They were once the sounds of Christmas but these days we can hardly hear them.
We are in December and that season is upon us. Nope, I am not talking about Christmas.
The last month of the year ushers in a yearly tradition in Lagos streets, fireworks and knockouts (popularly known as bangers).
Since I could remember December is the month for knockouts and fireworks. December 1 kicks off the season with a full blast. In the 90s, it was non-negotiable. Little kids would throw knockouts on the streets and teenagers would shoot fireworks in the air to colour up the sky from the first day of December.
The further we got into December, the louder the sounds. By the 20th, many streets would have turned into war zones with knockouts and fireworks going on almost every second. Kids from other streets would challenge kids from a nearby street.
The tradition would climax on December 31st with knockouts and fireworks going off like bullets and bombs in Iraq.
While it was harmless fun for kids and teenagers, knockouts pissed off adults. The loud, sudden bangs were not enough to shoot up blood pressures and cause panic attacks.
Also, some really naughty kids used knockouts to terrorize grown folks in their neighbourhood. Men and women would shuffle in fright as giggling kids threw knockouts at them.
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The knockout culture began to wear off in the mid-90s. The noise pollution and the health hazards made parents discourage their kids from buying knockouts and fireworks. Also, we could jokingly add that sounds of knockouts gave folks PTSD. Do not forget that this period was when armed robbers caused havoc.
Even though the throwing of knockouts is not like what it was back in the day, it still very much exists. Several Lagos state administrations have tried to ban it, but kids will always be kids.
What we have had is new types of knockouts coming into the market. You can hear kids talking about 'two sound, three sound, and four sound' knockouts. This refers to the number of times a stick of knockout explodes.
The knockout culture got a big knock (pun intended) in 2012 when the fears of many parents came through. A building that stored firecrackers, knockouts and fireworks in Lagos Island burnt in 2012.
Loud bangs filled the neighbourhood as licks of flame burnt the explosive materials. The incident led to the death of an 11-year-old boy. It was a Boxing Day tragedy.
"It is really unfortunate. It is another self-inflicted tragedy. All of these explosives came in through our borders where we have men and women stationed.
"How did they get in? Who imported them? Who approved their importation? These are very serious questions we should ask?" asked the then Governor of Lagos state, Babatunde Raji Fashola who visited the site of the explosion the next day.
The safety concerns of the firecrackers have made the Lagos state government issue a ban on them. In 2015, Lagos State Government urged parents and guardians to caution their children to desist from the use of fireworks popularly called 'banger' during the festive period, as authorities will deal with whoever is caught decisively.
A special team mobilized to arrest offenders within the ambit of the law for prosecution. The ban seems to have worked since then. As well as a ban on end-of-year street carnivals, the streets of Lagos are not filled with the sound of fire crackers.
You can however bet that there will be some truants who will buy firecrackers, knockouts and fireworks in this holiday season.
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