We escaped to Lagos highbrow areas for comfort but now haunted by beggars, louts –Residents

JONATHAN TYLER

FATTEH HAMID writes about the plights of residents in the highbrow areas of Lagos State

A tech expert, Jonathan Tyler, sleeps around 6am every day after working all through the night. But he is unhappy that a horde of beggars always mill round his locality to solicit alms.

The resident of Badore, Ajah area of Lagos State, is usually uncomfortable with the situation. He told Sunday PUNCH that beggars and hoodlums were derailing the state’s mega city goals.

He said, “I’m not saying that these people aren’t humans or are not part of society. But waking up to people soliciting alms and hoodlums’ activities make one’s belly ache.’’

Tyler, who narrated his experience with some beggars when he moved to the area, explained that, “When I moved into the area, I noticed that there were beggars who usually milled round the area in the early hours of the day with songs to solicit alms. I didn’t feel bad about it for the first week because I gave them whatever I had and they left. But it continued for a long time and it started to nauseate me. I wondered why anyone would disturb others and they even have the temerity to flood the area. Sometime last year June, I realised that there was one who took shelter not far from my place and I reported to my landlord.’’

Jonathan explained that he had to deal with the act for a long time before he was forced to ensure they vacated the vicinity late 2021 when he could no longer bear it. He said, “I work at night and sleep around 5am to 6am. However, these people would be around the area early with songs. I endured it for a while before I became annoyed one particular day. It was a difficult decision as a human but I had to make it.’’

Bittersweet tales of living in highbrow areas

A worker with a construction company, Akeen Bayowa, recalled the day he was robbed close to Admiralty Way, Lekki by a commercial motorcycle rider popularly called Okada.

He stated, “It was at night and I just got back from seeing a movie. I got to Admiralty Way and took a bike to my estate gate. Then, when the bike man was almost close to the Lekki Central Mosque, he stopped. He alighted and bent down as if trying to fix a faulty part. I was distracted and immediately he brought out a knife and pointed it at me. He collected my phone, purse and rode off, clutching the sharp knife.’’

Bayowa, who recalled the event with anger, said before the time he had heard stories of people being robbed of their belongings and didn’t believe it until he had a first-hand experience of it.

He noted, “A friend of mine had once been robbed in traffic along the same road and the guy who snatched his phone crossed to the other side, mounted a bike waiting for him and rode off as well. We fled to the island to feel secure from the criminal activities of the Mainland. But it appears that we face the same difficulty.

“Moving to the Island for me was to get enough connections and meet a network of professionals who would make my work easy through quality contacts. That was why I moved to Lekki in my own case. It has been a story of God’s blessing because of the opportunities one gets meeting people. I got my first major building deal during one of my morning exercises. I met a woman who was also jogging and we became jogging partners. She inquired about something one day because she knew what I did having discussed the first day we met. After some time, she gave me a building project to handle. I was extremely happy.’’

Bayowa noted that he got many fantastic projects through referrals, adding that the situation of miscreants flooding the area was becoming worrisome.

Also, a civil engineer, Kabiru Adeogun, told our correspondent that living on the Island had a sense of security, stating that those who moved from the mainland to the island did so for diverse reasons.

He said, “Some people leave the mainland because of erratic electricity, bad roads, lack of water and so on. Where I stay, it’s not that there is no water shortage but we have a way of managing it.

“Look at the Danfo(commercial buses) guys, they are one of the major problems we have in Lagos generally. They drive recklessly around which lead to excessive traffic and other things. I recall that the ex-governor of the state, Akinwunmi Ambode, wanted to do something about them with the introduction of some BRT buses to eradicate them. But since he left office, not much has been done in that regard. I’m not sure the Lagos State still has plans on that.”

He added that due to the situation in the mainland where many forms of crimes take place, some people took refuge on the island even though nowhere was entirely safe. He said, “It’s not as if there are no bad roads on the island but one can’t compare it to the mainland where most of the roads are in a state of disrepair.

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Commenting on the island gradually witnessing all sorts including beggars and louts, Adeogun said that the had a responsibility to safeguard lives and property.

He said, “We’ve seen states rounding up beggars and sending them back to their states. A former governor in the South-East did it. I am not bothered about the adult beggars the young ones made to live life begging to survive. It’s not a proper thing to do. It is child abuse and the state can curb this especially with its laws in support of children.

“Governments of the states where the beggars are from can put them in homes to be catered for and ensure their enrolment in school.  Look at the Okada ban, the enforced the ban and it is working. If that could be done, the same thing is possible with the beggars. We left mainland to seek refuge in highbrow areas of the state but now confronted with what we fled from.’’

Adeogun further stated that most of the criminality in the mainland could be due to the status of people and population in the area. He noted, “For instance, cult clashes are not pronounced on the island, though it doesn’t mean they don’t happen. I think most of us who decided to come to this part of the state did so because of the serenity associated with it. In my estate, I have a 24-hour supply of electricity and the noise pollution is limited. This is the normal way of life to lead and living on the mainland won’t give one that in abundance.”

On robberies, he said the crime would not be high on the island, urging the state to do more in making the state liveable.

Bothersome trend

The state’s Commissioner for Youth and Social Development, Olusegun Dawodu, had noted that begging indicated a grave nuisance, adding that apart from individual vagrants, begging was now run by syndicates. Dawodu said, “These groups of people have turned begging for alms and hawking into a huge business by collecting returns from beggars and hawkers. These people sleep under bridges, motor parks, uncompleted or abandoned buildings and other places not conducive for human habitation.”

On May 12, 2022, a sound engineer, David Imoh, was killed in the Lekki area of Lagos. Imoh was lynched and burnt to death following a misunderstanding over the N100 balance with one of the commercial motorcyclists.

Responding to his death, the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, banned operations of commercial motorcyclists in parts of the state.

Not long ago, a music executive, Soso Soberekan, lamented the spate of traffic robberies on Lagos roads. He ventilated his annoyance through his Instagram account with a video of his car damaged. He said, “@jidesanwoolu the traffic robberies in Lagos are getting too much, do something as soon as possible.  “From Lekki expressway, Freedom way, Ojota, Oshodi, nowhere is safe.”

Similarly, in 2019, two one-chance robbers, Taye and Sunday Olawunmi, were arrested in the Lekki-Ajah area of the state. It was gathered that the suspects usually disguised as commercial transport workers by using a white minibus with a number plate, APP 405 YA, to rob unsuspecting public members of their valuables in the area.

The suspects, however, met their waterloo when some officials of the state traffic management authority accosted them for picking up unsuspecting passengers at an unauthorised location around the Chisco area of Lekki-Ajah.

Also, the Rapid Response Squad arrested two ex-convicts and one other suspect for alleged robbery in the Lekki area of the state. Reports noted that the suspects, Emmanuel Michael, Mohammed Abubakar and Simeon Michael, allegedly robbed a 25-year-old woman in Lekki Phase I on May 6, 2019. It was learnt that the men were arrested by a patrol team after the victim called for help.

Last year, the state police command commenced round-the-clock stop-and-search operations and patrol of the Lekki-Ajah area of the state where robbers were said to have disguised themselves as beggars to harm innocent, benevolent citizens.

More troubling tales

On his part, a product designer, Nwafor Uduak, who lives in Falomo, Ikoyi area, expressed fear that the island could become another place to run away from if attention wasn’t given to security in the area.

Uduak told our correspondent, “I have been robbed once on the Lekki-Epe Expressway and I have friends who have experienced the same on the axis. The hoodlums target innocent individuals to rob them of their belongings.’’

He explained that he moved to Ikoyi from Igando, Lagos State, in 2019 when he needed a serene environment to propel his career growth. He, however, noted that the increase in nefarious activities in the area lately was disturbing to him and others.

He said, “The hoodlums have noticed that the people living on the island are somewhat rich, and they might be right to an extent. They feel that whatever they steal from people will be worth something tangible. That may be why they chose to go to the area. I hope the will quickly pay attention to the island so that the situation can be curbed.”

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Uduak told Sunday PUNCH that he once witnessed a female motorist being harassed at night by hoodlums, stating that before he could park to help, he could neither find the harassers nor the victim. He stated, “I was sure of what I saw, maybe the lady drove away after they forcefully took some belongings with the weapons with them. I can’t say what happened but I saw them as they harassed her. It’s not a good scene to see a lady pointed a knife at by hoodlums at night.”

Sharing her experience with our correspondent, a real estate consultant, identified only as Ebere, lamented how two men stole from her and attempted to rape at night. She said, “It was not a funny situation that day. They brought out a knife to threaten me. I just left a friend’s estate and was heading home only to be attacked by the fierce-looking hoodlums. They collected my phone from me, dragged me to a corner not far away and asked me to lie down. One of them pointed a knife at me and asked me not to shout.

“As his partner was trying to come on top of me, some guys shouted from afar and ran towards us. They fled immediately but didn’t drop any of the things they collected from me. I couldn’t go to work for two days after the incident because I was down. I had hallucinations for days. My attackers were Yoruba and not Hausa.”

She further said that she doubted if the hoodlums lived far away because they were not seen after a search by those who came to her rescue. Ebere noted, “Whenever I pass through that spot, I get shivers because it created a fear in me. That’s the first time in my life to experience such a thing. I was scared.”

On living on the island, she stated, “It was due to my job. I lived in Surulere when I first started the job and was working with my former boss. Then, I sold a plot of land in four months and it became an issue. I had targets to meet and it was not working so I didn’t get enough.”

She disclosed that after she lost her job as a marketer, she got a new job with a real estate company later on the island and was advised by the new employer to move to the area.

Ebere added, “I moved because of my new job but I can tell you that moving to the place was one of the best decisions I have made in my life.

“I followed my friend who I was squatting with then to a gym and the marketing drives in me nudged me to approach a man I felt could be a potential customer one who I met that day. He was my first client and we have done several businesses together. He also introduced me to his friends who are now my clients too.”

She said that though life on the island might be costly, it was worth taking the risk because it would expand one’s horizon to meet those who matter in one’s sector.

We relocated to island for greener pastures –beggars

A crippled beggar identified only as Danladi who spoke to our correspondent in Hausa stated that he came to the island while searching for areas in Lagos where he could beg and make enough money to feed his family.

He said, “When I was on the mainland, I lived at Igando and I had people who helped me. A friend advised me to move to the island where more benevolent people live. That was a year ago, I have got more alms in my over one-year in the area than what I got soliciting alms in other areas in the state.”

Danladi further said that he decided to stay back and most times, be careful not to be caught by Lagos State Task Force. He stated, “The major challenge every beggar in Lagos faces is the fear of being arrested. Yes, providing shelter and feeding is a great development. The truth is that some of us have people who depend on us back home and we need to fend for them.’’

Danladi noted that his colleagues moved to the island for the same reason. He said, “Look at me, I don’t have any hands. I can’t work even though I want to and the little help I get from generous givers is what I use to take care of my family.’’

Another beggar and a mother of three, Amina Gaddo, told our correspondent that she came to the island with the hope that she would get enough alms to cater to her children. She stated, “When many people see me and my children, they are always merciful to us because we are helpless and we need to survive.”

She said that she had been able to fend for herself and her children because of the alms she received from people. Gaddo said that while soliciting alms on the mainland, she scavenged for food to eat and feed her children.

She said, “There is no one who would want to leave a place where things are working for him or her to move to a ‘dry’ place. There was a time my last daughter took ill and a passerby took her to a pharmacy to buy her drugs. The passer-by also gave me money for her to eat properly. I really appreciate the people here for all they do for us.’’

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A beggar turned fruit seller, Amadu Balarabe, told Sunday PUNCH that he established his business from the proceeds he made from soliciting alms.

He explained, “I was soliciting alms one day when a man parked his car beside me and handed me an envelope containing money. He drove off shortly after. I later realised that the envelope contained N100, 000. That day, I couldn’t cry. I was dumb till he drove off. I thought it was a joke until I couldn’t see his car again, I did sajdah (gratitude prostration) immediately to Allah for the blessings he bestowed upon me.

Amadu stated that he kept the money for a week, thinking of the business to use it for until he sought advice within the Hausa community and a week after, he dabbled into fruitselling.

He said, “I have two other people who I bought fruits for too and we hawk together. These two were once beggars too but due to that act, they don’t have to beg anymore. We are in a better place today.”

He also noted that if he wasn’t on the island, he might not get the sort of life-changing monetary gift, hoping that Nigeria would be a better country someday.

Government, stakeholders weigh in

In his comment on the issue, the state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr Gbenga Omotosho, told Sunday PUNCH that the state was working tirelessly to completely remove beggars from the streets of Lagos.

He said, “We take them to Magidi and some other places to feed and clothe them. However, it seems some people out there are encouraging it and using it as a business.”

He noted that the had in turn started charging the individuals to court to face the law. He said, “Maybe the task force hasn’t really got to that area. However, every day, they go out there to pack beggars and take them off the street.’’

Omotoso stated that the intended to uproot beggars completely from their source.

He added, “We intend to ensure that we hold the people who send them into the streets to make money responsible. It’s not as if the isn’t doing anything about it, we are working actively about it and soon, we’ll get to the end of it.’’

On whether the had been able to unravel why some individuals would sponsor beggars to solicit alms, the commissioner said, “I can’t say exactly what their intention was but some of them that we spoke to saw it as a manner of business. They are sent out for financial gains.”

Omotoso also noted that some of the sponsors had been prosecuted, saying, “We have been able to do that but I don’t have the facts and figures as I speak. As soon as we apprehend them, they are regularly taken to court. I don’t have the figures, I would have shared them with you.’’

Speaking in an earlier interview with Sunday PUNCH, Chairman, Lekki Estates Residents and Stakeholders’ Association, Mr James Emadoye, noted the threats associated with Okada activities in the community. He said, “Right now, we are living in total fear because the number of Okada riders has become really huge. The fear and problems with all this are that, unlike other Nigerians, these people go about with all manner of weapons – knives, daggers and guns – and the Nigeria Police do nothing about it. It is the basis of the fears we are living in.”

Also, ex-Chairman, Lekki Residents Association and former commissioner in Ekiti State, Mr Kayode Otitoju, who spoke to Sunday PUNCH, noted that the community was facing the issue of insiders conniving with criminals to perpetuate crime.

He said that these days when criminal acts were captured on CCTV footage and investigations done, there were revelations of an insider who made the act possible. Otitoju stated, “We have a working relationship with security forces and we are ensuring that the area becomes more secure than ever before.”

Speaking on the issue, the spokesperson for the state police, Benjamin Hundeyin, noted that these cases of hoodlums attacking motorists on Lekki were not reported to the police.

He said, “The police aren’t aware of the issues and they were not reported to the nearest police station.” He advised that when such cases happen, the victims should immediately report them to the police.

Hundeyin further said there the police could do little regarding beggars in highbrow areas of the state including Lekki, adding that it was the responsibility of the

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