By Victor Arjiromanus
From a distance, one perceives an acrid stench oozing from the building that serves as accommodation for a crowd of men and women. An inscription, ‘Welcome to Oko Baba Destitute Home’, quickly brings one in touch with the lowest ebb of humanity.
The Destitute home, popularly known as Beggars colony, is situated in the Ebute Ero area of Lagos. It was established in 1988 during the administration of Buba Marwa, to accommodate the less privileged. It is a dynasty for the destitute. The beggars were in regiments,with some looking hungry and pale, women moved up and down the lane, holding their malnourished and weak infants close to their chests.
The men on the other hand, looked very lean with the youths, both boys and girls looking ravenous, each holding and puffing weeds to the air. Sadly, the complex which was established for the singular purpose of housing the poor, has been turned into a den of criminals of various categories , who unleash mayhem on innocent people, including their benefactors.
Information revealed that perpetrators of the heinous crimes there , might not be those living inside the Oko Baba destitute home as some social miscreants and rogues have made the place an abode. Whenever they committed a crime, they would run to the destitute home, masquerading as beggars. This colony , also shares an entrance with another compound which according to residents, accommodates irredeemable miscreants who most times make life unbearable for residents, especially guests who visited beggars with gifts.
Task Force blamed
Residents also blamed activities of these hoodlums on the Lagos State Task Force. They accused the Task Force of using the destitute home as a dumpsite for criminals and beggars picked from the streets. On arrival at their new homes, these dumped individuals would become hardened and resort to dispossessing residents of their valuables, all in a bid to eke a living.
Vanguard Reporter’s ordeal
This reporter didn’t find it difficult to establish the rumored notoriety of the area, as he was a ready-made victim of their criminality.
He had gone to cover the visit of Little Miss Nigeria Pet Project to feed the less privileged. Barely had he approached the colony and was taking shots of it, than he was surrounded by fierce looking miscreants who ordered him to give them money and other valuables he came with. An attempt to resist them almost resulted in him being gang beaten. At the end, he was forced to part with every kobo he had, including his mobile phone and wristwatch.
One of the visitors who was going to get something from his car also got a fair share of the criminals traits. They hauled insults on him when he insisted he would not part with any of his valuables.
Residents of the area lamented that they had been living in fear since these criminals started operating. Some of them have long stopped relatives and friends from visiting them, owing to the harassment and intimidation they went thorugh in the hands of the miscreants.
One of the residents who simply gave his name as Josiah, said, “ Both boys and girls are rouges here. They indulge in occultism and make life unbearable for people. Several times they robbed people, including those who came to make donations to the beggars.
Another resident (name withheld), said , “ sometimes, they broke into our shops and carted away our goods”.
The miscreants were also alleged to be used as thugs during elections. A resident said “perhaps, that is why despite their notoriety in the area, security agents have not done anything to check their excesses. They were always used by some politicians to carry out nefarious activities”.
Some residents in the area have therefore called on the state government to carry out renovation work on the home , as well as provide basic amenities , including security that would ensure their safety.