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The Bakassi Boys are a group of Nigerian youth known for their anti-crime vigilantism, and are usually armed with machetes and guns. They operate in the Igbo area of Nigeria, and are sometimes accused of illegal activities and human rights abuses, yet enjoy popular support in the areas where they operate.
These groups likely took their name from the Bakassi peninsula, an oil-rich peninsula in the Annang/Efik/Ibibio region of the coastal southeastern Nigeria disputes over the peninsula which had hastened hostilities between Nigeria and Cameroon, with both countries contending for ownership of the region and its resources. The "Boys" emerged as a vigilante group simultaneous with sharp increases in the crime rate of Abia State.
They originally enjoined the support of the governor, Orji Uzor Kalu. He sensed the effectiveness of the group in combating the merciless crimes in Aba and environs. However, as the crime rate was going down in Aba, other eastern Igbo cities were not so lucky and the crime rate in places like Onitsha was still rising. The "Boys" then were invited to other major cities, like Onitsha and Owerri, to rid them of criminals.
In due time, law enforcement agencies became regarded as ineffectual symbols and the "Bakassi" endeared themselves to many Igbo traders and merchants. However, political opponents of some governors accused the group of extra-judicial killings, and accused governors of using the "Boys" as weapons of intimidation. As a result of heightened opposition, the group has attempted to re-brand itself as "Anambra State Vigilante Services".
- Osita Agbu, Ethnic Militias and the Threat to Democracy in Post-Transition Nigeria, Nordic African Institute, 2004
- BBC, Gang Rule in Nigeria
- Gamji.com, The Truth About the Bakassi Boys
- Human Rights Watch, The Bakassi Boys: The Legitimization of Murder and Torture
- Harry Nwana,Who are Bakassi Boys, Vanguard, December 28, 2000
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