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Insecurity: Why baban bola menace thrives in Abuja

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Abuja City gate

The menace of metal scavengers and dumpster divers otherwise known as ‘baban bola’ in the FCT Administration out-lawed their activities leading to the police swooping on them. In this report KEHINDE OSASONA examines why they thrive despite several attempts to curb their activities.

Over time, many residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) had resulted to patronising metal scavengers and waste collectors otherwise known as ‘baban bola’ for refuse disposal following the failure of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) to properly handle refuse disposal with the territory, especially in the suburb.

Many of these residents, however, have accused the baban bola of being responsible for theft and destruction of property in different parts of the FCT including in the city centre, with the authorities seeming unable to meet their responsibilities in terms of refuse disposal and curbing the excesses of the baban bola.

However, as part of its resolve to clear the mess, the operatives from the FCT Police, in collaboration with the authorities, apprehended 98 scavengers within the capital city, vowing to send them back to their villages, stating ‘Abuja not for everybody’.

According to the police, the scavengers in question have not only constituted a nuisance and committed various crimes in the capital city over the years; they were also accused of stealing residents’ properties.

While parading the suspects at the FCT Police commands headquarters in Abuja, recently, the Deputy Police Commissioner in charge of Operations, DCP Ben Igwe, sounded a warning that, “Abuja, the capital city is not for everybody.”

He said police findings revealed that the scavengers also carried out other criminal ventures such as stealing, carjacking, housebreaking, arms smuggling, drug peddling, amongst other crimes.

The latest move, this medium learnt, came as a result of public complaints on the fast-rising menace of vandalism and theft of individual, private and public property to include important national infrastructure, perpetuated by the miscreants.

The police command also noted that it would deport the suspects to their states of origin.

“Some strange persons have been trooping into the nation’s capital and the command is working towards eradicating such personalities from Abuja

“Abuja is not for everybody.

“We have asked them to go to where they are supposed to be and we are working towards clearing them from the FCT and we won’t relent.

“After the raid, we recovered from them several things that they are not supposed to scavenge. They steal properties while claiming to scavenge.

“We have asked them to relocate because some of them are coming with evil intentions. Whenever you see them, let us know.”

However, despite the new move, the police authority appears to be facing a big hurdle which may likely thwart their resolve to make the scavengers in their custody face the law and deportation thereafter.

While bemoaning the challenges in a chat with journalists, DCP Igwe said: “We are taking them to court to make sure that justice is given. We have a serious issue now because of threats from so many places.”

Although the police boss refused to divulge to journalists where such a threat was coming from, some residents are already connecting the dot by fingering some higher authority from the Presidency.

Residents fight back

In an exclusive chat with Blueprint Weekend, a resident of Jabi, Abiodun Oluyide, fingered some powerful people in Abuja as being behind the threat.

When asked how he came to such a conclusion, he said: “These guys have been around like forever. Each time we tried to get rid of them having discovered their criminal antecedents, they would be arrested, delivered to the police station and in a couple of days; they would be roaming the same street again. So, tell me, who is fooling who?

“There was this particular guy that were arrested for stolen irons laced over gutters three years ago, we caught them, stopped people in the neighbourhood from beating them and handed them over to the police, only for us to see them some weeks after threatening to mobilize and deal with some of us.

“Ever since then, every one of us has learnt to keep our metals and iron away from these guys while those who have cameras monitor them from the inside.”

On the way out, Oluyide added that residents have reintroduced what he called ‘Watch your Neighbourhood’ to arrest the situation.

Another resident of Darki Biu, Madam Alice Ocho, while speaking with our correspondent wondered why the Mai bola, who according to her has been giving her neighbourhood sleepless nights, should be allowed to walk freely and commit crimes.

When reminded that they are supposed to be innocent until found guilty, she flared up and said: “Please if you can come with me, I will show you two or three people who can attest to some of their atrocities and at the end of the day, we would just collect our things and let them go.

Speaking further, Madam Alice said, “Did you know that they have gone beyond just scavenging metals? In fact, they now engage in petty stealing and when you confront them, they will tell you they did not take it from your room but outside, imagine that.”

This medium can report that in 2018, the FCTA had via a press statement to media houses informed the public that it had restricted activities of the waste collectors, promising to approve dumpsites outside the city centre.

The directives reads partly: “Baba Bola are to operate only at the Karshi, Gwagwalada, Kwali, Abaji, Gousa, Kuje and Bwari approved dumpsites as opposed to moving from one neighbourhood to another collecting waste objects across the city of Abuja,”

Is ban still in force?

Our correspondent sought to know from the AEPB if the ban earlier placed was still in force.

A staff member who craved anonymity because he was not to speak to the press divulged that the Board had an enforcement team that arrests and evacuates the defaulters.

The ban, he noted had been communicated to the scavengers by the Board, some of whom are willing to relocate to Guosa and other approved dump sites outside the city.

“The ban is still there. We are still picking them up and that is why there are not many in the city centre like before,” he said.

He encouraged residents to report activities of the scavengers to relevant authorities so that necessary action could be taken against them.