By Favour Nnabugwu
If you think the menace of hooliganism is limited to Lagos, then be prepared to face the social miscreants, popularly known as area boys, in the Federal Capital Territory and other parts of the country such as Oyo, Kwara, Ogun, Osun, Sokoto and Bauchi as they are fast spreading their tentacles across the nation.
The hangouts of the so-called area boys, who are either forced into that way of life or are born into that particular social strata, are bus stops, major highways and the streets where they steal from pedestrians or forcefully take money from people going about their daily businesses.
With little or no education, they are products of broken homes while their criminal activities range from rape, theft, arson, intimidation to extortion.
Many FCT residents have had experiences with the area boys. They have been made to part with money and precious items by the boys.
One Mohammed Shehu, a self-confessed area boy, told Sunday Vanguard how he had dropped out of secondary school at 13 after his father could no longer pay his fees. Swapping the classroom for the streets, the youngster quickly became addicted to drugs.
Now aged 22, he makes his living by claiming ownership of a space by a bus stop in road junction and charging motorists to load their vehicles for them.
Mr Stephen Ararewa , the Secretary of Area 1 Motor Park, said most of the area boys do not belong to any of the transport unions.
“Most of the area boys are not members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, though they behave as if they are members of the national union, a platform which they use to rob and extort people”.
The major places they do this in the FCT include Area 1 and Area 3 junction. Many of them are criminals. They constitute a problem to the national union”
“The truth of the matter is that when the national union marshal or task force is in operation, you would know because they have I.D. cards, they have operation vans, they wear vest and once the national union arrests a driver operating without the required permission, they take you to their office at Jabi or Utako where they are made to pay fine and register their vehicles”, Ararawa said.
“The area boys in Area 1 are a major problem. Even some of us who are members of the national union don’t go near them because they will embarrass you. No matter what paper you present to them, they will not let you go till they collect money from you. So, we are calling on government to help us flush the area boys out of the parks and bus stops in the FCT.
“Area 1, Area 1 roundabout going to Game’s village, Area 3, Jabi and Berger have become a den for area boys. If you stay in these areas very early in the morning or late at night, you may be robbed by these area boys, ”
Akande Sunday, a member of the NURTW in Wuse Berger Park, appealed to the FCT administration to come to help them rid the parks and bus-stops of area boys
“We have been calling on government to take them out of the streets and the parks. They wreak havoc on taxi drivers, we get harassed and, at times, they vandalise our vehicles when we refuse to be extorted of sums ranging from N50 to N100 under the pre-text that they are ‘Agbero’, that is, they will load your vehicle without your permission and collect money by force Akande said.”
“The commuters can identify the vehicles they want to enter themselves, the driver can load the vehicle themselves, but the area boys under the guise of agberos will still come out to extort money from us. What is the use of the agberos in the motor parks and bus stops? I will like to call on government to take the area boys out of the motor parks and bus stops especially bus-stops that have to do with taxis in Abuja FCT now that we don’t have buses”.
The area boys phenomenon began in the early 1980s from small bands of bullies fed by the steady flood of unemployed people that migrated into Lagos from across the country.
Speaking to Sunday Vanguard on the headache of the miscreants, FCT Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Hyelhira Daniel, said the invasion to the FCT has been a problem to the police that is working hand in hand with the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB.
All the same, Daniel opined that the areas boys could be reformed and turned into good citizens as some security agents do make use of them in achieving enforcement.
“We have been working with environmental (AEPB) to clear area boys in Area 1 where they have been giving the FCT a lot of headache”, the police spokesperson said..
“We have small challenge in that some of the agencies engage those boys to achieve enforcement and we have been working with some of those agencies to streamline their activities with the area boys to make them useful and be better citizens of this country”.
The FCT PPRO implored parents to take proper care of their children and closely monitor them because most of the area boys are forced into the menace due to negligence and lack of care from parents and families.