Amazing Aniebiet Francis, a big face in the Nigerian movie industry and one of the fastest growing movie producers in Nollywood has set social media ablaze with her striking question bothering on Street Kids being wasted potentials or Brewing danger.
The post she made on her social media handle asking these questions has already generated a whole lot of conversations already.
Some days back, Uduak Isong a reputable nollywood producer made a post on instsgram about hoodlums who broke her windscreen and robbed her off her phones at Ojuelegba while she was on transit. This news reminded of the day I was hurrying to a movie location in Shelter Afrik, . I was late, my producer was calling my phone, I was pretty upset when the Four Lanes traffic light delayed me. While waiting for the greenlight to come up, two of these street kids came to clean my windscreen, I signalled them to leave, one obliged and the other was adamant, I was too angry to engage him, hence my decision to ignore him. When he finished the job he sent himself, he came to the driver’s side were I sat and signalled me to give him some cash, my initial decision was to ignore him, but I had to change my mind when I noticed the way the young man was looking at me. I had to wind down and explain that I had no cash on me, reason I asked him not to clean the car. I wined up to move when the green light came back on, the next thing thing I heard was a bang on my car, the car was already in motion, the least I could do was watch him him from my side mirror. The little man was venting his, bitterness, anger and frustration at me while giving me “waka” with his ten fingers. At this point, I didn’t need any soothsayer or prophet to show me what is coming; should these time bomb be allowed to go off.
Report by S. Atkinson Sheppard has it that
“Organised crime groups in Bangladesh hire street children to conduct serious crimes. They carry weapons, sell drugs, collect extortion money and commit political violence. Some young people are involved in land grabbing and even contract killings. The children and juveniles concerned should be considered illicit child labourers since they are neither entirely innocent victims nor full-blown criminals. More should be done to protect their rights and to halt the spread of organised crime.” This ugly situation is the same everywhere, even the popular Fox series EMPIRE, tells the story of Lucious Lion, a talented boy whose romance with the “street” in his early life impacted negatively in his adult life including his family and business.
Research has it that these area boys in Lagos, who started out as street kids are responsible for 90% of crime rate in Lagos: traffic robbery, phone snatching, cultism etc. This is one of the reasons Fashola did everything within his powers while he was Governor of Lagos state to make the streets of Lagos free from street kid/adults. One of the approaches was assenting to the Tenancy and Lagos Park and Garden Bills, Fashola said by the provision of the law, “any landlord that collects rent in excess of six months for a sitting tenant and one year from a new tenant will either be jailed for three years or pay N100.000 fine.” Just maybe this bill could have helped take some of these homeless people off the street and give them a sense of belonging, but governance in Nigeria lacks continuity, every Governor chases his agenda, secondly the fine ofN100,000 was a mere soft landing, thirdly, PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE. The menace of street kids/homeles people on the streets of Lagos is deeply rooted, these people have adapted to street life, they understand every nook an cranies of the city even more than our security and law enforcement officers.
Many people, including me want Akwa Ibom to take after Lagos in the area of commerce, revenue generation and availability of jobs etc. It is an established fact that gradually, Uyo is growing into a metropolis, it is also a fact that such developmet attracts everything; the good the bad the ugly. My late grandmum’s favourite quote was “When you pray for the rain, prepare for the mud”. Akwa Ibom does not have to make the same mistakes these cities made in their developmental stage.
The growing number of street kids in Uyo is becoming worrisome to every patriotic citizen. Sooner or later, these innocent looking street kids that hawk and beg at traffic lights, Ibom plaza and various strategic points in Uyo metropolis will someday outgrow the N50-N200 cash gifts we offer and pick up arms against us.
There are claims that the Almajiris are primary targets for Boko Haram and Bandits recritment excercise, If the North is tired of patronizing the Almajiri system they created intentionally and practiced for years, trust me, this issue deserves a collective and urgent attention. I know some of us will say, “that is the job of government” and I totally agree with you. But the bitter truth is, when these kids become blood thirsty criminals,the masses are often the most affected.
Let me use this medium to appreciate my friend Barrister Morgan Ekanem , Personal Assistant To The Governor on Public Affairs and his partners, The Mission Progessive Movement led by Inyene Dominic and the Rebirth Foundation, led by Utibe Udotong for their show of kindness to the street kids in the just concluded Neighbour 4 Neighbour project. I saw the joy on the faces of those kids while they enjoyed the sumptuous meal served them, God bless you all. BUT WE NEED A SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION TO THIS MENACE.
What is the way forward?
How do we as a state escape what has befallen Lagos and other cities?
I read somewhere that Governor Zulum of Borno State is building a system to capture the number of Almajiris in his state to help government rehabilitate them. Can we replicate this?
Is it possible to open up a skills acquisitions center strictly for street kids?
Is it possible to organize a talent hunt for street kids and see how can harness their talents?
Can we build a rehabilitation home for these kids?
Would these kids comply?
You will not know until you make the move. Not all street kids want to end up in the street, some have dreams, they want a better life. There are five of this set in every twenty you meet. Again, what you achieve with these five will greatly encourage other street kids to coeporate.
When do we begin?