The Rebirth of Shila Boys in Adamawa State

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By Bilyaminu Gambo Kong-kol

Shila boys are youths of 15 to 25 years who engage in street larceny and have been terrorising the residents of Yola, the Adamawa state capital for years.  The bad boys who specialized in snatching of items such as phones, computers, handbags, purses, money among others, usually disguise as commercial tricycle operators within the city.

The gang started its dastardly acts during the administration of Former Governor, Muhammad Umar Jibrilla Bindow. The crime being committed by the Shila boys is not only limited to snatching of properties, but sometimes, they cause wounds or kill their victims with the use of cutlasses, machetes, and knives. This has posed a great threat to the freedom of movement of citizens, making it difficult for them to go about their normal businesses without the fear of being attacked by the bad boys. 
Shila group activities rose to its peak towards the 2019 general elections. Reports as then showed that phones and other valuable items of politicians and party loyalists were snatched during campaigns. The immoral act of the criminals continued even after the inauguration of Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri in May, last year.

It could be remembered that the Governor while speaking shortly after being sworn in, promised that under his watch, security of lives and property of the citizens will top the priority of his administration. He also gave the Shila boys two weeks to repent from the act or government will take proactive measures against them. Thus, a couple of months after, the Shila boys suspended their vicious operations and embraced peace.
Consequently, Yola enjoyed peace and recorded zero cases of Shila boys attack. However, even at that time, there were cases of kidnappings particularly in Yola North, Yola South, and Girei Local Government Areas. This might be directly or indirectly linked to Shila boys. As they are capable of changing methods of operations.

After enjoying peace in the state capital for almost a year, the Shila boys have in this month of May resurged with a full power of operating in a broad daylight which was rarely experienced in previous times. Reports indicated that the gangsters have recently launched attacks at places like Bauchi Street, Nassarawo near Specialist Hospital, Jimeta Modern Market axis, and Bank road all in Yola North, and Wuro Chekke, Sabon Pegi as well as GRA in Yola South among other places.
Police reports indicated that the attack that happened at Nassarawo community on Saturday, 9th-May, around 9 p.m. where the boys snatched phones and other valuables from an innocent citizen was said to be the most disastrous. According to Police Public Relations Officer, Suleiman Nguroje, “the Shila boys who used to go out in a group of three or four to attack citizens were not so lucky on Saturday night. They took advantage of somebody whom they followed, injured, and took away his handset. Eventually, eyewitnesses and people within the environ who saw what happened ran after the Shila boys and lynched them. ”

In my opinion,  the increasing number of crimes in Adamawa state such as the Shila boys gang, theft, kidnapping, robbery, and drug abuse is in one way or the other related to the high rate of unemployment. Because an idle mind is said to be devil’s workshop.

Youths’ Redundancy and Insecurity in Adamawa
The insecurity Adamawa State has been experiencing could be directly connected to the increasing number of redundant youths in the state. As the population of the state continues to grow, job opportunities become scarce, and even among those who secured the job, many have lost their jobs in both government and private institutions.

To start with state government, history has it that when serving as acting governor of Adamawa in 2014, Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri has ordered the sack of 2,193 batch D1 teachers employed in 2012 by his predecessor Governor, Murtala Nyako who was impeached as the governor of the state. However, following Court judgment on June 18, 2018, asking the state government to pay them N736,318,400 being their 30 months unpaid salaries, His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Adamawa State, Rt Hon. Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri has directed the Hon. Commissioner of Education and Human Capital Development, Hon. Wilbina Jackson to immediately invite Batch D1 Teachers for screening and absorption but up to now none of them earns a penny.

Similarly, in January 2020, Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State has approved the sacking of 5,000 workers employed by the previous All -Progressives Congress-led government of Jibril Bindow. Governor Ahmadu Fintiri through his Information Commissioner, Mr. Pella, has advised those employed between September 2018 and May, 2019 to seek fresh employment, saying the government no longer recognise them as its employees.

It is regrettable to note that since the impeachment of Governor Murtala H. Nyako in 2014, Adamawa state government has never legally and officially employed its citizens in large numbers. Even though an attempt was made towards the end of the tenure of Former Governor, Muhammad Umar Jibrilla Bindow, it was marred by favouritism, godfatherism as well as the issuance of waivers by the then governor. Recently, the committee set up by Governor Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri on the issue reported that a lot of irregularities took place. The committee observed that employment at that period did not follow due process and advice that the employed staff should seek fresh employment.

Apart from the sacking of staff and scarcity of direct employment from the state government, youths in the state become incapacitated following the shutdown of numerous skill acquisition centres established by the then Governor, Murtala H. Nyako. Farming Skills Acquisition Centres (FSAC) in the rural areas where many farmers were trained on necessary skills to improve their yield and its quality were shutdown. Youth empowerment programme, known as Local Apprenticeship Scheme (LAS) which was training youths on 21 marketable trades was cancelled. Vocational Skills Training Centres and Technical Training Centres manned by German consultants have also been abandoned.

On the other hand, my dear state lacks industries and companies that will consume millions of its unoccupied youths. Even the few companies in the state have reportedly sacked their staff. For instance, Gotel Communications limited and American University of Nigeria which are both owned by Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, have from 2018 to date dismissed over 500 staffers.

As these impediments continued to threaten the future of youths and the peace of the state in general, secondary schools, polytechnics, colleges, and universities across the country continue to graduate tens of thousands of youths every year. This means the graduates automatically join the unemployed group, hence their future remains blank, dark, and uncertain. 
Another factor that might be responsible for insecurity in the state is drug abuse. Despite the relentless effort by the state government and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency to curb the menace, the number of drug abusers is on the increase in our dear state, Adamawa. The authorities instead of fighting drug abuse from its root cause, focus more on arresting drug abusers than drug dealers and sellers. The most disturbing part of it, hard drugs are being sold at the entrances of main markets especially in Yola, Jimeta, and other towns of the state. Some drugstores {chemists} continue to sell the hard drugs too. It is unfortunate that youths can easily and freely access hard drugs of their choice. If this and other roots of drug selling are not disallowed, then the fight against drug abuse would never be successful as we are hoping.

It is pertinent that Government, traditional rulers, and elites should,  note that fight against insecurity in society goes beyond engaging security personnel to deal with the wrongdoers. Though the security can succeed in calming and halting the dastardly acts for a certain period of time, the criminals as we see in the case of Shila boys may resurge with full force and go on with their unholy patrols. This is because we merely kill a snake without cutting its head. It is obvious that government can not employ everyone but then there is a need for getting a certain number of youths employed at least yearly so that the unemployment rate can be reduced. 

To improve job security, Governors must learn to bury their differences, set aside party distinctions, and continue with their predecessors’ projects especially if the programmes have to do with Youths Empowerment. In Adamawa, the shutdown of numerous skill acquisition centres established by the then Governor Murtala H. Nyako is the worst mistake ever made by Adamawa state government. The centres were training ground for thousands of youths across the state. With their closure by the state government, youths restiveness has increased and many rendered vulnerable. 

The government should, therefore, note that concentrating more attention on youths’ empowerment programmes will facilitate the smooth conduct of affairs in the state. I end with the following quotes. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi once said “We need to give importance to skill development because this way we can end unemployment.” According to Austrian-British economist, F.A. Hayek “Unemployment or the loss of income which will always affect some in any society is certainly less degrading if it is the result of misfortune and not deliberately imposed by authority.” To American activist Jane Addams, “Of all the aspects of social misery nothing is so heartbreaking as unemployment.”

Bilyaminu Gambo Kong-kol writes from Bayero University, Kano.bilyaminugambokonkol­20@gmail.com

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily 

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