The craze for easy money in Nigeria and the Hanifa story

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Prof. MK Othman

By Prof. MK Othman

It was like a tale, told by a joker to spice an enjoyable gist but turned out to be unspoken truth. This is a story of a rural community located in an accident-prone busy highway, which links two capital cities of prominent states in Nigeria. The accident-prone spot is nicknamed “Kwanar Mutuwa” because of the high frequency of road mishaps with astronomical fatalities and injuries. When such accidents occur, residents of the community rush to the spot under the pretense of aiding and rescuing the victims but end up stealing the properties (cash, phones, etc) of the victims.

In this very community, a resident could borrow money with a promise of repayment after robbing the next accident victim. Unfortunately, this dastardly act is fast becoming a norm in most accident scenes when victims who cry for help are being robbed. These criminally-minded elements of society have gone to the extent of setting traps to punch/burst the tires of motorists on the highway to rob them when such motorists unsuspectingly stopped to find what is amiss. 

This practice is common on almost every major highway in Nigeria. One of the most potent pieces of advice to drivers of today is “do not stop on a highway, no matter what happens with your vehicle until you reach a destination safe enough to stop”. All these things are done to make “easy money” or “get rich quick” without working for it. How did society reach this lowest ebb decadence?

Over ten years ago, kidnapping in Nigeria was just a story in the “action” movie and a few isolated cases in the Niger Delta. When President Umaru Musa Yaradua, granted amnesty to the restive youth of the Niger Delta, we all went to sleep, thinking that kidnapping and similar violent crimes would become part of our ugly history. However, as the amnesty was being granted with all the lucrative packages, the seed of Boko Haram in the North East germinated. We did not take it seriously, we thought BH could just be crushed as we did to a similar organization called “Maitatsine” in Kano in the early 1980s.

Then, cattle rustling emerged in 2014 or so as one of the violent crimes, we were so lackadaisically unconcerned and did almost nothing to stop it. Some thought aloud, how could a bulky body frame animal, called cow be stolen in multiples of 40 to 100 and moved from one location to another without a trace? How could they be sold in an open market without being uncovered by our intelligence system? Some felt, it was a Fulani affair, and they should be left to sort themselves out? In that early stage, I was moved to tears when I paid a sympathy visit to the father of my friend whose 43 cows were rustled. 

Then, the guard of the cows, a Fulani man with his family, vehemently protested and opposed the rustlers who became frustrated and vicious, after overpowering the elderly guard, he was asked to say his last prayers as they were to instantly execute him before his wives and children. The execution was precisely what they did, left with cows and it was the last thing without a trace. Seeing the sadness, sorrow, and melancholy on the faces of those orphans and widows, I couldn’t resist shading drops.
Today, cattle rustling has transposed into full swing kidnapping and kidnapping of victims on transit has been incubated to poaching people from their residence. Time and places are no longer barriers for kidnapping as the incidence can happen anytime and anywhere with impunity without qualms. No place or time is safe; one has to be prayerful at all times. Kidnapping is an organized, sophisticated, and all-inclusive crime, which includes cash exchange between the victims’ families and the kidnappers. Can’t it be nipped in the bud? Is it a failure of the intelligence system or operating system or both? Corruption and craze for easy money are the motivational factors nourishing and flourishing this crime.  Some people lost their lives and many others sold out their capital assets to regain their freedom.  
It is under this circumstance, the Hanifa episode hit the central nerve of society. There were spontaneous outcries from all angles as the Hanifa with her pretty innocent face, was not only heart-rending but could touch even the stonehearted people in the society. Hanifa was a 5-year old pupil of Nobel Kids School, Dakata quarters, Kano state. She was chillingly murdered in cold blood and her body was shredded to pieces and buried in a shallow grave. 

The callous murder, cutting to pieces, and burial of the body parts were all perpetrated by the proprietor of Hanifa’s primary school. The main motivator of this dastardly act of murder of an innocent child was to make easy money. We were all shocked, as no one could believe that this kind of atrocity actually took place in Nigeria. A school proprietor entrusted with 100s of children for imparting knowledge, good upbringing, and modeling for a brighter future; became a callous, cold-blooded murderer of one of the children under his care. What a calamitous tragedy!      

Hanifa’s case is not a common one but it is also not an isolated case as there are few other Hanifas murdered by their supposed protectors such as guardians and trusted neighbors. In the last five months, bad news children killed in schools or kidnapped and killed have been devastating. 
The story of Sylvester Oromoni from Dowen School Lagos is similar to that of Hanifa. A petition from Oromoni’s family with 65 signatures reads “On Tuesday 30/11/2021, we lost our brother, 12 years old Sylvester Oromoni Jnr. He was taken from us in the most gruesome of manner beaten by five senior boys in his hostel in Dowen College, Lekki, Lagos state.

The students are from influential families and the school is trying to bury the case”. Another case was that of Asma’u Shuaibu Wa’alamu, an 8-year-old girl, allegedly abducted and killed by neighbor of the family in Zaria, Kaduna State, despite payment of N3m as ransom. Why are we crazy for easy money? Does money solve our problems or bring happiness to our lives? To be concluded next week.

Othman writes from Zaria

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