In the 1990s while I lived in Aba, the crime rate became unbearable and affected most of the people including my clients who were shoemakers at Ariaria Market operating their businesses in the Shoe Line called Bakassi Line, off the Old Express Road Aba. The criminals called themselves “the mafia” and were so bold that they could enter any premises or shop and kill, maim, rape and steal any amount of money and walk away. They were little boys and youths but raped both young and old women (even women older than their mothers) and stole every money in the shops and houses in broad day light. They would just enter the shops and houses and ask the owners to surrender all the money to them. They collected the money with ease. They would not stop there but would rape every woman in the house. We continued to cry and pray, holding night vigils in prayer and calling upon God and the Police in Aba to help us.
The Police did not help us but something happened in 1998 which I realised to be an answer to our prayer. Some of my clients at the Bakassi Shoe Line held a secret meeting to kill the mafia boys by themselves without waiting for the Police anymore. They did not inform anybody. I did not know their plans. They bought the sharp head-cutting machetes and hid them in their shops. On a certain day when the mafia boys came to “collect” the money as usual, the shoemakers rose up spontaneously with their machetes and killed many of them in the Ariaria market. There was uproar in the market as many traders locked up their shops and fled before the Police could arrive. It was war between the mafia boys and the Shoemakers at Bakassi Line. The mafia boys did not expect the attacks and therefore fled. The Shoemakers pursued them to their houses. The war did not end there. They went from house to house combing out the mafia boys from their hiding places and cut off their heads, sometimes in the presence of their parents! The Shoemakers became known as Bakassi Boys named after their Shoe Line in the Ariaria Market.
What we thought was a small matter expanded in its operation when the Bakassi Boys decided to extend their war to all the evil men and evil women in authority, in government, in businesses, and in all other socio-political and economic activities in Abia State. They became a government unto themselves and set up a court in the Ariaria Market where they tried the suspects. They went from place to place arresting suspects. Many people in Abia State received them with joy and gladness as they could do what the Police failed to do. They converted the old burrow-pit along the Expressway behind the Market into an Execution Pit. Any suspect tried and condemned by their court was taken to the burrow-pit and slaughtered. To the Bakassi Boys, it appeared there was no difference between small crime and big crime. What a civil court could classify as a misdemeanour attracting 3 months’ prison sentence could become an offence under the Bakassi Boys punishable with instant death by machetes. Initially everything was going well in accordance with the original vision to sanitize the society and exterminate the menace of crime. However, as many people began to refer cases to the Bakassi Boys instead of going to the police and civil courts, the original vision was compromised. What started as a glorious revolution became a curse to us and many people began to complain.
Aba started getting worse. Politicians took over the Bakassi Boys to settle political scores with their political enemies. The whole city was left in ruins. The fear of insecurity returned. There was no government presence. The following year in 1999, Ralph Uwazuruike came up with his MASSOB, Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra. It was a big Biafran movement. He came to an uncompleted building at 175 Faulks Road Aba and declared the Republic of Biafra and hoisted the Biafran Flag. MASSOB set up its own government and targeted Petrol Stations selling fuel at exorbitant prices and also engaged in settling cases for people with civil disputes.
While the Bakassi Boys had their Court in the Ariaria Market, MASSOB had many Courts at various uncompleted Buildings in Aba. It appeared they had special interests in using uncompleted Buildings for their courts. We therefore had two functional and effective non-official governments in Aba run by Bakassi Boys for criminal matters and MASSOB for civil matters. There was failure of Government in Abia State. The Federal Government of Nigeria sent its army and police to kill the MASSOB members because they were preaching for the secession of Biafra.
Aba was destroyed again. The Bakassi Boys were unchecked. They became a law unto themselves. They engaged in unorthodox and unusual method of fighting crime by the use of “spirits”. Nobody was safe as their “spirits” could condemn any person and nobody could question the “spirits”. At this time, some of us began to think and seek for the best solution. This was when we advised some members of the Abia State House of Assembly to pass a Bill into law creating the Bakassi Boys as a Government Security organ to fight crime under proper guidance and regulation. This advice was accepted and the Bill was passed into Law creating the Abia State Vigilante Services (aka Bakassi Boys) in the year 2000. The Boys became very effective and professional in their operations. In the same year, the Anambra State Governor invited the Bakassi Boys to help in eradicating serious crimes at Onitsha. He also adopted the same law and passed the Bill into Law as Anambra Vigilante Services Law. The Imo State Government also followed afterwards.
Therefore, the Bakassi Boys is a lawfully constituted regional security organ of government to protect the lives and properties of the people of the East. It is a regional army or regional police backed up by State Law. We do not need any other law but I will recommend that other States in Biafraland which have not adopted the Bakassi Boys Vigilante Law should pass the Bill into Law in their Houses of Assembly.
I further recommend that the existing Bakassi Boys Vigilante Law should be amended so that the Boys will be given more powers to defend the Eastern Region against the aggression of the Fulani Herdsmen. The Bakassi Boys should be given more training whether locally or in foreign countries in community policing and modern security defence system. Defending the lives and properties of the Easterners also includes defending us from the menace and attacks of the Fulani Herdsmen. If the Fulani Herdsmen think that they know how to cut off people’s heads and massacre the people in their farmlands, the Bakassi Boys can cut off the heads of the Fulanis better, lawfully and professionally. They are our regional police or regional army created by our State Law. Let us make use of what we have now. The Bakassi Boys are legal and must be used now to protect the East. Every reader should forward this message to the members of the Houses of Assembly in Biafraland.
Emeka Emekesiri, Esq., Barrister & Solicitor
Emeka Emekesiri, Esq., Chairman of MOBIN, the Vision Bearer of the Legal Methodology of Self-determination, Indigenous People of Biafra