Litany is a documentary photography project on the insecurity experienced in some parts of Lagos and Ogun States in Nigeria during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. It focuses on adult male members of communities who were left to defend themselves using whatever unsophisticated weapons at their disposal. I used diptych comprising posed portraits and reportage style to show the tension caused by insecurity during the 2020 lockdown.

“Stay at home and flatten the curve” was the mantra and major response by countries across the world, including Nigeria during the global pandemic in 2020. According to the government, the stay-at-home order in most parts of the country would help curb the spread of the Covid19 disease.

While the government demanded that the people made that sacrifice for themselves and for the love of the country, the people on the other hand demanded for security of their lives, properties and other basic social welfare packages—- a demand they have been making from the political class for decades unending, but the government has continuously failed to meet up with.

Three weeks into the first 28-day stay-at-home order in Nigeria’s most populous city, Lagos, the capital city, Abuja and Ogun ( a few kilometres from Lagos), a large group of armed robbers and thugs unleashed mayhem on the residents of Lagos and some parts of Ogun State in the western part of Nigeria. The group of notorious armed robbers known as the 1 Million Boys were rumoured to have been responsible for the attacks. The robberies happened simultaneously in different parts of these states and some experts linked the immediate surge in robbery attacks to the government’s unresponsiveness to the people’s demands for basic welfare which the lockdown amplified.

Members of the communities affected sprung to action. In Akute, a suburb in Lagos where I stayed during the lockdown, adult male members of the community formed a vigilante group with the aim of protecting the lives and properties of their loved ones. They kept watch every night without any help from the police and other security agencies in the states.

These attempts were sufficient to dispel the robbery attacks, as a decline in the number of robberies was immediately noticeable and it was largely attributed to the vigilance committees formed by members of the affected communities. The lockdown restrictions were eased but the conversation on the government’s continuous failure to secure the lives of its citizens has not stopped.

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