to extort money from them. Individuals are sometimes abused and physically assaulted with impunity and without security agents’ intervention. Even member of the public that should assist the individual will advise that one should give them money to escape physical attack.

The situation is getting worse as more and more youths are being recruited and attracted to this embarrassing and dehumanizing trade daily. It has become a new source of making ends meet in the country. If they approach you for money and you refuse, trouble will start and if you have the effrontery to challenge them, then you have created trouble for yourself because the person can receive the beating of his life and nothing would happen.

Indeed, I had a taste of their humiliating escapade last week on a visit to an office opposite Oyemekun Grammar School, Akure. I have had encounters with them on several occasions in the past, but this latest encounter was very striking and instructive to the danger that vulnerable members of Nigerian society are exposed. Three men with two of them adorning themselves with earrings and saluted in their characteristic manner of soliciting for money.

 Initially, I did not dignify them with any answer and when they persisted, I told them off and they became angry wanting to attack me whispering that afterall I can still fuel my car and if I don’t take care he will batter my face. I got angry wanting to fight them but my friend said I should not mind them and that that is how they go about intimidating people to extort money from them. Since this nauseating encounter with the touts, I have been ruminating on the growing menace of harassment of innocent people in the country in attempts to extort money from them. Of course, the dangerous tendency and acts that is now very common has become a serious source of concern to many Nigerians with the security agents and local leaders doing little  to stem the destructive tide.

That a group of people will gather themselves together with the sole purpose of intimidating people to forcefully obtain money from them without repercussion and with impunity in the 21st Nigeria is a pill that is difficult to swallow and one that is really degrading not just to the individuals carrying out the uncharitable denigrating task but to the entire nation that pride itself as the giant of Africa. Often such act attract serious beating where individuals refused to part with their money or have the audacity to confront them. More fundamentally, how did the people of the country degenerate to this level? What is actually responsible for this kind of offensive conduct from our youths and why are the security agents unable to address the cankerworm?  What can we do to reverse this destructive business that has become fashionable among a section of the youths that carry out the acts without shame and reproach. I find it difficult to fathom how young people will wake up to roam the streets to extort money from other citizens with intimidation and harassment. During our youths days, it was an anathema in this part of the world for people to come to the open to beg for money. This has changed, come even able-bodied people now come to the street to beg for arms, these group don’t harass it is those that harass people under the influence of drug that is our concern today anyway.

The questions is what has changed and what can the society do to reverse this dangerous trend. This is essential because some parents realizing that is easy way of becoming rich have enlisted their children to be trained or learned the retrogressive and criminal trades including yahoo yahoo business. And the stark revelation that many youths are entering this denigrating trade daily. This is quite a departure from age old Africa tradition where children are taught to work for whatever they earn. Nowadays people are praised for what they can amassed whether legitimately or otherwise including illegitimate unexplainable source. The truth of the matter is that the country has degenerated to a very low level of moral decadence because of the culture of worshipping money.

Unfortunately, these evils acts and repugnant activities are perpetrated without the security agents doing anything to curtail or stop them .Often, they seem unconcern and when reports reach them, they are unconcern and sometimes helpless because the miscreants and their supporters are well known to them. It has been alleged in several quarters that many of the touts work hand in hand with these security agents and are in their payroll.

The situation of Nigeria degenerated to a level where group of individuals will come together to molest their fellows because of bad leadership at community and political levels. Most of the miscreant that terrorize become take on the unholy trade through politicians that usually recruit them to rig elections. After elections they are abandoned and for them to survive without dole out from politicians will indulge in harassing people to make ends meet. Also some traditional community leaders engaged them in land grabbing in settling local community disagreement that can easily be settled among community members without the use of brute force. Thus, society encourage and support the miscreant by recognizing them as important people.

Some are in several cases rewarded with the award of chieftaincy titles. The get rich-quick-syndrome has also assisted in aggravating the crisis of intimidation and harassment in the country. Many youths in following their leaders to get rich quick get involved in criminal activities that embrace intimidation and attack on others. The seemingly unconcerned posture of the security agents in arresting and prosecuting offenders of assault and harassment is another contributory factor to its widespread and institutionalization in the society. The protection offered them by politicians also encourage the evil act to persist in the society. Intimidation and harassment of people especially in the core rural areas have the potency of driving good people that can contribute to development away. In fact, many individuals for fear of being killed in their communities have stayed away thereby depriving the society the benefits of their contribution. In addition, the practice have resulted in some cases in the loss of lives and property as well as communal clashes and crisis.

Since it is evident that touting and harassment of innocent people to extort money from them is evil, dangerous and an activity we should not continue to condone and allow, the society must totally reject and eliminate the practice. All members of the Nigerian society from the leaders and the led have a role to play. If we all condemn and reject the dangerous act openly the perpetrators will check members. The law enforcement agencies, especially the police must be alive to their responsibilities by checkmating them and whenever they are caught, they should be treated in accordance with the law instead of encouraging people to settle with those assaulted. This leads to the issue of compulsory education in the country. The country must dissipate energy to training and give employment to her citizenry. A society that does not cater well for her citizens will continue to experience crisis and negative acts such as those emanating from the touts and thugs in Nigeria.

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