How Bakassi Boys Started,By Mazi Damian Okafor

It all started in 1999 when a group of Traders in the popular power line and Bakassi line,at Ariara Main Market in Aba,decided to take their destiny into their own hands.
Their mission was to put stop to the incessant armed robbery, Killing etc attacks, which grounded the commercial activities in the State.

At first,they were welcomed by the people whom Were fed up with the high rate of incompetence by the police,who were supposed to fight it.
But the People later turned against them, When the Bakassi boy spread their role into areas of social and political control: they enforce debt payment, they chastise women who stray in marriage, and they menace critics of the governor Mbabinuju Government in Anambra State.

Most Nigerians only got to hear of the Bakassi Boys as from the late 2000, when it became a most unorthodox and unusual crime fighting outfit in Anambra State, especially when it became an object of great controversy …
and jousting between Governor Chinwoke Mbadinuju and President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Obasanjo had vowed to uproot the outfit by all means – and in fact did so eventually.
After Bakasi boys become a Frankenstein monster, which started gobbling the people it had set out to protect.
It should also be noted that if the law enforcement agencies had been able to provide security for the people of the South East when they so badly needed it, the Bakassi Boys would never have become necessary in the first place.

Now, Let Us take an Unbiased Look at the Bakasi boys.

Origin of the Bakasi boys:

The Bakasi boys Originated from Aba Market,in Abia State.

In the 1990s, The Popular Aba Market was always besieged by Armed robbers and Killers.The traders in the market were always being intimidated by hoodlums and attacked by robbers. What caused it was that, in the late 1990s,the SAP Economic Policy of Babangida (IBB) regime had turned out to be a great blessing in disguise for Igbo business-men and artisans,for whom it offered a wonderful opportunity to dig deep into their homebred talents to be innovative
Two groups of businesses – the leather workers (Shoe),and tailors (Clothing) – had benefitted mostly, as they systematically bettered and perfected their trades and targeted the ex-port market.

Aba tailors and shoe makers had always been good, but they became even better when greater opportunities beckoned with the export market that existed for them all over Africa, the Middle Belt And Asia.
The shoe makers would make good shoes and stamp Made in Italy or Made in Spain on them and offloaded them on Lebanese and other middlemen and women that inundated Aba to evacuate the products.
Aba became the veritable Taiwan of Africa, as other Nigerian artisans, who were not doing as well elsewhere, relocated to Aba, in order to enjoy the boom that was taking place.

Business was so good for Aba artisans at the time.
And what that meant is that Aba city, like the other Igbo cities – ie Onitsha, Nnewi, Owerri, etc – were awash with cash.
This was also the period when huge mansions were sprouting in Igbo villages like giant mushrooms that had received an overdose of fertilizer.
But then,the consequence was not all salutary,Crime rate became on the increase.

Money is to Criminals the way nectar is to bees.

The surfeit of cash in Aba and other Igbo cities invited crime syndicates who descended on the Cities with brutal vengeance never Witnessed before.
The worst crime syndicates in Aba were the Maffs,who unleashed abominable crimes on the people,in addition to the kidnappings,Robbery and abominable acts, like raping of wives in front of their husbands,Or forcing children to make love with their parents as their sibling watched.
While all these were happening,the law enforcement agencies, were pretending to be helpless.

And In most cases,if anyone go to report, the criminals would return the following day to relate to you how you had gone to report to the police and what you had said, with exactitude.
Under such a scenario, the victims bore their fate with painful equanimity.

Issues got to a head when the criminals started to kidnap, and even, kill the foreign traders who usually came to evacuate the finished leather goods and clothing.
There was a particular case of ‘Hajiya’ a Yoruba woman (for that was the name she was known with) whose decomposing body was found in a ditch, after she had been kidnapped and killed by the Maffs. That was the last drop of water that overflowed the can.
The Aba businessmen knew that it was between their livelihood and the criminals in Aba.
It became necessary to make outsiders understand that Aba symbolises the best and finest in Ìgbo land, hence Aba is always the bastion of Igbo resistance and the symbol of the Igbo resilience.
Aba incarnates the best and finest – maybe also the worst.
So, most things that make up the Igbo reality are cooked in Aba.

There was a spontaneous uprising of the artisans at the Aria Aria Market, as they mobilized other traders in Aba and the Bakassi Boys were founded. However, the Bakassi Boys had started operations several months before Orji Uzo Kalu came to power.

The traders’ uprising that gave rise to the constitution of the Bakassi Boys happened under the Military administrator that handed over to the civilians in 1999 to Gov.Uzo Kalu..

The traders’ uprising that gave rise to the constitution of the Bakassi Boys happened under the Military administrator that handed over to the civilians in 1999 to Gov.Uzo Kalu.

The traders, mostly indigenes of Abriba, a tribe noted for its avowed prowess and dexterity in the use of cutlass and machetes among the Igbo nation, went to their shrines to gather enough “spiritual and diabolical powers.”
Backed by this and financial support from among top traders in Aba, the Bakassi boys went into action and they took the fight to the robbers den and secret hideouts.
The result of the onslaught was an instant success, as Aba was totally cleansed of all sorts of crimes.
They were using very horrendous methods.
Suspects were subjected to ghoulish tests.
One of such is to hold a pair of machetes in the form of a cross in front of the face of the alleged evil-doer.
If his face is reflects in the machetes,he is deemed guilty,and put to savage death.
From what most people know, the Bakassi Boys have mystical powers,drawn principally from Ngwa and Ogoni deities, but in consultation with most deities in Igboland, they were able to clean-up Aba and Anis State of criminals, most of whom escaped to other states of the South East

Criminals Started Ravaging Anambra State:

As at the time Aba and the other parts of Abia State were being rav­aged by violent crimi­nals of different descriptions, and which the arrival of the Bakassi Boys effectively uprooted, Anambra became the worse for it.

Onit­sha and Nnewi which were also awash with cash as Abia also fell prostrate before the even more daring criminals.

The criminals that were ravaging Onitsha, Awka and Nnewi were so daring that they operated day and night undaunt­ed.
And of course, the law enforce­ment agencies were completely useless before the better equipped bands of criminals.

Having had success in reducing crime in Aba, the Bakassi Boys became “in high demand” in Anambra State and other Eastern States.

Crime in Anambra State:

The Robbers were so bold.
After an Operation, on their way back, they will stop in front of the Government House in Awka, start shooting guns in the air and shout aloud that they were giving an executive salute to occupant of the Government House.
The first theory was that some of the criminals came from the theatres of the raging Aguleri- Umuleri conflict at the northern part of the state at the time.

An­other theory was that the crimi­nals were extracts from the mili­tant hotspots in the Niger Delta.
Of course, many of those that had been dislodged from Abia State by the Bakassi Boys shifted their base to Anambra and other parts of the country.
But because there was more money in Anambra and they could roam unchallenged, Anambra became their place of choice.

This was the era of Eddie Nagwu, Chiejina, Derico Nwamama etc

Anambra became Hell on Earth.
Many families started sleeping in churches at Night, per­haps as a way of depending on Angel Michael & Angel Gabriel Protection, Since the Police and Security Operatives has failed them.

Anambra Indigents who lives abroad (Overseas) refused returning, they were scared to come home (Who go blame them? Na who wan die?).

Traditional weddings were execut­ed outside Igboland, as every gath­ering was sure to attract criminals.

Life, in one word, be­came intolerable.

Bakasi boys in Anambra State:

That was the harrowing situa­tion at the twilight days of the military administration just before the arrival of Obasanjo’s adminis­tration.
In the same gesture of the Abia traders, Nnewi people also decided to take their fate into their own hands.
The traders in collabo­ration with the local government authorities,went to Aba and imported the Bakassi Boys.

Once they did that, the story changed, and after two weeks of Bakassi operation in 1999, Nnewi was freed as the Bakassi Boys sanitiza­ted the whole of Anambra State.

Year 2000 Christmas in Anambra State:

The sanitization operations of the Bakassi Boys became so wel­come that the government of Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju that came to power in May 1999, he equipped them, after ap­propriating it as the official crime fighting apparatus of the state

In spite of the so-called unorthodox and brutal methods of the Bakassi Boys, they were welcomed and condoned by an overwhelming percentage of the population that felt relieved. Life returned to the land and business started to boom again.
Life assumed its normalcy as social activities resumed their previously lost verve and gusto.

More importantly, Anambra peo­ple living abroad were able to go home again, to contribute to development of their Constituents and States.
The climax of the peace and sanity which the Bakassi Boys brought to the land was demon­strated in practical terms dur­ing the Christmas celebration of 2000. Almost everybody gravi­tated home from which most had been on self-exile.

The Christmas of year 2000 recorded the largest influx of Anambrarians from all over the world and everybody went out of his way to savour the freedom and peace that reigned.

People would drive around the state around the clock and there was no single case of crime anywhere.
Because of the mystic powers of the Bakassi Boys which made it possible for them to locate criminals, those who were very nostalgic of home, like returnees from South Africa and other crime infested places, always stop over in hotels in Enugu Or Imo State, for fear of Bakasi boys
The story is that, if you had ever committed a big crime or ever shed human blood, the Bakassi Boys could locate youand finish you off.

By this, alot of Innocent people were presumably Killed in error Or vendetta.

Mistakes of Bakassi boys:

Bakassi Boys soon ran into trouble with the federal authori­ties.
Firstly, when some criminals who had the thugs whom they used against political Opponents, were dealt with by Bakassi Boys, they started to pull strings to do Ban the Bakasi boys.
In reaction, Governor Mbabinuju quickly moved to legalize the activities of the Bakassi Boys by getting the Anambra state house of assembly to pass a law legalizing them as the Anam­bra State Vigilante Services (AVS).
However, so determined were the opponents of the Bakassi Boys and the state government use of them that the powerful politicians pursued with their influence-laden campaigns against the AVS.

Suddenly people that had no reason to fall under the Bakassi Boys’ machete were brutally murdered.
One of them was a musician, De Doga who was generally adjudged blameless.
Then there was the popular reli­gious leader, Edward Okeke, alias Eddie Nawgwu, and some others.
Murder of Barrister Igwe and his wife by Bakasi boys:

Perhaps the most abominable was the death of Barrister Igwe and his wife with an unborn baby, who were murdered in cold blood in Onitsha, by people suspected to be connected to the Bakassi Boys .
Governor Mbadinuju did not also help matters either; by the way he allowed the control of Bakassi Boys to slip out of his hands into the clutches of individuals who used it to settle personal, political and social scores.
whose operations had by then become totally bastardized.
Incidentally, Barrister Igwe, an Onitsha-based lawyer had been a loud supporter of the labour and civil organisation elements that were campaigning against what was acknowledged as Governor Mbadinuju’s clueless Government.
When, President Obasanjo allowed the strong arm of the State to descend and dis­band the Bakassi Boys, the action was supported,as the outfit had become dysfunctional and totally useless.
People started seeing the out fit as being worse than the criminals they had come to fight.

In the short time that Bakassi Boys intervened in Abia,Anam­bra and Imo states, their effective­ness was felt.
But like most good things which become mismanaged by bad people, it became a dangerous monster.
If it had intervened briefly and withdrawn,it would have enjoyed praises.

Leadership Structure of the Bakasi boys:

The Bakassi Boys are described as being a “highly structured organisation with a defined chain of command”.

The leader of the vigilante group is the national chairman, who in 2002 was also the state chairman for Abia State.
State chapters are autonomous, yet “cooperate with one another … and make routine consultations with the national headquarters”.

The State chairmen coordinate branch activities; branches are led by branch chairmen.
though the Chairman may be considered as being in control of every major operation, this can vary in certain situations as some operations may be carried out under the command of youth members.

In 1999, their leader was Ngworo (Crippled)

In 2005, “Kingsley Chimezie” was leader.
In 2005, Kingsley Chimeye with nineteen other persons were alleged Murdered by Bakassi Boys.

The Bakassi Boys were disband
in 2002, buttheir activities did not completely stop.
What they rather did was to go underground with the identities of their leaders difficult to know.
Membership and Recruitment

Members of the Bakassi Boys are primarily of Igbo Ethnicity. They are generally “young, able-bodied men in their twenties or thirties”, although there are reportedly some members under the age of eighteen.

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