Street children, many of whom are ‘almajirai’, are part of a vast underclass that populates the cities of Northern Nigeria. Many of these children and young adults have no means of support other than begging for their daily food, petty crime or providing casual labor. For the most part illiterate, they have few educational skills that would allow them to function in a modern economy. This article argues that the appalling economic conditions experienced by these young people makes them prime targets for recruitment into fanatical religious groups such as Boko Haram, or into one or another of the political/criminal gangs – generically called the ‘Yan Daba’–that proliferate in northern Nigerian cities. It further argues that the underclass from which these young people emerge is the direct consequence of the failed governance of the parasitic predator class that dominates the post-colonial Nigerian state. This, in turn, makes attempts at de-radicalization and bolstering the security forces doomed to failure – unless there are far-reaching social reforms that would undermine the very class that dominates the post-colonial state.