27 Jul

The effect of the Badoo cult on Ikorodu’s economy

57% of respondents in a recent SBM survey in Ikorodu have said that they will leave Ikorodu if the Badoo gang violence persists.

On another hand, for more  than 60% of respondents to our survey, living costs have gone up since the violence escalated.

Over the last half decade, there has been a rise in gang violence in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic and commercial capital. While many Lagosians have suffered loss of life, health or property few were direct targets of the violence. With the rise of the Badoo gang in Ikorodu, this time-honoured pattern of criminality has been upended.

The Ikorodu local government area of Lagos has been the hotbed of violence in recent times. The unique geography of the area, with scattered communities, mangrove swamps, creeks, and relative distance from metropolitan Lagos means that a lot can happen in the relative isolation of the district, from which most of Lagos is insulated. With the rise of oil bunkering as a cottage industry in the area, the accompanying violence that marks the increased competition for resources, supply routes and a foothold outside of the reach of law enforcement authorities has significantly escalated. Last year, SBM Intelligence published a report detailing the violence in the area. Many communities in Ikorodu resorted to self-help due to this failure of law enforcement and the justice system. It was in this atmosphere of violence targeted at residents and where residents responded with their own variant of jungle justice that a new gang, Badoo, emerged.

The gang, known to be operating in Ikorodu at least since 2015, has carried out its activities in Owode-Ajegunle, Olopomeji, Odogunyan, the Idioro area of Ogijo, Itamaga, Radio Area of Erunwen in Ikorodu, Lagos state and the Ogijo area of neighbouring Ogun State. The group’s observed mode of operation has raised the possibility that they are not just thieves, and in some cases may have been motivated by feelings of revenge. Some of their attacks have displayed classic marks of retribution, such as the murder of entire families.

In the week of 17 July, SBM Intelligence sent its field staff into Ikorodu and conducted a survey, randomly sampling 100 people who work, live or run businesses in Ikorodu. There was a general paucity of knowledge about the group, to some residents in the area, the idea of Badoo is a fiction, a convenient media creation. Many respondents told SBM field staff that they were mostly unaware about Badoo until this year. What this suggests is that the group has, possibly intentionally, developed quietly, without any of its members attempting to throw their weight or presence around. The implication of this is the possibility that the gang could grow even bigger, and still remain under the radar in relative terms.

The depth of the knowledge bank of the police concerning the Badoo scourge is unclear. Media reports have also been mostly unhelpful in this regard, with rumours, hunches and uneducated guesses published almost unfiltered. Despite the near breathless news coverage that the gang has attracted in the last four months, the fact that many Ikorodu residents have not heard about them means that there needs to be a targeted media campaign, if for any reason, for the public safety education needs of the local population.

Broadly speaking, there is a need for more studies to be done on the effects of gangs (cults) on urban life in Nigeria. We believe that more studies will identify the root cause of our persistent urban security challenges, how they form and what effective preventive mechanisms can be designed and implemented to forestall their creation and development.

The Daily SBM Security Tracker reports have recorded elevated levels of violence in different parts of Nigeria, and this is in part driven by membership of these local, often cultist groups.

Many young Nigerians are disillusioned and cynical about politics, and are desperately searching for a better life today, not tomorrow. For such young people, the dividends of democracy have thus far proven to be illusions. Cults, offering a warped sense of identity, purpose and mission are one price we pay for the failure, thus far, of our national experiment.

Cults are created, and grow, largely because of a combination of economic and socio-political factors, and the rising rate of unemployment. Nigeria has ignored the study of these groups for too long, and they now present a real danger to society. We ignore these groups at our peril.

As has been shown in the Niger Delta and in parts of Lagos, as gangs grow in stature, organisation and sophistication, they will often seek political influence. Access to political interests will give them access to patronage networks and reservoirs of cash, with which they can buy even more influence, and recruit more members. If these cults become institutionalised, then they will be unlikely to fade away and become harder to eradicate.

While it is not clear if Badoo will walk down that time-honoured path of evolutionary growth associated with such groups of its kind in Nigeria, the possibility of yet another well-oiled group armed with money, arms and a political goal on the fringe of the country’s economic nerve centre should alarm observers, policy makers, investors and everyday citizens. At that point, it will be more pragmatic for them to become partners.

This is the future unfortunately, if the growing number of cult groups, and their root causes, are not studied, understood, and addressed. Badoo is presenting Nigeria with yet another opportunity to learn how to properly learn and manage a potential insecurity outbreak. It must not be squandered.

Download complete report (15 pages)