From Sylvanus Viashima, Jalingo
The beautiful Jalingo, the capital of Taraba State, is doted with conspicuously ugly shanties that are a definite eyesore in the day and a safe haven for unsavory nocturnal life, where sex, drugs, petty criminals and diseases rule with impunity.
In these lawless slums, drug peddling, sex-for-cash and sundry crimes rule.
The word Jalingo derives from Fulfude, which means ‘greater place’. With a population of about 200 thousand persons, Jalingo may not rank among the top 10 dirtiest cities in the country but a drive around most parts of the city would leave one in no doubt that the environmental agency and the residents need to do a lot more.
According to a resident, Mr Anthony Ikyaren, “Jalingo has suffered serious setbacks in terms of cleanliness and hygiene in recent years and an upsurge in the number of slums that harbour criminals and drug peddlers, who operate almost without any hindrances from the authorities”.
A walk or drive around the major roads in the town will leave no one in doubt that there is so much to be desired while travelers coming into town for the first time are welcomed with the terrible state of the central park and it’s environs just as those traveling through the town have to put up with horrible sights along the road and within the metropolis such as the ever stinking sights at the junction to Excellence International Schools, among others.
Mr Vincent Ikyakwayan, who is a tricycle rider, and traverses the nooks and crannies of the town both day and night, told our correspondent that, “usually, we do more business in the night than in the day time. Sometimes a girl will call you from Sabon Gari to come and pick her to Ebuss in the night. Even if you charge them N2000, they will pay.
“Sometimes, they will call you to go somewhere and collect something and bring to them. They have my mobile phone number. I usually don’t ask questions so long as I am paid the right amount of money. There was a day I took one girl to one place around central park in the night. She asked me to wait for her. In less than two hours, she went in with more than three different men in one dirty room made of zinc. I felt disgusted but had to wait and drop her back at Magami as we had agreed.”
But beyond the unkept and, in some cases, the terrible streets and sickness reservoirs doted all around the town due to grossly inadequate environmental attention, the level of decadence in some of the growing shanties in town leaves a lot more to be desired.
A visit to some of the shanties in the day time shows nothing out of the normal, if exceptionally inhuman living conditions is not in itself out of the normal.
Most of the shanties are either used as shades for mechanic shops, scrap collectors, homes for water vendors, or storages houses at abandoned building sites.
However, a visit by late evening and through the nights reveals a different kind of life all together.
At one of the shanties beside Jalingo central motor park, Daily Sun discovered a steady trade in illicit drugs such as cannabis, tramadol and other substances that are also consumed there in the open.
This typically attract a horde of young persons, including some of the ladies who trade at night around the roadblock area of Jalingo.
Daily Sun further gathered that as uncomfortable and as sparsely furnished as these shanties are, they also serve as brothel where some of the occupants have time with the ladies either for a fee or in exchange for drugs. The ladies at times also bring in their very desperate “clients” to the shanties with the understanding of the owners.
One of the occupants, Mr Sunday Tundri, who spoke to our correspondent, said that this is just a way to get by and augment the little they get from collection of scraps.
“I don’t take weed but I sell it. Sometimes, it is hard to get money from the scraps but this one brings money everyday. The police used to come and check all the time but they can not get anything because we know where we hide things and they will not see it. Sometimes, they will come and arrest some of the girls here in the night.
“Most of the girls also use drugs so that they will be high, especially now that it is always cold in the night. Sometimes, they come here to do ‘short time’ if the person does not want to go to a hotel. Some of them are also our girlfriends but they can still bring people because that is how we get wares,” he said.
Apart from the sex and drug trade that takes place at some of the shanties, they are naturally meeting grounds for petty thieves who plan their operation over a cocktail of different kinds of substances, mostly expectorants.
Mr. Yahaya Yakubu, a resident of Jalingo told our correspondent that the level of lawlessness in Jalingo is simply mind buggling.
“If you want to know how bad the situation is, just go to Roadblock in the night, or Ebuss, somewhere like Sabon Gari or Magami at night and that is when you will know that we are really in trouble.
“If you see all these small shanties that these mairuwa (water vendors) pantakers and all sorts of people stay at and what happens there in the night, you will be shocked. They trade in drugs and sex freely. Infact, I can tell you that most of these tricycle boys stabbing people in town stay at these shanties. It is a very disturbing situation and you can not say that the security operatives in the state are unaware of these,” he remarked.
Another thing that is conspicuous at these shanties is the total lack of hygiene. Naturally, they don’t have toilet facilities and so defecation is in the open, often very close the road. The collection of stagnant water in various containers also serve as incubators for breeding mosquitoes and harbouring just about any water borne diseases.
These are also breeding grounds for giant rats that typically share any food stuff kept by the occupants, thereby increasing their risk to issues such as laser fever.
These shanties hardly provide shelter from the hot sun, the rains, the unrelenting cold or mosquitoes. Consequently, the residents have to contend with the elements from season to season.
And some of the occupants have fallen victims to the diseases. According to one of the slumites Bala Iritwain, two of their friends from one of the shanties got sick and traveled back home to Michika in Adamawa State and never returned. He noted that most times, some of the boys will get sick and travel back some. Some would recover and they won’t hear from some again.
While some of the occupants are young persons who came from various parts of the state to learn mechanic or do other vocations, some of them are victims of the insurgency in the North-East, who came from various states some as far as Borno.
According to David Misal, the spokesperson for the Taraba State police command, “these places are identified as security risk and so we are constantly patrolling these areas to make sure that we make arrests if we notice any criminal activities.
“However, we can not just decide to demolish these places because some of them are legitimate business premises where people are learning work and earning a living. And so to balance it, we keep a constant patrol of the areas, especially at night.
“We notice that some of the occupants are either mairuwa, those learning mechanic and mostly almanjiris who go out in the day time to beg, sell sachet water, collect scraps, and some even ride tricycles and only retire home in the evening or night to a norctonal life at these shanties.”