Armed ViolenceDisplacement & MigrationFeatures

Nigeria’s Southwest Communities Where Robbery Letters Are Forcing People To Flee

Many Nigerians living in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, and Osun states have been displaced from their homes following letters of impending attacks on their communities by armed robbers.

Sekunderin Yetunde and his family members are yet to return to their residence at Ifelagba community, in the Ido Local Government Area (LGA) of Oyo State, Southwest Nigeria, since Nov. 2022, following a threat letter of impending attack by armed robbers.

The robbers, in a letter pasted on different houses in the community, threatened to overpower security operatives who had made their operations difficult in the last few months. 

“We would like to inform you that we are coming to attack your homes. Kindly inform your vigilantes, including young and old to get prepared,” part of the letter written in Yoruba read. 

“We are coming to collect our rights in your houses. We will ensure we come with our strengths and all our arms because of your strong vigilantes who have been denying us from operating successfully in the last few months.

A letter written by armed robbers to residents of Ifelagba community in Oyo State.

“We are armed robbers and we shall prove that at the end of the month when we invade your community. Be prepared,” the letter read fully. 

Since the time of the notice, Yetunde, whose husband lives abroad, has moved to live with her parents alongside her three children in Iwo, Osun State. 

“We could not sleep peacefully after we got the notice. Though policemen started patrolling the community, we had to vacate the house because we didn’t know when they would attack us. 

“I called my husband and he advised that we leave the house,” said Yetunde who told our reporter that she won’t return home till her husband comes back at the end of January.  

Asked if the attack eventually took place in November, she said “No. Perhaps because of the security measures by the landlords of the community. But we can’t still say we are safe.”

Threat letters amid rising insecurity 

HumAngle recently reported growing insecurity in the Southwest region of the country. The region brims with criminal cases as residents sleep with one eye closed.

Though governors in the axis created a Regional Security Network, Amotekun, to tackle the menace, insecurity has remained rampant, denoting the failure of the security network to end the hazardous activities of criminal elements. 

There have also been cases of armed robbers breaking into residences to loot. When they realise that occupants have little or nothing to offer, they attack their victims and leave them in cold blood. 

In a bid to tackle robbers who send letters before invasions, community leaders told HumAngle that they usually inform the police, but the security agents would sometimes not show up until after the attack.

Terrified residents in Osun 

In October last year, a similar letter of impending attack was written to residents of Onibueja community in the Egbedore Local Government Area of Osun State. 

The notice, pasted at different strategic areas of the community, was also written in Yoruba.

“This is to notify you of our planned attack in your community and to expect our arrival. We are armed robbers so keep our money. We are aware that you have a strong person that can arrest thieves, tell the person to expect our arrival on 05/10/2022. We will rob your homes before the end of this month,” the letter read. 

A letter written by armed robbers to residents of Onibueja community in the Egbedore Local Government Area of Osun State.

While the community leader, Najeem Alabi, assured residents of maximum security, having adequately informed the police, many residents became restless, hence, left their houses for safety. 

HumAngle recalls that in June 2021, residents of Ofatedo in Osogbo, Osun capital, received a letter from suspected armed robbers who threatened to attack most houses in the community. 

The robbers promised not to spare anyone, including all the guards in the area, during their operation unless the members of the community make a ₦20 million ($43,861) contribution to them. 

“This is to tell the residents of this community that we are armed robbers who plan to invade your community soon unless you contribute a sum of ₦20 million and keep it with the chairman,” part of the notice read. 

Worried by the threat, many residents relocated to Ede, Ikirun, Olobu and other nearby towns.  Those who could not leave their houses supported the leadership of the community with funds to employ vigilantes. 

“I had to relocate my family to Ede to stay with my parents. It was a terrible period and I thank God I did because the robbers eventually invaded the community,” said an affected resident who agreed to speak under anonymity.

Motorists plying the popular Asubiaro area in Osogbo, Osun State. Photo: Adejumo Kabir/HumAngle.

HumAngle learnt that the robbers eventually attacked the community on July 1, 2021, operating for about two hours. A vigilante simply identified as Afeez was attacked during the incident. He said “they came at about 2:00 a.m. and left around 4:00 a.m. I was attacked with a machete after which they tied and locked me up in a toilet. They were about six and two people among them were armed with rifles. ” 

Anxiety in Ogun

In December 2021, another gang wrote a letter to residents of Asa, Agbon, Ibeku and Oja-Odan communities in Yewa-North LGA of Ogun State. 

The letter, pasted on walls of different houses, sparked confusion among residents as some relocated from the area before Christmas. A night after the letter was sent, vigilantes foiled a robbery attack in the community.

A local familiar with the incident said “two people were injured during the violent attack.” He explained further that no arrest was made as the robbers escaped from the vigilantes.

Also, in September 2021, residents of Olosan community in Leme area of Abeokuta, Ogun capital were frightened by a letter of impending attack written by suspected robbers. According to the letter, residents were warned to prepare for consequences if they inform the police.

The notice written in Yoruba was captioned as “Important notice to residents of Olosan community”. 

“We, the big-bosses, are coming to pay you a visit in no distant time. We aren’t concerned If you report us to the police. We shall kill anyone who refuses to give us money during our operation. Be prepared!”

A letter written by armed robbers to residents of Olosan community in Leme area of Abeokuta, Ogun State.

Many residents eventually fled the community. One of those who left at the time, Remi Alimi, said they were surprised by the effrontery of the robbers and could not risk staying in the environment. 

Lagos not exempted 

Like other states, those residing in Nigeria’s economic capital, Lagos, have also had their share of receiving letters from armed robbers, especially a notorious armed group known as ‘one million boys’.

The group, according to those familiar with their activities, was formed by a group of 20 boys in Ajegunle with the objective of ‘fighting injustice’. It was, however, later hijacked by hoodlums who terrorise various communities by robbing defenceless residents. 

The group had displaced many residents of Ikorodu area from Lagos after their reckless operations. They usually write a letter to leaders of communities they planned to attack. While notice of impending attacks in some states were ‘mere threats’, the ‘one million boys’ usually do as threatened in their letters.

One of the letters written by one million boys to Lagos residents.

Meanwhile the ‘one million boys’ have rivals known as ‘awawa boys’. Aside from sending threat letters to communities, they also use women to target men in order to dispossess their victims of their valuables.

Victims of ‘awawa boys’ told HumAngle that they often attack homes and shops in Ifako Ijaiye, Balogun, Oke-koto, Agbalaya, New Oko-oba, and Markaz areas of Lagos.

One of the letters written by one million boys to Lagos residents.

“They usually attack people from house to house and failure to give them money may lead to death,” said a displaced resident who spoke under anonymity. 

Why robbers write communities before attacks

A security and public affairs analyst, Lekan Alimi said the aim of writing letters ahead of an attack is usually to spark fear in victims’ minds. 

“That’s why they usually add a warning that their intended victims should not inform the police. They try to kill victims psychologically before visiting them. What most of these letters do is to make residents believe that even security operatives would be helpless during their invasion.” 

Though police have on several occasions allayed fears of residents, the threat continues in most southwest states. The Nigeria Police Force Spokesperson, Muyiwa Adejobi could not be reached as at the time this report was filed. He did not respond to calls and text messages. 

Meanwhile, Amitolu Shittu, the Field Commandant of Southwest Security Network, otherwise known as Amotekun, in Osun told HumAngle that “even when we don’t get formal report from residents who receive notice of robbery, we usually act on what we get on social media and try to be on top of the situation.”

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Adejumo Kabir

Kabir works at HumAngle as the Editor of Southern Operations. He is interested in community development reporting, human rights, social justice, and press freedom. He was a finalist in the student category of the African Fact-checking Award in 2018, a 2019 recipient of the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence, and a 2020 recipient of the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award. He was also nominated in the journalism category of The Future Awards Africa in 2020. He has been selected for various fellowships, including the 2020 Civic Media Lab Criminal Justice Reporting Fellowship and 2022 International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) 'In The Name of Religion' Fellowship.

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