Just about everywhere you go in Lagos these days, excluding the very posh areas, you will find social miscreants, popularly called AREA BOYS. I have wanted to write about this for sometime now, but somehow I just let it pass, because something I may consider more important happens and then I'll write about that. Even when some weeks back when the Okada rider conveying me through a very busy market was stopped by them, just to ask of me some money, I still didn't feel the urge to write, despite the fact that one of the duo who had stopped my bike man, had said something to the effect that, "we are doing this because you people said we should stop stealing", but I didn't let the shock that these could be robbers (sometime in the past, if not till date) perturb me, or register in my face, while his mate had his eyes glued to my backpack. I sternly but respectfully told him that I was struggling just like them, and as such didn't have extra change besides what I had on me to pay my rider, to give them, and they let us go.
This incident happened right beside a police traffic warden, who stood by watching, and this wasn't the first time it was happening to me. In fact, I could say I've become a veteran in dealing with social miscreants, though my response on each occasion to their antics belly the fact that I can read them like the palm of my hands. About a decade ago, when I returned to Lagos from a year in the north, and another in the Niger Delta, for work, I had this barber on the street where I used to live, always accost me for "change", just because we got to say "hi" to each other having known a mutual friend together. I'd give him something if I had, till someday I told him that he was better than me, seeing he had his business, even a family and I was unmarried and salaried at the time, and in fact I should be the one asking him for some dough, and not the other way round. I went ahead to rummage his pocket for some money, came up short, and left. He never again bothered me.
I decided to write about this today because of what I witnessed last week. A sewage disposal vehicle had come to do their business in a house adjacent to where I'd gone to rendezvous with a client for some business, and some boys were there haranguing the driver and his mate for money. I know that there are some areas in Lagos, where you can't bring a container into the street, without "boys" been "settled", truck drivers conveying perishable and non-perishable goods are routinely "obtained" by these AREA BOYS, as they enter Lagos, even on their route to, and as they reach their destination markets or warehouses in town, leading to the extra costs of these goods at retail. What I was seeing for the first time, was the collection of "shit" fees by these boys, and I was left mouth agape while the brouhaha lasted, with the driver threatening to kill the boys should any of them stand in his way, after their job is done. If one hadn't heard the Yoruba language before, coming to Lagos for the first time, and not shielded from the common parts of the city, where these boys operate, almost everywhere in their every increasing numbers, you'd think "Owó Dà?" (where's the money?) is some form of greeting. It is the "rent-seeking" madness that is the true face of Lagos, especially amongst the so called indigenes, many of whom have sold their father's houses and estates, and frittered the proceeds away with their excesses, and now live by extortion, especially of those involved in the daily grind to make ends meet legally. In recent times many of these have joined different cults and put the lives, limbs and property of innocent Lagosians at risk when they make war against each other during STREET FIGHTS in areas like Mushin, Bariga, Oshodi, Ikorodu and the likes.
Unfortunately, the Lagos State Government seem not to have woken up to the nuisance these Area Boys constitute. Their efforts have largely been restricted to the motor park touts (Agbèrò), who have now even
AGBÈRÒ LOOKING TO "OBTAIN" A BUS CONDUCTOR AT OSHODI, LAGOS, NIGERIA.
resorted to plying their trades on the main roads, contributing to traffic headaches that bedevil motorists as well as pedestrians, in spite of efforts to curb their excesses. Even the law to criminalize the activities of Land Speculators and Grabbers (Omo Onílè) recently signed by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, remains just where it is on the paper where it is signed, while Omo Onílè continue to run things, so much so that a market was pulled down overnight, in the Sabo area of Ikorodu recently, with the Lagos State Government denying any knowledge or giving approval for the demolition, days after it had forcibly evicted residents of Otodo Gbame into the Atlantic.
The menace of these Area Boys haven't spared Nigeria's booming Nollywood industry too, so much so that there's been recent cases of disruptions of filming in several areas of Lagos by Area Boys, asking to be settled before filming can continue.
One of the actresses even lost her pregnancy after she was manhandled on set by these rent-seeking societal wretches. Till date, it's not a case the police is looking at. Now, Nigerian musicians go to Ghana if they can't afford South Africa to do their videos because unless you're from Ìsàlè Èkó, or streetwise, or willing to part with a substantial amount to these Area Boys, you can't shoot scenic Lagos, especially if you're doing a song that doesn't require the posh areas in the video. One can only imagine what the present situation will metamorphose to should this trend continue without intervention from authorities that ought to be concerned. Maybe, when the posh areas become invaded by these boys, we will begin to see action in that line. For now, as the government and the elite of Lagos mark 50 years since Lagos became a state officially, I cannot but notice how the Area Boys have become a law to themselves, and a very visible but unpalatable part of the Lagos story.
LAGOS' "AREA BOYS" MENACE | http://madukovich.blogspot.com.ng/2017/05/lagos-area-boys-menace.html?m=1
Published by m'khail madukovich