Anyone who steps into the vicinity and tarries a minute will experience a baptism of fire, directly or vicariously, as it happened to an innocent passerby a few weeks ago.
In a split second, a young lady walking down the street was suddenly pushed into the drain and her purse expertly taken from her by her assailant which he quickly ransacked before the lady could come to her senses. The thief made away with her mobile phone and ATM cards. The empty purse was thrown into the drainage, where its owner was still struggling to pick herself.
Sympathizers quickly gathered around the victim, trying to help her out of the drain. Thereafter, she spent the next few minutes cleaning herself up. Nobody talked about how to catch the thief. Soon, everyone dispersed. C’est finis. End of the episode. For those in the know, it was a carefully orchestrated daylight robbery as the thief and the so-called sympathizers were cohorts.
By the time you walk down the length of the street, you will come to the correct assumption that, here, is a dark spot.
The street is populated by a community of smokers. Young men and ladies within the ages of 21- 25 years old were seen with sticks of cigarette and sachets of every kind of liquor. Where they gathered was by the canal that was filled with brackish, stinking water and choked with plastic containers of all sorts. A few meters away, scavengers were busy at their daily jobs.
The name of the place is Orita Bogo, in Lawanson, Surulere, Lagos. Orita is Yoruba word for a junction. Bogo is slang for biscuit bone. The idea behind the name of the area is not literally known; but figuratively, the goings-on there could be responsible. It is a crime zone, a vicinity where daring and devious crimes are perpetrated –– a dangerous place for the unwary. If it were possible to put up a warning signpost, a frightful phrase such as “enter this street at your own risk,” would be an appropriate notice.
Residents are overwhelmed by this menace. incidentally, they also know who their oppressors are –– a couple of those who spoke with the reporter mentioned the name of a 19-year-old whom they alleged is the ringleader of the gang and the mastermind behind their dastardly activities –– ironically, they would rather not talk about it.
When approached by Saturday Sun, residents of Aborishade Street, decried the state of insecurity in their neighbourhood, especially from 6 pm until the wee hours. Their timid response indicated a community living in fear. Most of them declined to speak to the press because they wanted to avoid troubles.
One of the brave few who spoke with the reporter was Mr Collins, a furniture shop owner. He opined that the issue of insecurity in the area did not start recently, and will likely remain so for a long time to come because the culprits are young people who have the backing of their parents and guardians.
“The gang members are within the ages of 12 and 25, that is even if they have someone as old as 25 years old among them. They do all that pleases them and do not get questioned for it. I don’t understand how their parents raised them. Whenever we gather for a meeting in a bid to curb the crimes, their parents go back to tell them all we discussed, strategies and all and they even tell them who said what. Thus, all our plans are not effective,” he said.
He also believed that these juvenile delinquents are being sponsored by politicians as police officers have not been able to see to the end of their nefarious activities in the area. “Any police officer that enters their base would not come out with all he went in with. They would either take his life or his gun. Those kids have those they look up to but we would rather not mention their names,” Collins stated.
He noted, however, that not all the gang members are residents of the area. But because they have residents’ back up, they are encouraged to come around and turn the area to their base, he asserted.
Another respondent who dared to speak with the reporter was Mrs Mirabel Kolawole. According to her, she doesn’t feel safe leaving the sanctuary of her home to go to work in the early hours of the morning. Therefore, she has to wait for three other trusted persons who also go to work at about the same time, so they can all walk as a company.
“Waiting for them delays me, but I just have to wait for my security. I feel safer when we are in groups because I leave for work by 5 am and that is their operating hour,” she explained.
What baffled her most is where or how such minors got the audacity to accost full-grown adults and mug them.
“They have weapons they use to threaten people, so I fear them,” she said. “Asides that, those young criminals don’t mind injuring their victims in the process. They have common tactics like pouring sand in the victims’ eyes, or pushing him or her into the gutter, all sorts of things unheard of.”
An idea, of how vicious the gang could be, came from Afameuna, an Okada rider, who says he keeps his android phone in an inner pocket to avoid being robbed.
“Several times they have asked me if I was still living in the Stone Age and I told them that if that is what they want to believe, it is fine by me because I know that once they know I have an android phone, they would send members of their group to attack me,” he said.
His familiarity and kind gestures towards the young criminals can hardly insulate him from their attacks, he avowed. “Only God knows what those children have swallowed and where they have steeped their feet because they are so mean,” he pondered.
Another resident who gave her first name as Bunmi blamed the government for the situation. Her view was that the state government has not shown interest in cleansing the area and making it crime-free, otherwise, security operatives would have been mobilized to the area with a special focus on stopping the activities of the young criminals.
Bunmi also corroborated earlier assertion by Collins that community leaders and concerned residents’ efforts to find a solution to this major problem were truncated by traitors among them.
She said: “It is not what the residents here can do alone. When they plan on contacting the police, those boys get tip-offs and vanish into thin air for that period, the police get there and they do not see anything unusual, and they probably feel that we are just raising false alarms.”
Bunmi had no faith in the police to curb the crime in the area. “The Nigerian Army is the right body that can handle this problem, especially when they collaborate with the police. I believe in their effectiveness,” she declared.