Insecurity in South-East Nigeria can not be said to be a thing of the past. But if you’ve been around since the late 1990s and early 2000s, you’d agree with me that the rate of crime in the state has significantly dropped.
I grew up on the streets of Odoakpu Onitsha. My family lived in a house directly opposite the infamous Seme Border: den of thieves.
Growing up I witnessed a lot of shootout spectacles between hardened criminals and OMATA (a security outfit formed by Onitsha Market Amalgamated Traders Association)
Every kid in our neighborhood had an empty cartridge in his toy box and the fences of our schools (Modebe Primary School, Community primary school, etc.) had bullet holes.
Burglary, auto theft, robbery, and murder were part of our everyday lives. Every morning, it was just a matter of whose life was gruesomely taken; whose house was robbed; whose car was stolen the previous night. Before Nollywood made names like Derico and Chiejina household names, they were the villains of our playgrounds.
This is the year 2022 (some 20 years later) and considering the ridiculous standards we set for ourselves in the “poverty capital of the world,” I can not help but wonder, what has changed?
Apart from the menace of “unknown gunmen” or “ungun known men” or however you address them, and the conspiracies behind the recent shootings in the South East, Anambra State has been fairly peaceful.
I can not deny the efforts of the post-Mbadinuju administrations in making sure the security situation of the state has improved. But I think there are subtler reasons our streets have been quieter.
Irrespective of one’s morality, the unspoken truth of our community today is that the would-be armed robbers of today are busy “bombing” sites looking for vulnerable and gullible wo/men to defraud of their life’s savings.
Cybercrime is a low risk-high reward venture in comparison to arm robbery – easy pick.
With the explosion of betting shops in our streets, almost every out-of-job or underemployed young person has in his wallet a bet slip that against all odds would make him a millionaire, and this bet slip (until it cuts) is treated as actual money.
Until a slip runs its course, these young men are plunged in a reverie that can keep them out of trouble. The game to them is not as rigged as trying to make it outside with little or no capital for business and knowing nobody in the government to help secure a more lucrative job – bet industry is a fairer master than the government.
This connection might appear ambiguous as the connection between gambling and crime before now has been how gambling losses create pressure to commit income-generating crimes but a recent study in Alberta proved that “gambling-related crime constitutes a very small percentage of all crime.”