By Victor Gai, Jalingo
Like other cities in Nigeria, Jalingo, the Taraba state capital has its fair share of criminality. Created in 1991, Taraba is one of the youngest States in the federation and is experiencing an exponential demographic change as a result of rural-urban migration, presence of public and private investments and particularly the insurgency in the North-East.
Worthy of note is the fact that Taraba is the only State in the troubled region not directly affected by the crisis. Regrettably, what it didn’t pay in terms of the crisis, it had to pay in terms of the surge in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). It is therefore assumed that the rising demographics might be responsible for the rise in criminality within the state and especially Jalingo, the state capital
But while other cities may be grappling with crimes like armed robbery, kidnapping for ransom and the sophisticated frauds like the 419 and ‘Yahoo’ syndrome, Jalingo is none of these. Instead, Jalingo is gradually been taken over by a new wave of criminality perpetrated by very young lads and to some extent juveniles.
The spate of attacks by gangs using commercial tricycles on innocent passengers is becoming alarming. These attacks which usually leave their victims dead or injured have become a serious issue of concern to Jalingo residents.
One thing that may interest experts in crime studies is that the type of crime being committed, the age category of persons committing the crime, the time of the day and the medium used to commit the crime have always been similar.
For instance, most of these attacks are carried out by persons using commercial tricycles by night, in isolated places and by adolescents mostly on drugs, says David Misal, the Police Spokesman in Taraba State. Usually, they dispossess their victims of their handset phones by first inflicting injuries on them in an unexpected and vicious way. This way many have lost their lives or survived with injuries.
Even though the security authorities have claimed to have made some arrests, but the spate of attacks keep on increasing by the day even as victims come up with various tales and experiences in the hands of these misguided youths.
Reports coming in the wake of these attacks link them to the effect of drugs. Some would say the high rate of unemployment has contributed while others attribute such attacks to a more subtle, yet complicated phenomenon- cultism. These facts were however, derived from circumstances surrounding the death of some victims and those who survived to tell the story.
In essence, there were cases of gang wars between rival neighbourhood gangs who fight for supremacy and sometimes because of ‘women’. As petty as that might be to the general public, these adolescents are highly sentimental about issues like drugs, women and phones and can snuff a life out to get any of those.
Meanwhile, the several cases of criminality experienced in Jalingo in the recent past would reveal that there is something ‘extraordinary’ about these attacks.
For instance, in December 2017, during the festive period, Sylvanus Viashima, the Taraba State Correspondent of Daily Sun newspaper was just about entering his apartment late at night when an intruder, appearing from no where, attacked him without warning. His partner, a lady, watched helplessly as he struggled with his assailant who was wielding a dagger. The assailant succeeded in inflicting a deep cut on Viashima on his lower cheek and the back. He however, couldn’t finish the job because the journalist fought for life and dealt him a big blow by hitting him on the male-sex weakest point. The rest is history even as Viashima fought for dear life in his hospital bed. He survived anyway!
But one striking thing about that attack was that the assailant was accompanied by a few men and the way the whole thing played out was strange. They trailed him and while one of them attacked, the rest were supervising to see how the job would be executed in a cult-like style. Well, after every doubts were cleared about the motive of that attack, it was alleged that the attacker might have been carrying out an Initiation Right- part of which he must kill a fellow human being.
Similarly, just about the same period, an immigration officer alongside his wife were waylaid around Abuja Phase 2, a notorious area, by gangsters without provocation. He was on a visit to his family house when he was forced out of his car, man handled and threatened him with weapons. His wife sounded the alarm and being once a member of the community, he was rescued by the youths who mobilised immediately.
The most devastating and heart rending one was the case of 24 year old Mercy Victor, a student of Taraba state College of Nursing and Midwifery Jalingo, whose corpse was found on a sleepy road around the city limits. Reports has it that she boarded a commercial tricycle back to school after spending the weekend. Unfortunately, she couldn’t live to tell the story as she was raped, stabbed with a knife and dumped few metres to her school.
For her attackers to rape and kill her at the same time is questionable given that she couldn’t have resisted them in the first place, neither could they have done that to evade any chances of been detected and exposed by their victim, for it was at night. It is however, either that they were naive and inexperienced or they were familiar folks.
The latest of this horror however, was the gang war that was sparked as a result of the murder of one Kabiru Yahaya of Unguwan Dorowa area of Jalingo. Yahaya was stabbed and killed shortly before the Sallah celebration by a gang when he resisted an attempt to snatch his phone in a commercial tricycle. Part of the gang members were said to have conveyed his corpse from Nasarawo-the scene of the attack, to his apartment in Unguwan Dorowa.
Although, the main culprits were detected and arrested by the security authorities, some are already on the run. Consequently, a fierce war ensued between a group of youths from Unguwan Dorowa and those of Nasarawo which resulted to further casualties. The Dorowa group which took the attack to Nasarawo, insisted that the culprits must be brought to book or else they will avenge the loss of their own. Amazingly, The Authority learnt that when the attacks took place, none of the security agencies was sighted on ground, leaving the locals- the militants as well as innocent residents, to their own fate.
Unfortunately, such an attitude by the law enforcement agencies has sent a negative message to unsuspecting youths and also eroded the confidence of the locals which is why we have gang wars and attacks around the city.
Speaking to The Authority, Yahuza Adamu, who is an elder brother to the deceased, blamed the security agencies for being indifferent to the crisis that erupted in the aftermath of the murder of his brother. He revealed that the problem was a serious one that needs the cooperation of government, traditional rulers and the security.
He traced the problem to the criminal justice system which has not been able to deter the cases of criminality by the way it treated criminals. According to him, the very fellow that murdered his brother, was a hardened criminal who recently went about attacking innocent persons and not long after been arrested for that act, he was let off the hook only for him to repeat the same crime.
“This problem is not only restricted to one place, it is happening in other places and no serious effort is made to curb the problem. The reason been that whoever is arrested is released sooner than expected after committing a serious crime like murder. All that is why the cases continue to occur and refuse to stop. Ideally, when a person is arrested for such a crime, he should be given punishment that is commensurate to the crime, but if the case is treated with levity, it would continue because the victims could make attempts to revenge”, he stated.
Also speaking, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), David Misal, confirmed to our Correspondent that five suspects were arrested in respect of the murder of Kabiru Yahaya. Also, some other arrests were made on certain cult-related and violent attack cases. He gave the assurance that the Command was doing all it could to curb the rising incidences and ensure “people sleep with their eyes closed”.
On the strong suspicion that the killings were cult-related, he stated that, “I cant confirm that to be true or lies because that is best known to the cult groups. But I would like to tell you categorically that anyone acting under the influence of hard drugs can do anything at the slightest provocation. Our investigation indicate that most of those who carry such deadly acts are cult group members and at the same time into drugs. We are still investigating and it is not something that can be ascertained in one day and it may interest you to know that they are in a large number”.