Unmasking the One Million Boys terrorizing Ibadan

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Very little is known about them but they know all about the city – they’re the One Million Boys of Ibadan

In what seems to be the return of violence and mayhem in Ibadan metropolis, residents of the city are asking the government of the state to firmly act in relation to the activities of a notorious group referred to as the One Million Boys.

Last week, the group stormed Kudeti area of Ibadan and unleashed violence on the community, particularly the youths in the area over their refusal to join the group after several overtures.

According to a witness’ account, the boys numbering about 300 stormed Kudeti, they were brandishing weapons including guns. They reportedly shot at several youths in the area and some were attacked them with knives and cutlasses.

According to PUNCH, one of the victims, Sikiru Muftau popularly known as Alase, had the lower part of one of his hands severed completely and they made away with the part.

He said: “There was commotion in the communities and people fled the area for fear of further attack. I am also moving out because the police refused to come throughout the attack that lasted for more than five hours.”

It was however said that Muftau was a factional leader of the group and the mayhem was as a result of fight between two rival factions of the groups.

Commenting on the development, the Oyo State Police Public Relations Officer, Adekunle Ajisebutu, said the command was aware of the incident, adding that the severed hand had been returned.

“We are aware of the visit of some hooligans to the community and we are investigating the attack. I have the information that the hand has been returned. The truth is that no official complaint was lodged at any of the command’s police stations until on Wednesday morning. We have yet to apprehend any of the attackers. However,  investigation is ongoing,” the police PRO said.

On Sunday, the police issued further statement on the One Million Boys which it said it vowed to clamp down. According to Ajisebutu, the state’s Commissioner of Police, Samuel Adegbuyi, urged parents, guardians and community leaders to warn their children against destruction and disruption of public peace.

The statement partly read, “The Oyo State Police Command is worried about the orgy of violence erupting recently in Beere, Born Photo, Mapo, Idi-Aro, Akala and some parts of the state, which culminated in the wanton destruction of lives and property of innocent citizens by some unscrupulous cult groups and criminal elements who go by the name ‘One Million Boys’ or whatever other names they are called.”

The police said some of the “boys” have been arrested and are currently being prosecuted in a court of law for various criminal offences, the police added that others have arrogantly worn the garb of violence and brutality, causing fear and apprehension among the people of the affected areas.

“The command will not shirk from its responsibilities of protecting life and property and maintaining law and order. Therefore, it is resolutely determined to decimate their ranks by whatever legitimate means it may require. Enough is enough,” the police commissioner said.

Adegbuyi urged community leaders and other peace-loving individuals to help the police in the fight against them.

This is much bigger than mere Ibadan touts

Research by IBPulse revealed that One Million Boys did not start from Ibadan. Instead, the oldest account of the group was in 2012 when on October 9, 2012, about 130 suspected members of the group were arrested by the Lagos State Police Command during a raid around Apapa and Ajegunle.

There is even a Wikipedia page for One Million Boys and, trust Nollywood, there’s a movie titled 1 Million Boyz which was released in 2014 and you can watch below.

Essentially, One Million Boys is the code-name of a robbery gang known for its notorious robbery activities around Lagos and its surroundings. Residents of Aradagun in Badagry will never forget how the One Million Boys terrorised their community even though police top brass issued denials of the activities of the gang. These denials were probably the reason why the group expanded to Ojo, Ijanikin and Badagry areas of Lagos, leaving a trail of violence and sexual assault in their wake.

IBPulse gathered from analyses of newspaper clippings and publications that the One Million Boys gang was born about five years ago, in Ajegunle, ironically when a group of youths decided to end the reign of a notorious criminal gang. The initial idea was to use the group to wage war against all forms of violent crimes in the area. The group was said to have first started operating from an area called Aiyetoro in Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Area, where they wrestled power from various criminal gangs. They reportedly did this with the assistance of the five police divisions in the area. But eventually, criminals infiltrated their ranks, and things worsened. The crime-fighting group became a vicious, crime-perpetrating gang terrorizing the entire community.

Soon, the group became so vicious such that both the police and the inhabitants of the area became helpless. The then Commissioner of Police, Umar Manko, decided to wage war against the One Million Boys, and he did with the aid of community members. Before the arrival of the police, residents went house-to-house, raiding known places where members of the gang reside. Those arrested during the raid were given jungle justice as they were set ablaze, their bodies thrown to the side of the road for all to see.

Daily Trust reported that as the raids went on, those who could not stay fled Ajegunle, with some of them fleeing as far as Cotonou in Benin Republic, while others settled in Ojo and Badagry areas. It is believed that those who fled to Ibadan are regrouping and recruiting, giving birth to the current incarnation of the criminal gang in Ibadan; there had also been reports of their activities in Ogun state. This suggest that this group may not just be local, they could be a group that is spreading across the southwest region of Nigeria.

Ibadan residents remain perturbed

The statements of the police seemed to not be enough to pacify citizens of the state on the circumstances surrounding One Million Boys as some questions remain unanswered. Abolade Medinat Adekunle who seemed to be aware of the group’s notorious acts in Lagos said on Facebook that the government of Lagos led by Governor Akinwumi Ambode was able to “flush them out of Lagos”; Biodun Ayanwale,  on the other hand noted that Oyo state government has questions of its own to answer regarding the hooligans, particularly the governor who is the Chief Security Officer of the state.

“When an uprising is lasting more than one hour, ask the government,” Ayanwale said.

Olalekan Ajibola Akeem also echoed the voice of citizens in the state asking for an official statement from the governor on the numerous unanswered questions related to the One Million Boys.

“It’s Governor’s duty to keep peace the order! Gov Ajimobi should answer this question,” he said.

Lending voice to citizens’ demand for the government’s official position, Oluwatobi Deeduke Adisa noted that elsewhere, the citizens would have been directly informed about what was going on.

“In saner climes, the CSO of the state would’ve addressed us on this pressing misdeeds by now. But no, we’re in an environment where sorrow, tear and blood is the government’s trademark. Even worse you can’t point accusing fingers else the youths will strike upon themselves to safeguard the respect and life of their paymasters. Disunity in the youths’ accord. Are we threading the unsafe realm?” Adisa asked.

Government responds…sort of

When IBPulse approached the state government for comment on the matter,  the state government’s head of digital communication, Babajide Fadoju told IBPulse via Twitter that the situation is under control. According to him, investigations are ongoing, arrests have been made and the various serious agencies are actively involved.

But are these assurances assuring enough?

Citizen Idris Idowu urged the security operatives to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book. But is this realistic?

According to an account of someone that had a one-on-one experience with the One Million Boys, one of their major strengths is their ability to strike in large numbers – say 50 people per operation. The fact that they are not reluctant to kill anyone that refuses to yield to their demands is another reason for the trepidation of the group. Also, the group is highly confident in their invincibility as evident in their familiar act of notifying communities before they strike.

Perhaps the most significant concern among citizens is the unknown nature of the supporters of the group. According to a PM News report available here, when some members of the One Million Boys were apprehended during an operation in Lagos, some higher authorities ordered that they be released. And they were.

“Our reporter was reliably informed that the suspects were transferred to SCID, Panti, Yaba for interrogation. At the SCID, Panti, our reporter confirmed that the suspects were there and that their case was handled by the IPO identified as Inspector Austin before the suspects were transferred to Zone 2 Command, Onikan where they were reportedly set free following directives,” PM News reported.

Unanswered questions

While presenting themselves as a robbery gang, those that had been affected by their activities described One Million Boys more as a cult group hiding under the mayhem they foment to perpetrate their cult activities. Another description is that of a terrorizing organization whose goal is to intimidate communities and compel residents to do their bidding with strong consequences if they disobey.

Other commenters on online posts relating to the One Million Boys claim they are being sponsored by politicians who are putting the boys together towards the forthcoming general elections – which should be a major concern for Ibadan which used to be notorious with activities of hooligans and notorious members (and leadership) of the road transport workers’ union.

“With various elections happening soon, inability to crush the One Million Boys now may set the stage for a full blown war when the city goes to polls to elect a new governor. If the sitting governor could compel the NURTW to do his will, the opposition may go with the One Million Boys. And NURTW versus One Million Boys is not a fight anybody will want to see in Ibadan,” said an Ibadan resident.

A cross section of respondents to IBPulse‘s inquiry on what the next line of action should for the state government believe that attempting to unmask the One Million Boys maybe impossible, but what is necessary for the government to do is to root the group entirely out of Ibadan while they are still recruiting before they become a formidable force that would be difficult or impossible to control.

“Today they are cutting off hands, what will they cut off tomorrow? Heads? Breasts? Penises?” a respondent asked.

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