If you’re a full-blooded Nigerian, you must know the group of people described in this article. They are so famous that even foreigners might recognize them. Wondering who they are? Well, read on and find out.
In every bus stop, market corner, and busy street in Nigeria, you must have noticed a group of individuals with a generally bedraggled and unapproachable façade. These area boys, or Agbero, as they are popularly called in most South Western states, are familiar frameworks of our society here in Nigeria.
Already, there is a particular conception associated with these groups of people, where they are considered menaces to society. And while I might agree with that conception most of the time, I believe that not all of them should be judged by their outward appearance.
Additionally, not all should be categorized as ‘a menace’. So, without further ado, here are my thoughts and opinions as regards the area boys of Lagos.
Table of Contents
Who is an Agbero?
For those who do not know, Area Boys or Agbero are local gangs that exist in all major cities in Nigeria. They are composed mainly of males, and you can find varying ages of children, youths, and adults amongst their ranks. Many of them are orphaned children who never had anyone to care for them, so they take to the streets looking for various ways to make a living.
The most obvious choice for an Agbero in Lagos is joining the transport union. However, not many are successful through the ‘honest route’. Therefore, when push comes to shove, many take up deplorable means of survival. If you reside in one of the major cities in Nigeria, you should know what I mean.
For example, if you hang around a bus stop long enough, you may see them harassing commercial drivers for money or even be unlucky enough to witness one of their usual violent brawls. Due to the hand fate has given them, they resort to extortion, drugs, become political henchmen, kidnappers, and do all sorts of terrible things. However, I believe that there is more to them than meets the eye.
My Conceptions on Area Boys in Lagos
Despite all these highlighted atrocities, would you believe me when I say that not all area boys are rotten eggs? To be fair, the perceived notion behind the Agbero in Lagos isn’t an unfair judgment, even more so after the past happenings of the general 2023 elections. But I can testify to moments where I have been surprised by their generosity and kindness.
The first time I had a change of heart was sometimes in 2019. I had unfortunately sprained my ankle that day, and it was an Agbero, a haggard-looking stranger I had never met, who not only supported me but also helped me get a means of transportation. He did all this without asking for compensation and was the only one who offered despite the many other people around. That moment for me was an epiphany.
It made me realize that we’ve been judging area boys by their looks and narrowed down their character because of a couple of bad eggs for so long. But have you bothered to consider what led them there or why they live the kind of life they live?
After my experience with the Agbero who assisted me, I went on a fact-finding mission. I scoured the internet looking for articles that may show area boys in a different light. Various articles labeled them as degenerates, juvenile undesirables, touts, and deviants.
Eventually, I found an article by Adejumo Kabir titled ‘The Hard Realities of Displaced Nigerians in Lagos’. His article detailed the trials of Nigerians who weren’t quite fortunate, and amongst them, the story of Sodiq and Quadri caught my attention. Sodiq, with no family to lean on, was integrated into the Agbero gang at a very young age. He considered his fellow area boys, or ‘senior prefects’ as Quadri called them, to be his brothers.
Sodiq performed contract work through their gangs, working hard by performing menial tasks (washing toilets and sweeping side roads) to earn his daily bread. Yet these so-called brothers exploited him of his hard-earned money, paying little to no money in return for his work. And on the other hand, the government makes his reality even more unbearable. Task forces and police officers repeatedly raid the streets for young area boys, arresting them for alleged drug cases and crimes they have no proper proof or evidence of.
In my search, I realized the label ‘Agbero’ is always accompanied by headlines such as; “Taming, extinguishing, removing, fixing”. Almost as if they are invasive plants or animals, like they are all undesirable elements that should be wiped out.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that most area boys can do many horrible acts; I’m not denying that. But what of the innocent children born and raised in it? These children have no other option. That lifestyle is the only one they know. What of the abandoned children who resort to it because that was the only place they were accepted?
I’m not saying you should go out there and make the first Agbero you find your best friend. All I’m saying is instead of crucifying them all, both government and non-governmental bodies should do what they can to help. I constantly hear of government plans to eradicate them, to clear off the ‘nuisance’ from the streets. But they aren’t refuse or trash that can be so easily eradicated. Why don’t I read of plans to rehabilitate the young boys?
Wouldn’t it be better to save the little ones before they become too integrated into that rough life before they can’t be saved anymore? There are countless boys of less than fourteen years of age under bridges in Oshodi, Obalende, Benin ring road, and Onitsha market. If they could be saved from the vices they have been forced to imbibe, perhaps we may have fewer ‘undesirables’ parading the streets.
I know that my opinions may seem strange to any reader, but society needs to realize that these boys are human beings too. I don’t believe people come into the world wanting to hurt or extort. It is their situation that leads them to such acts. If there could be a sort of plan or organization in place to help them, perhaps employment or schooling, maybe it could solve the problem of Agbero in Nigeria.
Despite our notion of the label ‘Agbero’, let’s keep in mind that there is some level of good in everyone. Though I cannot speak for all of them, I believe they would prefer a different life from what fate has given them.
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Edited by Oluwanifemi Akintomide.
Akorah Chioma Diana is a recent graduate from the University of Lagos. A creative and content writer, her love for writing began in her Junior Secondary School when she became interested in reading.
A 2021/2022 KANAC Creative writing winner, excerpts of her work can be found in the KANAC Anthology, Pride Magazine Nigeria, and Tush Media Magazine.
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