Area boys

Area boys

Area boys (also known as "Agberos")cite web |url= http://www.thispresenthouse.org/printmedia/DisplayFound.cfm?CategoryID=1&ContentID=189 |title= Area Boys: Menace to Society |accessdate= 2007-03-04|last= Ngwobo|first= Chris|month=July |year=2004 |work= This Presnt House |publisher=Freedom Hall ] are loosely-organized gangs of street children and teenagers, comprised mostly of males (but with a few females), who roam the streets of Lagos, Lagos State, Nigeria. They extort money from passers-by, sell illegal drugs, act as informal security guards, and perform other "odd jobs" in return for compensation.cite web |url= http://www.newsfromafrica.org/newsfromafrica/articles/art_10372.html |title= Area Boys -- a growing menace on the streets of Lagos |accessdate= 2007-03-03|author=IRIN |date= 2005-07-14|work= NEWSfromAFRICA|publisher= Koinonia International] The groups are based in Lagos Island, a Local Government Area in Lagos and the most urbanised part of Nigeria.cite book |title= Identity Transformation and Identity Politics under Structural Adjustment in Nigeria |last= Jega |first= Attahiru |authorlink= |coauthors=Abubakar Momoh (chapter author) |year=2000 |publisher=Nordic Africa Institute |chapter=Yoruba Culture and "Area Boys" in Lagos |chapterurl= http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=fUWLQv8-H70C&oi=fnd&pg=PA181&ots=zhNPk8QOvV&sig=m1Dzk_yei9zJZnMtrC_rkiBQ7YU#PPA181,M1 |location= |isbn=9171064567 |pages=184 ]

Demographics

Area boys, who are largely Yoruba, have existed in the city since the early 1980s. In 2007, the total number of area boys in Lagos was estimated at 35000 by a member of the Lagos State Judiciary;cite web |url= http://www.punchontheweb.com/Articl.aspx?theartic=Art20070411112487 |title= Area boys’ activities: An underground economy |accessdate= 2008-05-08|last= Iginla|first= S. L. |date= 2007-04-11|work= The Punch (Lagos)|publisher= Punch Nigeria Limited] as of 1996, the number of them operating on Lagos Island alone was placed around 1000. A 1996 study of Area Boys on Lagos Island by Abubakar Momoh showed that only 26.4% of area boys were from Lagos State; Ogun State (22.6%), Kwara State (14.2%), and Oyo State (14.1%) all produced more than 10% of respondents. Most were between twelve and thirty-five years old. [Momoh, p. 194]

Asked whether they were "proud" to be area boys, 18% of respondents said yes, while 75% said no (7% did not respond). [Momoh, p. 191]

Tactics and targets

A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2001 report on Nigeria described the impact of the gang members as such:cite web |url=http://web.ng.undp.org/documents/CCA_2001.pdf |title=Nigeria Common Country Assessment |accessdate=2008-02-04 |date= |year=2001 |work= |publisher= United Nations Development Programme |pages=170 |language= |doi= |quote=Secret cults and “area boys”: The emergence of secret cults on the campuses of educational institutions (especially at the tertiary level), the general shroud of secrecy over their activities and the incidents of violence on the campuses, are testimonials of the relationship between drugs and cults. The coercive and persuasive requests, petty crimes and sometimes violent offences by the so-called "area boys" to acquire resources, generally cash in the urban main business and crowded areas, have disturbed the civil society and defied the civic authority. Drug abuse among them has been variously reported as the cause of delinquent behaviour and crime.]

The coercive and persuasive requests, petty crimes and sometimes violent offences by the so-called "area boys" to acquire resources, generally cash in the urban main business and crowded areas, have disturbed the civil society and defied the civic authority. Drug abuse among them has been variously reported as the cause of delinquent behaviour and crime.

Extortion

One of the methods the groups use for extortion is to surround pedestrians, drivers, and passengers in vehicles, which are stuck in traffic, and force them to pay (for some actual or pretended service) before letting them go. To aid in collecting money during traffic jams, the area boys place nails in the road and dig up the streets. When the streets are flooded, however, they also aid motorists in avoiding ditches and pot holes. [Momoh, p. 193]

According to Momoh, much of the extortion from Igbo merchants by area boys is instigated by Lagos landlords, indigenous inhabitants of the city. [Momoh, p. 190]

Illegal drug sale

Among the area boys are both sellers and users of illegal drugs; this drug use has been fingered as the cause of further crime. Momoh states "most of them use drugs (cocaine, heroin, marijuana, etc.) either as occasional users or addicts, or as peddlers." (Of 77 respondents to Momoh's survey, 12.2% dealt drugs, while 60.3% were addicts themselves.) Sale of drugs takes place both in Nigeria and abroad, and sales of abroad have earned a small percentage of the sellers significant amounts of money.Momoh, p. 195]

Groups of area boys have been known to raid rival, Igbo drug sellers based in Central Lagos.

Notable incidents involving area boys

During the Hausa-Yoruba riots in Lagos in 2000, where thousands of Hausa fled to military barracks and nearly 100 people died, area boys took advantage of the chaos and joined in the mayhem, throwing glass and bottles at shops.cite web |url= http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/978635.stm |title= Lagos calm after city centre riots|accessdate=2007-03-03 |date=2000-10-18|work= BBC Online |publisher=BBC]

In May 2005, after a Nigerian soldier was assaulted and stabbed by several area boys he had tried to prevent from taking money from a bus driver (bus drivers are favored targets of the gang), the military began a crackdown against the group. Following this, the group's activity was noted to be in decline. However, at the Mile 12 Market, (also in Lagos), soldiers were reported to work hand in hand with gang members as late as 2004.cite web |url= http://nm.onlinenigeria.com/templates/?a=173&z=17 |title= At Mile 12, Soldiers, Area Boys Seize Traffic Control |accessdate= 2007-03-03|last= Adingupu|first= Charles|date= 2004-07-22|work= Online Nigeria |publisher= Devace Nigeria]

Area boys elsewhere in Nigeria

*Petty criminals have been labeled as "area boys" in Ibadan, where they control informal marketscite web |url= http://www.tribune.com.ng/25012007/news/news2.html |title= 6 killed in Ibadan fracas|accessdate= 2007-03-03 |last= Abiola |first=Tope |coauthors= Rotimi Omole|date= 2007-01-25|work= Nigerian Tribune|publisher=African Newspapers of Nigeria Plc] and are used to advance political causes.cite web |url= http://nigeriaworld.com/articles/2007/feb/051.html |title= The Joker in the Pack|accessdate= 2007-03-03|last= Kay|first= Soyemi|date= 2007-02-05|work= Nigeriaworld.com|publisher= Nigeriaworld]

*In the Yankari National Park in Bauchi State, baboons have been referred to as "area boys" because of their troublesome behavior.cite web |url= http://www.tribune.com.ng/16012007/tour.html |title= Escape to Yankari Game Reserve Nigeria's Garden of Eden |accessdate= 2006-03-03 |last= Ojo-Lanre|first= Wale |work= Nigerian Tribune|publisher= African Newspapers of Nigeria Plc]

ee also

*Bakassi Boys

References


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