The COVID-19 inspired lockdown in Lagos State has been dominated by the news of youth gangs terrorising residents in different communities of the Lagos Mainland. Two gang names were more prominent in the reportage: The 1 Million Boys, and The Awawa Boys.
The terror unleashed by these gangs operating across neighbourhood such as Ogba, Agege, Alimosho, Mushin, Ajegunle, Ijesha, Oshodi, Egbeda, Dopemu and other areas, created apprehension among residents who resorted to self-help, formed Neighbourhood Vigilantes. Armed with crude weapons, such as knives, manchettes and cudgels, they kept vigils at night, mounted bonfire at strategic locations.
Before the lockdown, many Lagos state residents have never heard of these gangs. However, InsideMainland Crime Reporters has been keeping a tab in their emergence for more than five years. For some residents in Ajegunle near Apapa and Agege environs, these gangs comprised of mainly youth members were only exporting their terror beyond the localities to other parts of Lagos. They have lived with their nuisance for more than half a decade before now.
Alongside the deadly Cult Groups, these youth gangs have been on the rise and their operations assuming bolder and more dangerous dimensions. In this exclusive report, InsideMainland team identifies the various youth gangs terrorising the Lagos Mainland.
Loosely translated as ‘We are alive’ or ‘We dey here’ among residents who have witnessed the barrage of attacks from the gang, the Awawa Boys comprises mostly teenagers between 15 and 19 years. Those known as Awawa Boys, the gang has male and female members who serve various roles in the group.
“The group mostly consists of school dropouts, recalcitrant secondary school students or the ones fresh out of secondary school. Some of them have been brainwashed, while others are fully aware of the consequences of their actions,” a security source to InsideMainland.
Mode of operation
The Awawa Boys emanated from the Agege community, Lagos Mainland, where they have gained total control and drove fear into the minds of residents.
Before now, the Fela Shrine was their ideal base to get entertained and have unlimited access to hard drugs and alcohol. The gang members bear a teardrop tattoo on the left side of their faces.
“Members of the gang are emboldened by exposure to hard drugs which gives them the needed charge to attack their victims,” a Police source narrated to InsideMainland.
The Awawa Boys would naturally move from the Shrine to communities around Agidingbi, Wempco Road, Akilo, Guinness, Ikeja Under Bridge, Ogba, Grammar School, among other neighbouring areas using Keke Marwa tricycles or walk in a group attacking their victims as they move.
The gang use multiple weapons such as knives, cutlasses, and locally made guns to rob their victims of their belongings.
The Awawa Boys have reigned supreme across Agege, Ikeja, Dopemu, Oko-Oba, Oke Koto, Fagba, Meiran and environ for several years, where they have robbed, assaulted and harmed their victims in multiple different attacks. The Police have had a running battle to contain them.
The 1 Million Boys
The 1 Million Boys were originally from the famous Ajegunle suburbs of Lagos Mainland. Formed in 2015, The 1 Million Boys gang remains one of the most dreaded Youth Gangs in Lagos. The residents and other neighbouring communities witnessed the full wrath of the 1 Million Boys for about a year. It took the relentless interventions of community vigilantes and Ajeromi Police Station, led by a charismatic DPO, to rout them out of the area.
The gang thought to comprise teenagers majorly; a Police source said the group also have members who are between 21 – 24 years. “Those elderly ones are the gang leaders who coordinate their attacks and plan their movement when they want to operate,” the source said.
Mode of operation
The male members of the gang numbering about 50 to 100 would storm their targets in intimidating numbers, hence the tag, The 1 Million Boys. They loot shops, assault their targets, or force them to sign a commitment to be paying a certain amount of money regularly.
“Due to their numbers, it is difficult to pinpoint who did what or when because they are many and would be running while operating. Imagine 50 people running into a street at the same time collecting people’s phones, looting shops and assaulting women at the same time. They are well-coordinated and do not operate individually”, a Police source who is familiar with their operations told InsideMainland.
On the other hand, the female members of the gangs are often used as bait to get to their victims who are mostly single or married men targeted by the gangs. Mostly attractive teenage girls, they are sent to woo their targets with male members of the gang close-by and ready to pounce on the mark when necessary.
Although the gang reigned supreme in Ajegunle before there were contained, they have extended footprint to parts of Ipaja, Agege, Meiran, Abule Egba, Ijaiye, Ijesha and Egbeda.
Due to the lockdown, there have been cases of their assaults around Command, Ipaja, Abesan, Baruwa Alimosho communities. A clear indication that the gang may have gained stronghold around Lagos.
They are most adorned in attractive outfits, especially the female members to draw attention, the members of the gangs have similar tattoos around the lower neck, hands and shoulder. Members also have incisions around their wrists, legs and other parts of their body.
The Shaku Shaku Boys
Translated in local parlance to represent their recurring numbers, the name ‘Shaku Shaku’ implies that no matter how many times they got arrested, they always have enough numbers to cause damage.
The teenage gang first surfaced in Badagry and neighbouring communities with the members often having a face-off with other cult confraternities such as Eiye and Aiye cult members.
Mode of operation
According to a Police source, the Shaku Shaku Boys are not as fierce compared to Awawa Boys or 1 Million Boys gang, yet they have caused pains and worry for residents whom they have assaulted multiple times. The gang is known to inflict pains on their suspects who struggle with them while on a rampage.
Currently, the increase in community policing and support from local vigilantes who are securing different axis in the area have impacted significantly on their capacity to operate in their zones. “The last we heard of the boys’ operations was in 2018 and early 2019. They have been overpowered, and some of their members have either ran out of the community or moved to other places where they operate individually or may have joined other gangs. Before the lockdown, the complaints we received from Badagry and Ojo axes are multiple cult clashes, and that has reduced after the intervention of the Police mobilised to the area,” the Police told InsideMainland.
Area of dominance
The gang operates mostly in Badagry and Ojo communities before the Police intervention slowed their operations.
The Police Command with the help of local vigilantes and residents have made several arrests in a bid to curb the dominance of the gangs.
As a result of the atrocities committed by the groups during the lockdown, the Lagos Police apprehended about 130 hoodlums believed to be 1 Million Boys and Awawa Boys in Lagos and neighbouring communities that share borders with Ogun State.
Meanwhile, the Lagos State Government has reassured residents of its commitment to protecting lives and property, stressing that they are unrelenting in their responsibility.
The re-assurance came just as the State Police Command, acting on the orders of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, redoubled surveillance, following the panic provoked by threat letters purportedly written to some communities by a faceless criminal group, “One Million Boys”, which InsideMainland could not independently ascertain as this does fit the Modus Operandi of the Lagos youth gangs.