•How they rob with charms, live tortoise — Residents
By Ezra Ukanwa, Abuja
Over 90 metal scavengers and dumpster divers otherwise known as ‘Bola Boys’ in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, recently, over-stretched their criminal activities which led to their proscription by the Nigeria Police in Abuja.
Still on the proscription, in what looked like an end game to their unwholesome activities, the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, had also proscribed these seeming illegal refuse collectors from residential and other areas.
These dingy-looking ‘Bola Boys’ usually appear scruffy. They are typically seen with a gunked-up sack bag fastened to their shoulders, or a truck; mostly armed with a protracted iron-rod for which they use in raking the earth in search of objects of inconsequential value.
Sunday Vanguard reports that these untamed ‘Bola Boys’ are mostly homeless, roaming the streets of Abuja, vandalizing private and public properties not limited to generators, building materials, metal of sorts and plastic drums
These scroungers also function as waste collectors following the nonfeasance of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, to properly manage garbage disposal within the FCT suburbs.
Despite how much these ‘Bola Boys’ contribute to making life easy for many, residents in Abuja have made a U-turn accusing them of burglary and destruction of properties worth millions of naira in different parts of FCT, including the city’s centre.
They went further to accuse the FCT Administration, the Federal Government and other concerned bodies of being impuissant to stem the rot which they claim is gradually becoming a nightmare.
Under the guise of scavenging from refuse bins in neighborhood across the city, the ‘Bola Boys’ have been involved in many criminal activities from petty stealing to armed robbery, vandalism of public utilities and other forms of crime and criminality.
This is coming even after the FCT Police Command resolved to send the ‘Bola Boys’ away from Abuja, but have failed to stand to the occasion as these scavengers are still seen parading the nooks and crannies of the nation’s capital.
Horror of night attack
Describing the development as unfortunate, Dani Iturbo, a community Chairman in Kabusa, during a telephone interview with our correspondent, narrated how his community was recently attacked at night.
He stated that the ‘Bola Boys’ had stormed the area in their numbers attacking a good number of homes which then led to a skirmish.
Iturbo said that despite efforts by the Federal Government to send the scavengers packing, their network of operations in Abuja has taken a cult dimension.
“We were so helpless”, he said, as he narrated how over 40 armed scavengers attacked his community robbing them of their valuable properties, and molesting their young girls at gunpoint.
His words: “One night, people came in their numbers; over 50 of them. They robbed at least 22 houses successfully. “No police or any law enforcement agency came to intervene. We were left to dance to their music.
“They used a trick. Usually, if there is something like that, we come out to defend ourselves and then we will blow a whistle.
“They came with their own whistles shouting ‘thief’, so we thought the vigilantes were trying to alarm us about a situation.
“Those who came out were robbed. Because of that tactic, their operation was very successful.
“At 6am, after they had gone, some residents who were robbed said they knew their faces.
“So, we all masked up and went to where these people were staying and fought them.
“Thereafter the Bola Boys reinforced and came to fight back. But of course, we got early information so we were prepared to fight back. We pursued them until we got to their place and then burnt down the place.
“After that incident, they have been coming in the daytime to spy on our community and we’ve made about three arrests in different locations. Others who came at night were also arrested.
“We reported the matter to the police and the DPO here told us that they were on it and that they had been given a marching order from the FCT.
“We also gave these scavengers two weeks to leave our area and if they didn’t, then we would take a drastic step. But the place that we went to destroy, the Bola Boys have started using the place, they are still there and the police are not doing anything about it.
“In our own area, we are not waiting for the police to help. We decided to beef up security in the daytime and then at night.
“Our security is very aggressive. So, for now, they’ve not been coming here.
“But, they are still there. Their place is not up to two kilometers from our community. If you go there, you will discover that they have started building that place again. So, why are the police not reacting?
“Our security guards close at 4pm, and those scavengers move in by 5pm. That is the time they use to carry out their operation. They notice when the security people usually close, then they break people’s windows, take their phones and other things.
“Apart from that, even as a community, this metal bell that we hang to alert people, they come out to steal it. Somebody cannot keep metal, they will steal it.”
Describing the issue as untoward, Dame Grace, a Mararaba resident, said: “These guys have been around like forever.
“Each time we tried to get rid of them, 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 were these particular guys that were arrested for stealing irons used to construct gutters.
“We caught them, stopped people in the neighborhood from beating them and handed them over to the police, only for us to see them some days after threatening to mobilize and deal with some of us.
“Ever since then, we have learnt to keep our metals and iron away from these guys while those who have cameras monitor them from the inside.
“Just last month, my neighbor lost his generator to these guys. How they made away with that generator still marvels everyone. The generator was so big that it needed two grown men to carry and move it away from where it was stationed.
“The other day, it was a caterer who lost almost all of her working tools to these heartless boys”.
On the way out, Grace said that residents had reintroduced what she called ‘Watch your Neighborhood’ to arrest the situation.
Another resident of Jikwoyi, Alice Ocho, while speaking to our correspondent, wondered why the “Bola Boys” are allowed to walk freely committing crimes.
When reminded that they are Nigerians, she flared up and said: “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.
“Did you know that they have gone beyond just stealing 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.
“Haven’t you heard of cases where these evil hearted men take playing children and put them inside their bags? “If government is not willing to clear these people off our neighborhood, we might as well take the law into our hands.”
On his part, a pastor, Remijus Ukanwa, who resides in Karu village, stated that they had pillaged his home while he left for a religious program.
He narrated an account of how they had gone beyond pilfering available items to digging out building materials such as irons used in constructing buildings.
His words: “These evil-minded boys do not only steal irons, but they now dig out irons from already built structures.
“I went to church one certain day but when I returned, I discovered that my compound had been ransacked; everywhere was turned upside down. “The new chairs my wife bought for her kindergarten class were stolen by the boys and they were over 30 in number.
“They have also dug out the irons I used in building my soak-away. They are terrible. When they see that the environment is quiet, they will monitor and begin to orchestrate wickedness.
“On that day, when I returned from church, I discovered their bags and slippers in my compound. It was as if, when I was opening the gate, they were also leaving but discovering that I was entering, they left their own items and made away with mine.
“Those boys are also fortified with charms because, on that very day, I saw their bags, their irons, caps and slippers. I also saw a live tortoise.
“If government doesn’t do something about these criminals parading themselves as dirt disposals, we might just be breeding other elements that will soon tear us apart just as what we are experiencing with Boko Haram and bandits.”
We will deport ‘Bola Boys’ – FCT Deputy Commissioner of Police
Meanwhile, FCT Deputy Commissioner of Police, Ben Igwe, said his Command would deport all identified ‘Bola Boys’ to their states of origin.
Igwe spoke when he led a team to arrest 98 scavengers in Abuja.
He said: “Abuja is not for everybody. We have asked them to go where they are supposed to be.
“We are working towards clearing them from the FCT. We will keep doing that and we will not relent.
“We recovered from them several things that they are not supposed to scavenge. They steal properties while claiming to scavenge refuse.
“We have asked them to relocate. Many people have been trooping into the FCT, and some of them are coming with evil intentions. Whenever you see them, let us know.
“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.”
Efforts to reach the FCT Minister proved abortive as he did not pick calls neither did he reply to text messages sent to him by our correspondent.