By Olasunkanmi Akoni & Monsur Olowopejo
ForÂ 45 miscreants popularly called â€œArea Boysâ€, June 25, 2009 was a day they became â€˜re-brandedâ€™ with a new lease of life.
They can now boast of becoming graduates and several days after they are still basking in the euphoria of having at lastÂ shed their unenviable status as notorious rough-necks that many love to hate.
Their change of status came courtesy of their graduation from the Rehabilitation and Skill Acquisition Centre in Tekunle, Lekki area of Lagos State where they were privileged to acquire various skills and vocations.
They were the third batch of trainees to graduate from the Centre, bringing the total number of graduates of the centre since inception in November 2005 to 120.
The breakdown of the graduands show that four graduated in carpentry, seven in electrical installations, seven in vulcanizing, five in tailoring, seven in shoe making, four in cane and fibre, four in barbing and six in agricultural practices.
Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon Adeyemi Ikuforiji in his address at the event organised byÂ theÂ state Ministry of Youth, Sports and Social Development, explained that the programme was aimed at making social miscreantsÂ better persons who would be useful to themselves in particular and the nation at large.
His words: â€œToday marks another milestone in the state governmentâ€™s effort in addressing the challenge of the disappointed human capital minds as envisioned by the dysfunctional activities of social miscreants otherwise known as Area Boys on our major streets.
â€œI am happy to note that report from the after care service of our rehabilitation through the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Social Development have been encouraging as many of the past graduands are now settled and integrated back to the society.â€
According to Ikuforiji, in addition to giving adequate training to the graduands, the state government has concluded arrangement to empower them by giving relevant equipment and seed capital which would assist them in settling down in earnest after graduation.
â€œThese gestures are designed at practically giving them a good resettlement programme intended to make them less dependent on their parents, self-sustainable and in the expectation that they will be able to contribute their quota to the development of the state and the country,â€ he said.
While appealing to the parents to keep the milk of kindness demonstrated effortlessly in the past in remolding the beneficiaries, Ikuforiji assured that the Centre will continue to exist to produce worthy ambassadors.
The Speaker, therefore, urged corporate bodies, philanthropist, NGOâ€™s, private sector and other well-meaning Nigerians to generously support the state government in rehabilitating challenged youths.
Commissioner for Youth, Sports and Social Development, Prince Ademola Adeniji Adele said: â€œThis occasion has once again demonstrated the genuine determination of the state government to absorb people with deviant behaviour, turn them around and empower them to be useful to themselves and the society at largeâ€.
The duration of the training proper is a minimum of nine months and maximum of one year.
However, some spent more than a year due to the fact that they have no where to go. Officers at the centre help in home tracingÂ for such so that they can be connected with their relatives.
The first prize winner of the training went to Mr Austine Agana, who learned vulcanising; the second prize wasÂ won by Mr. Seun Kalejaiye, while the third prize went to Donald Uzor.
Speaking to Vanguard Metro after their graduation, some of the former area boys expressed happiness at all that they learnt in the course of the training, just as they praised the Lagos State government for giving them another opportunity in life to become responsible members of the society.
According to Abiodun Adelani: â€œThe training is very good and it is a life changing arena because I do not believe that my character can change from bad to goodâ€, adding that he was into video coverage of events before he became a drug addict and was hooked to marijuana also known as Indian Hemp.
â€˜I thank the Lagos State government for setting up the rehabilitation centre but I will like them to please upgrade the facilities at the centre and also establish factories and workshops thereâ€.
Ismail Pareira, another graduating training spoke more or less in the same vein.Â â€œI feel happy today that I have changed from my bad character and I am now a new born person.
Also, Iâ€™m happy that the Lagos State government will empower me with the equipment that will make me become a professional in the my chosen fieldâ€.
Screening for Miss African Queen holds in Lagos
OVER a hundred contestants were at the weekend in Lagos screened for the Miss African Queen Nigeria beauty pageant.
The Miss African QueenÂ features beauties from across Africa who are expected to showcase the richness of African culture.
Its objective, according to the organisers, is to promote African values as well as provide a platform to address issues that affect African women in their various communities which will foster harmony among them.
The mode of screening include statistics, fluency in English, skin beauty, a special skill they possess, and being spontaneous, while they must betweenÂ 18-26Â agebracket and above five feet in height.
The winner, who is expected to emergeÂ from the Enugu finals will represent Nigeria at Miss African Queen, to be staged in Delta, later in October.Â Â The event is being supported by the Enugu and Delta states governments.
The spokesman for the coordinator of the project, Event Focus, Temidayo Kafaru says that the competition does not allow the use of bikinis and evening wears, unlike what obtains in other beauty competitions. â€œRather, the competition seeks to promote African costumes which are elegant and of good moral standards,â€ he said.
According to Kafaru: â€œThis initiative was actually conceived by XYZ Agency in Ghana and we happen to be the Nigerian representative. This is not the first time this event will be holding in Africa, but since we are the Nigerian representative and we are in the continent -Africa, we feel it is necessary if we follow the line and what they have been doing before.â€
He added further: â€œIn Nigeria we have lots of beautiful girls, talented and well-structured so we have to give out the forms for free and get a true Nigerian beauty not Africa. A true Nigerian representative that will go there and cling the crown. The African women also have lots of internal attributes because they can tolerate and they are very understanding unlike the Western women.
â€œMiss African Queen Nigeria do not support any thing that has to do with bikini that reveals the female body to the public. It is an international event and the screening process is on goingâ€.