Council boss’ gesture for area boys
The menace of area boys in Ibadan could be about to end as the chairman, Ibadan South-East Local Government Area, in the Oyo State capital, Alhaji Abass Bolaji Nojimdeen has initiated a rehabilitation and empowerment programme to take them off the streets. OSEHEYE OKWUOFU reports.
Ibadan South-East Local Government has within its territorial boundaries notable local areas including Mapo, Idi-Arare, Kudeti, Oja-Oba, Bere, Oje and other indigenous places located deep inside the heart of the city thickly populated by core indigenes of Ibadan. And here lies a large number of miscreant or area boys as they are called, the highest in all the local governments in the state. Visitors were usually welcome to the area by the intimidating presence of these boys who run after private vehicles especially posh cars. Even the locals who could afford a good car were not spared their harassment. They mill around the vehicles, even prostrating in front of moving ones, and soliciting for alms from the occupants. Looking unkempt, they are often dressed in shreds, dirty clothes, shouting after their targets “Baba re re baba ke , e sanu wa o…” (Please have mercy on us the good and wealthy one) as they pretend to serve as unsolicited body guards. In addition to begging, some do engage in acts of thuggery and other violent conducts which make them a danger not just to themselves but also the rest of the society. And this, has led to frequent embarrassment and intimidation of the unsuspecting visitors who were left to face the security challenges on their own. In Ibadan South-East Local Government Area, it was obvious from the bad image the miscreants are creating for the council and the state government that something urgent needed to be done to get them off the streets by engaging them in gainful employment that would help them become more useful to themselves and to the society. This, the council chairman, Alhaji Abass Bolaji Nojimdeen has recognised and has moved to achieve.
“We cannot drive them away. They are our blood, our sons and we have to share their feelings too. It is not something strange, we are only lucky to have the largest number of area boys in the state because the local government falls within the heart of the city where we have a higher percentage of indigenes here.
“And we started well, by inviting all of them to a meeting. And through their expressions from our interactions, we understand their plight and that has given us an insight into where and how to come in to assist them. We want to engage them meaningfully. And they have shown that they are ready to work with their hands and earn a living,” Alhaji Nojimdeen said.
The council boss, in particular, initiated a programme to empower the boys with a view to making them useful to their immediate environment. Many of them really embraced the programme, an indication that they don’t enjoy what they are doing, but they find themselves in it in order to keep the body and soul together.
Fatai Yusuf, one of the area boys at Oja-Oba area of the city had described the programme as “an act of God to help us fulfill his purpose in life.
“We love our chairman for the programme and we will continue to pray for him so that God should give him the strength to accomplish the rest of his promises for us. It is not that we don’t want to work, we have financial constraints.
“Some have shops before, but due to one problem or the order the whole investment went down. Others are mechanics, barbers, and so on but there is no money to buy equipment and open shop. Most of us have a family and we will like to take care of our children and wives at home. So, we really thank our chairman for this laudable programme to assist us to get our own business.”
In all the trades enlisted for the area boys by the local government, sale of handsets and recharge cards proved to be the general choice according to investigation by The Nation.
The council chairman had expressed the commitment of the council to give cash and other equipment to those who are yet to receive the grants.
Quite a number of the boys have received needed training and grant to set up a business of their own.
For Mr Akeem Laoye, 38, he was offered a grant to establish a small scale business of selling bean cake (Akara), fried yam, (Dundu) and meat-pie.
The council boss bought frying pans, bags of beans, gallons of vegetable oil and other equipment needed for his business as well as cash donation to assist him.
All these were presented to Laoye at the local government headquarters along with other beneficiaries who also get similar seed money and equipment to start off.
Laoye has since started enjoying the fruit of the business, which now puts food on the table for him and members of his family.
When asked about his former trade as area boy, Laoye replied, “I hardly have time for such and besides, I don’t enjoy been called area boy. Now, I fry akara, buns, yam and sell. Every day I know how much I make as profit.
“I feel proud doing this. I also pray that other area boys like me before should benefit from the programme so that they could have meaning in life. I thank the government of All Progressives Congress for their genuine love for us. They did not play us like the previous government who prefer to keep us a weapon for use during election.”