Gangs threaten election peace in Nigeria’s key city

A woman sits by a poster of Goodluck Jonathan, current president of Nigeria and candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in the upcoming election, in Lagos on March 12, 2015 (AFP Photo/Pius Utomi Ekpei)

Lagos (AFP) – Congested streets lined with shops selling everything from plastic sandals to instant passport photos and hawkers shouting for customers above deafening car horns: the Oshodi market offers a snapshot of life in Nigeria’s largest city.

Like other parts of Lagos, Oshodi has seen outbreaks of political violence in the run-up to March 28 general elections, much of it blamed on “Area Boys” — gangs of youths readily available for mercenary work.

The country’s human rights commission recorded 60 separate incidents of campaign-related unrest, including 58 deaths, nationwide in December and January.

The main opposition-controlled Rivers state, next door to President Goodluck Jonathan’s home state of Bayelsa in the southern oil-producing Delta region, has been a flashpoint.

But 11 of the incidents were in Lagos, where violence has persisted since the report was released last month.

The city — sub-Saharan Africa’s largest with an estimated 20 million people — has emerged as one of the “most worrying” hotspots and faces a “high risk of significant violence” during the polls, the commission says.

“All of us are… feeling seriously insecure with the election coming up,” Oshodi shop owner Matilda Marious told AFP…

This is the first time that I’ve that GANGS were such a problem in Nigeria.