How gang violence in UK is taking the lives of young Nigerians

How gang violence in UK is taking the lives of young Nigerians

Years after gang violence in the city of London subsided, teenagers in England’s capital city have begun a new wave of stabbings that some on the front-line of the killings claim is motivated by a new game and ranking system called ‘Scores’.

According to Daily Mail, Scotland Yard has launched 55 investigations into suspected murders in London this year already.

At least 35 of those killed were stabbed to death.

On Thursday, April 5, 2018, the city saw six stabbings within the space of 90 minutes. One of them left a 13-year-old left fighting for his life after an attack in Newham, east London.

The rising wave of stabbings has all of England and most of the world worried, partly because all of this has happened before.

The Nigerian side to this story is not lost on us.

Within the first four months of 2018, seven Nigerian youths have been murdered in the United Kingdom.

The first of those came hours before the celebration of New Year’s day on January 1, 2018, when two days before his 21st birthday, Taofeek Lamidi was murdered in East London after being stabbed repeatedly.

Harry Uzoka's death hit a harder note among young Nigerians social media.

The 25-year-old Nigerian who had been making his name as a model on the world stage was murdered, just over two weeks later on January 19, 2018, in what the Police described as “a robbery gone wrong” after he was found on a pavement suffering a knife wound to his chest.


London's black boys
On April 4, 2018, another Nigerian teenager, Israel Ogunsola was killed on the streets of the United Kingdom.

The 18-year-old died about half an hour after being stabbed and despite the efforts of police officers, paramedics and a trauma doctor from London’s air ambulance.

The rising wave of stabbings has all of England and most of the world worried, partly because all of this has happened before.

The number of deaths brings back a fearful apprehension and sour memories of November 2000, when a gang of teenagers stabbed Damilola Taylor to death, a stabbing that was followed by the Nigerian media.

Just 15 minutes after leaving Peckham library, the 11-year old was stabbed in the leg with a piece of broken glass.

British-Nigerian Actor, John Boyega and his sister, Grace, were two of the last people to be seen with Damilola as they followed him for part of his way home.

The Boyegas would help babysit Damilola and were family friends.

After Damilola’s death, Nigerians, home and abroad looked on with dismay as it took 6 years before his killers, Danny and Ricky Preddie were identified and convicted

Counting Scores
Someone who is on the front-lines of the stabbings, and has been for a while, blames a new game or ranking system known as “Scores” for the new wave of crime.

Chris, is a cousin of Danny and Ricky Preddie, the teens who killed Damilola Taylor.

He grew up surrounded by London’s gangs, teenage crimes and drugs.

But the inglorious spectacle of the recent spate of killings, which has drawn comparisons to New York’s Bronx in the 1970s.

“It’s so much more serious than you think. This score system is real, and people are losing their lives.”

Speaking to the Sun Online, Chris claimed: “Basically, the points system has been running for many, many years now.

“When I was growing up, you would get stripes like in the army, there has always been a ranking system.

“Nowadays, it’s a score system, who’s the bravest. It’s all about competing.”

All of this is based on what has been called the "Postcode Wars", a system of gang-based division where young people from certain residential areas or 'postcodes' have territorial wars with other postcodes.

The scores system, though, might be familiar to anyone who has been around the epicenter of Nigeria's notorious campus cult wars.

In what are battles for supremacy, the cults often declare war on each other, counting successful kills in scores, the way you would count goals in a football match.

After losing his half-brother Andrew in a gang incident in south London, Chris decided to right what wrongs he could, working with troubled young people in the city.

In that time, he has made a lot of progress, culminating in being awarded the Order of the British Empire by the Queen of England.

But the audacity of these killings and the system that has been built and is growing around it has him worried.

“If I create a video saying I don’t like you and send it out — it’s not just the person who has seen it, it’s dozens.”, he told the Sun.

“How do you feel knowing that so many people have heard that you’re an idiot? You feel like you have to retaliate. It’s a battle over who has the most kudos and respect.”

Chris warned that the ranking system would become more brazen in London’s streets.

He said: “People aren’t talking about it yet, they’re too scared.

“Everyone will soon hear about it.”

But it’s not that simple.

Busy streets and disengaged youth
Damilola Taylor’s death was part of a wave of knife and gang crime in the early 2000s.

To combat the menace and engage the youth who had taken to carrying their own knives, the government created empowerment programs and schemes as well as youth centres to take the teens and knives off the street.

Along with other programs, it worked... for a while.

A report into youth service provision showed that 30 youth centres had closed across London since 2011–2012.

Funding to voluntary sector youth services had gone down by 35%. These were programs which addressed youth crime and substance abuse, supporting youth clubs and projects.

It's easy to blame the local councils for this, but most of them have had to deal with their budget cuts from the central government.

Austerity measures, the state of the world economy and subtle finance-based preparations for Brexit have reversed whatever progressed was made.

It feels like normal London communities are now living in a state of emergency, a consequence of failed domestic policies, lack of funding, and institutional indifference.

The result is showing up not in the rooms where these decisions are made, or on spreadsheets where shirking a few councils can take little more than two clicks of a keyboard.

It is yielding fruit on London’s streets, in dark alleyways, in the Nigerian homes where hardworking parents treat each day with optimism and hope for a new generation of kids who they hope will have the opportunities they could never enjoy.

For a generation of London youth, the crime is hitting too close to home. Nigerians at home will be somewhat familiar with similar teenage gangs who commit audacious acts of crime with little care for the consequences.

There are a few too many parallels between these groups and the street gangs who swear by their streets like Ajegunle's "One Billion Boys"

What begs the bigger question, is that the solutions are obvious on one side of the divide, and they’ve been used before to considerable success.

It lays bare the failure of our systems, the universality of these problems and why youth, all over the world, deserve, no, need, more attention and resources than societies are willing to give them.

Pulse