Oshodi: The return of Area Boys
By SUNDAY ANI
Sunday, June 06, 2010
A clean Oshodi, devoid of harassment and intimidation. A crime-free and business-friendly Oshodi. These were Governor Babatunde Fashola?s beautiful dreams for Oshodi. Many however dismissed this as a lofty dream, hinging their reason on two factors: That old habit hardly dies and that Nigerian leaders are good dreamers.
But when the transformation of Oshodi started early 2009, cynics were swept off their feet, although they assumed the toga of ?let?s wait and see.?
While the ?wait and see? game was going-on , the governor was receiving accolades locally and internationally for the transformation in the state and particularly for changing Oshodi from a den of criminally-minded and mentally deranged persons to a place where people now have some measure of freedom.
Before now, going through Oshodi under bridge at night is like treading where angels fear to tread. All sorts of crimes ranging from harassment, intimidation, picking pocket, robbery and rape took place not only at night but also sometimes in broad day light. Recently, all that seemed to have changed with the transformation going on at Oshodi. People were no longer complaining of harassment, rape or robbery like before.
But just when Fashola was about coasting home that his cynics have been proved wrong and that his dream had finally come to reality, the roughnecks have staged a come back, reminding him that it is not yet uhuru. When Sunday Sun spoke to a trader, Mr T.F.C Onyegbosi, he said: ?The boys came back with a different strategy this time. They have decided to engage in selling fairly used handsets but all that is camouflage.
?During the day, they disguise as businessmen selling fairly used handsets but when it is dusk, they continue their nefarious business of snatching handbags, handsets and other valuables from hapless citizens on the Oshodi Bridge.?
Another trader who simply gave his name as John corroborated TFC?s account and added: ?They claim they are selling fairly used handsets but what they sell is empty casing of handsets. After an unsuspecting buyer settles for a price with them, they will ask the person to wait for the receipt and while the buyer is waiting to collect the receipt, another partner in crime will come and flash another handset before the buyer asking him or her to buy.
?Immediately, the buyer looks away, the one writing the receipt will remove the hardware of the handset and rap the casing with the receipt and hand it over to the buyer. As soon as the buyer collects it, he disappears into thin air and most times; the buyer would only realize that he was given only the phone casing . And if he comes back, he would never see the criminal again.?
Sunday Sun also gathered that officers and men of Lagos State security outfit, ?Kick Against Indiscipline? (KAI) and that of the Nigeria Mobile Police Squad that used to mount permanent surveillance ?Under the Bridge? no longer stay there. This according to sources, accounts for why the boys now smoke marijuana all day with reckless abandon.
?If you look at that under bridge, you will see the boys smoking all sorts of weeds ranging from cigarette to Indian hemp. They also sleep there. ?When KAI and the Police were stationed here 24 hours, they had all fled but with the exit of these security squads, you can see they are back.
?Sometimes, they engage in fights , breaking bottles and disturbing innocent citizens. Government should bring the police back otherwise, this place is gradually returning to its original status,? the source cautioned.
Our Correspondent gathered that the only difference between what is happening now and what obtained before the transformation is that nobody harasses anybody during the day now, unlike before, when people were afraid to pass through the place even in broad daylight.
However, the ?Owo Da? boys have never stopped for one day. It has been business as usual. Even when their counterparts under the bridge fled for their lives, the ?Owo mi Da? boys were having field day. These boys terrorize commercial bus drivers. They collect money from them with reckless abandon. They are so bold that any delay in giving them the amount demanded results in their destruction of side mirrors of buses or sometimes the wipers .
According to one of the bus conductors who prefers anonymity: ?We no know why we dey pay money. They just ask us ?Owo da? and if you waste time, you fit get injury. Sometimes they collect N20, N40 or N50. The thing no get fixed amount.?
Another conductor who probably thought that speaking to the press could attract the wrath of the boys simply said: ?I no know anything. They ask us to pay and we pay, wetin come be your problem??
A newspaper vendor who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity also said: ?You can see that the governor is trying to transform Oshodi. Look at under the bridge and see the level of changes there. But I want to assure the government that the war with these boys has just started. Old habits, they say, hardly die. The boys are back but this time they are not as deadly as they were and they don?t disturb people during the day like before. But the snatching of handbags, picking pocket, intimidation and other nefarious activities are still very prevalent.?
However, a cross section of traders who spoke to our correspondent believe that the ?Area Boys? are gradually finding their way back to Oshodi, a development they said would deflate Gov Fashola?s Mega City mantra if an urgent drastic measure is not taken to arrest the development, considering the strategic position of Oshodi in the state.