By Henry Umahi
On February 19, 2021, the Cross River State Police Command paraded Promise Idorenyin, a 17-year-old SS2 female student of Community Secondary School, Ikot Ewa, in Akpabuyo Local Government Area of the state, who was arrested for unlawful possession of a locally made pistol. According to the initial report, the girl went to school with the gun to shoot her teacher for telling her to cut her coloured hair.
However, the Commissioner of Police in the state, Sikiru Akande, said the initial report was tainted with falsehood. Explaining that the school principal discovered the double-barrel gun in Idorenyin’s school bag, Akande added that police investigation revealed the girl was taking the gun to a blacksmith.
Idorenyin, however, confessed that she was a cultist and that the gun belonged to her lover. She said: “I am a member of Sky Queen Confraternity. I am just an ordinary member. I don’t hold any position in the group. I have known the owner of the gun who is my man-friend (lover) since last year. He sleeps with me and supports me with little things, but he is not the one paying my school fees.
“My mother knows about him because he visits me at our house and sometimes he sleeps over at my place because I have my own room and in the morning he goes back to his own house.”
Idorenyin’s lover, Okon Effiong, who claimed to be 38, admitted he started sleeping with her in August 2020. They were paraded together.
Effiong said: “I am a married man with six children. I didn’t give her the gun; she took it herself where I kept it under the bed. I started sleeping with her last August. Her mother knows me.”
He disclosed that he had started performing the traditional rites to marry her, stressing, “They know she is my wife.”
On February 16, some boys allegedly gang-raped a 15-year-old girl in the Ejigbo area of Lagos. In a statement, the spokesperson for the state police command, Muyiwa Adejobi, said: “The mother of the victim, one Tawa Abbey, of No. 200, Mafo Bus Stop, Idimu Road, Ejigbo, reported the incident to the police that her daughter (names withheld) went to buy food at Lafenwa Street, Ejigbo, when a group of boys attacked the victim with dangerous weapon, threatened to kill her and forcefully had carnal knowledge of her in a room at No. 33, Alhaji Obe Street, Ejigbo.
“The Divisional Police Officer, Ejigbo Division, mobilised his men to the scene where four of the boys were arrested.”
Adejobi, who gave the names of the boys, all 16 years old, added: “Some items recovered from them include cutlasses and substances suspected to be Indian hemp.”
The suspects belonged to a notorious group called Ejigbo Boys.
Indeed, teenage criminals are on rampage across the country. Investigation revealed that youth crimes are increasing daily, even as more young people are graduating from committing small crimes to becoming full-fledged criminals.
As someone noted, “it appears as if teens are in competition to outdo one another in the field of crime.”
How did the country get to this ugly pass? Is there any possibility to reverse the ugly development? If yes, what can the country do to rescue the nuts from the raging inferno?
According to a public affairs analyst, Comrade Cyril Okemuo, “Child or juvenile crimes are commonplace these days. And there are risk factors associated with juvenile crimes. These are poverty, continual exposure to violence, use of illicit drugs, easy access to firearms, unstable family life/family violence, peer groups and media violence, among others.
“Gone are the days when sportsmen/women were awarded scholarship to further their education and become important members of society. The erosion of our core values as a people has led us to this sorry state.
“Starting from the family unit to societal level, failed government policies, adoption of foreign cultures and values have added to this confusion in our existential space called Nigeria.”
Okemuo also accused religious leaders of not living up to expectations. He said: “Religion, which should have continued to serve as our moral compass today, has become mercantile and contributing to the decadence. Salvation, respect for one and the fear of God are no longer taught in worship places. Instead, prosperity at all cost without a commensurate means of supporting such stupendous wealth has become the order of the day because ‘everybody wants to hammer’.
Okemuo, however, added that there is still hope of redemption for the country. He remarked that the fight should naturally begin with the family unit.
“Parents have a tremendous role to play in the moulding of the character and conduct of their children. This could be done through proper home upbringing, being involved in the affairs of their wards and providing guidance where necessary.
“In schools at all levels, the proper values should be reinforced, apart from their studies. Sports serves as an important tool at this point. Government on the other hand should, through the various ministries in charge of youth development, introduce/implement policies to foster good conduct and a reward system to encourage the youth.
“The police should be equipped to ensure the prevention of crimes and, where committed, offenders should be prosecuted without fear or favour. Proper restitution must be served to deter others from going into crime,” Okemuo said.
An entrepreneur, Mazi Fide Ogboko, attributed the high rate of crime among the youths mainly to poor parenting and peer influence.
Okpoko said: “The Bible, which is the moral standard for Christians, says ‘train child the way to follow and when he grows up he will not depart from it’.
“Many parents do not spend quality time with their children and wards due to daily engagements and activities. This is wrong. There is no time to see our children’s day-to-day activities, ask questions, study their movements, inculcate family values in them and discipline them, when necessary. When we don’t do what we are supposed to do, the child will be on his own and everybody will be a teacher to him. The people around him are all he knows and indoctrination comes in at this point.”
Okpoko further remarked that “some parents do not show good morals before their children. They use vulgar words, exhibit violence, get drunk and get involved in other vices not expected in bringing up a child.”
Okpoko urged parents to make friends with their children and wards so that they bond, “They should live exemplary lives before their children.”
Mr. Theodore Nwanya, alias Wahehe, said: “As a father of children and a citizen living in our society, I can attribute the problem of teen crimes to a number of factors. Number one is poor family background or parental upbringing. This is because the first ever instructor or teacher a child meets is his or her mother or father. Second, there is no fear of God in some homes. Some parents and the society have failed to train their children in the way of the Lord. It is better to let your children cry at the early age when you correct them. Otherwise, both of you will cry at night when they bring disgrace to the family, with bad and terrible behaviours.
“Lack of education is another factor because a child that is not properly informed will be deformed. If not properly educated, their minds will not be positively developed. However, some youths are going out of their way due to evil communications from their evil friends.”
Wahehe, a businessman and community leader, further said: “Poverty is a very serious contributing factor to the ills of the society. When youths lack basic necessities of life due to poverty, it leads them into serious immoral and bad behaviours.
“Government’s misplaced priorities is another issue. Any government that doesn’t have policies of developing human potential, particularly with youths, is a failed government and has contributed negatively so much to the evils of society as we are witnessing today. In other words, some of the negative actions and behaviours being exhibited by young people are fallouts of the misplaced priorities of government.”
Prince Wiro, coordinator of the Centre for Basic Rights Protection and Accountability, a non-governmental organisation in Port Hacourt, Rivers State, said: “The attitude of law enforcement in terms of lack of diligent investigation is another challenge. When you go to court with evidence that is not tight, the cases are thrown away. When offenders go scot-free, they will be emboldened to commit more crime. We are advocating that offenders should be duly punished to serve as deterrents to others.
“Religious leaders should also remove themselves from such matters. There can’t be forgiveness without justice.”