Mallam! Mallam! (Translation for teacher in Hausa language) The bandits are in town! Said a female pupil as she tried to seek a way out of the confusion during a lecture. As a graduate from a Nigerian University, I proceeded to Northern Nigeria for my one-year national assignment under the National Youth Service Corps scheme. Despite fears of insecurity in my new climate, I was courageous enough to dispel my duty to my motherland while I taught computer science and agricultural science to students at a public junior secondary school. “Sit down students; do not be afraid because nothing will harm you. The situation will be brought under control soon,” I said while the terrified students who had witnessed series of blood shed contemplated escaping through a window if the worst ensued. As the day progressed, news filtered in that security agents in company of local vigilante members known as “Yan Sa-kai” had brought the unrest to a halt. These vigilantes are members of a self-appointed group who undertake voluntary law enforcement in Nigeria without legal authority, typically, because the legal agencies were thought to be inadequate in discharging their duty. Despite the presence of the military and other governmental armed forces, crime has continued to be perpetrated on a daily basis. This is partly because these special forces of government are not familiar with the terrain and geography of Northern Nigeria. The emergence of these community guards who are members of the host community has helped in bridging this security gap in recent times.
During a chat with Mr Bashir, a class teacher in one of the school there, he lamented how the security situation had hindered the steady flow of daily activities, halted children education and made many a teacher to abandon their duty for safety. On one occasion, some guards were able to foil a bomb attack on a mosque through the act of watchfulness. As Muslim faithful’s assembled around a central worship area to observe the Friday prayers, young teenagers with their parents scrambled to fill their kettle with water for ablution (Muslim purification). In the heat of activities, a young girl strapped with explosives around her stomach but shielded with a hijab made attempts to gain entry through a main gate into the mosque. After several failed attempts, Mr Bashir who was watching her suspicious movement quickly drew close to her and started interrogating her to know her mission. When he perceived that something fishy was about to happen, he grabbed her hand only to discover she was holding the detonator. While a struggle ensued, he overcame her, disconnected the wires connecting the explosives while a mob rushed to the scene. She was disposed of the explosive, interviewed and handed over to security agents. Were it not for the timely intervention of these watchful guards, scores may have lost their lives on that day and the girl in question who had been brainwashed to carry out that suicide mission would have been killed by the angry mob.
Despite the global increase in rape, Yan Sa-kai have been able to reduce the practice through their community patrol. At night, they divide themselves into groups to comb lonely corners and spaces were such crime is perpetrated. This has helped reduce incidents of girl child molestation.
Furthermore, the group continue to protect the lives and properties of Northerners who are predominantly farmers. The practice of animal husbandry have continued to be passed on from generation to the next but this would have been hampered by rustlers were it not for Yan Sa-kai. On several occasion, helpless villagers have been attacked by rustlers but the timely intervention of these community guards helps in keeping a check on this menace.
With many Nigerians venturing into entrepreneurship due to scarcity of job opportunities, robbers and kidnappers have made these entrepreneurs their main targets during their operations. To ensure everyone everywhere is safe; members of Yan Sa-kai scatter themselves in market and trade regions to discourage their activities.
Recently at Mahuta, a village in Northern Nigeria, armed men ambushed students of an Islamic school during a celebration. The students numbering about 80 were kidnapped around 11:20pm while on a procession after celebrating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad. Members of Yan Sa-kai in the area together with other security operatives responded swiftly by engaging the armed kidnappers leading to the rescue of the victims who were mostly young girls. Though Yan Sa-kai are scattered across Northern Nigeria, their exploits have not been well reported by mainstream media. It is for this purpose I seized this opportunity to commend the members of the voluntary organization ensuring Nigerian youths reach the age of 16 and beyond through their contributions in stabilizing communities and promoting peaceful co-existence.