… Lekki residents, others fete 50
By Bose Adelaja
CITIZENS COMPASS —Statistics have proved that eight out of 10 street children in Lagos State are non indigenes.
To buttress this, a recent End of the year party organised for 50 street boys in Lekki, Eti-Osa Local Government in the State, revealed that only two of them are Lagos Indigenes while the rest are from other parts of the country.
The End of year party which took place about a fortnight ago, was held at LERA Center, Lekki Phase 1 with Lekki Residents Association (LERA) as the sponsors in conjunction with the Rotary Club of Admiralty and The Place Restaurant.
The programme with the theme, “Show love to the homeless,” had Mr Bolaji Ogundele,
Honourable commissioner for youth and culture ,Lagos state in attendance.
The event drew emotions from a few adults who were in attendance as the boys narrated how they found themselves on the streets.
Some of them narrated how they took to begging as a way to survive, how they mingled with older homeless people and the various social vices they had been exposed to.
Fortunately for them, one of the residents, Col. Rotimi Vaughan and wife have adopted 13 of them and have been responsible for their upkeep including feeding, medical bills, clothings and other expenses.
Emotions ran high as some of the boys narrated how life has treated them.
One of them, Michael Akintola said though he aspires to be a musician but the circumstances surrounding him may thwart this.
Michael who hails from Bayelsa State said he lost his mother while he was in seconday school and this almost signalled the end of an era for him as the late mother was the bread winner in the family.
He was left with the choice of staying with an uncle believing that things would get better. Alas! This turned out to be his undoing as the uncle’s wife almost sniffed life out of him.
According to Michael, “I fled from home to escape the wrath of my uncle’s wife and my destination was the streets where I mingled with other homeless children though I had a bitter experience but life must go on.
“I have heard so much about the booming nature of Lagos State and decided to give it a trial by relocating to the State to continue with life.
” One day, I was tired about street life and decided to return to my uncle not minding the hurdles but as I put a call across him to inform him about my decision, all he did was rain curses on me and warned me not to near his abode. Immediately, I lost control of myself.
“While in Bayelsa, I managed to complete secondary school before coming to Lagos. In the cause of networking, I was told that it is easier to make money in Lekki and I relocated to the area where the colonel adopted 13 of us and our lives are gradually coming to shape.
When asked by the organisers about his future ambition, Michael who was in his early twenties said he would like to be a musician and he tried to demonstrate his musical ability to the audience by rapping of a song.
The Youth Commissioner who could not hold back his emotion promised to link Michael with a musician to further his ambition.
Another touching story is that of Mustapha Abdulahi, a native of Kaduna State who said his parents abandoned him because of sickle cell anaemia.
“I am a Sickle Cell Anaemia patient and my parents abandoned me when they could no longer cope with the sickness and all I could do was to go to the streets in search for food,
” Gradually, I mingled with other street boys and we left Kaduna for Lagos State to continue with life. Thank God for Col. Vaughan who provided 13 of us with shelter.
Corroborating Abdullahi’s statement, the Colonel said he (street boy) was hospitalised recently and needed some pints of blood, so he sent somebody to trace the parents for blood donation unfortunately, the house was under lock and key.
Another emotional story was that of seven years old Emmanuel who now live in a gheto for lack of parental care.
Citizens Compass learnt that some of the boys were living in an orphanage in the Oregun area of Lagos where those operating the home usually send them to the streets in search of food and they could not cope with the situation, they all migrated to Lekki for succour.
The commissioner who was a special guest, urged various communities in Lagos to emulate Lekki residents who are putting resources together to reduce the number of street children in the state.
He promised to collaborate with stakeholders in the estate to achieve this.
Earlier, LERA Chairman, Mr Yomi Idowu, said the essence of the gathering was to put smiles on the faces of the homeless, noting that the estate was aware of the influx of street children into the area, but plans were underway to minimise this.
He said that 13 of the street boys had been adopted by a resident, Col. Rotimi Vaughan, who had been working tirelessly to reintegrate them.
According to him, some of the boys found their ways to Lagos for one reason or the other and deemed the estate habitable, but residents were out to reduce the influx by reaching out to them.
Idowu said Col. Vaughan had provided shelter for the 13 and residents were putting heads together to identify the challenges of others as a way of providing solution to them.
He said: “Living on the streets is not the best option for you and you have to leave the streets if you want to be great in life,’’ he said.
The resident chairman seized the occasion to interview the children and identified their area of needs and many of them signified interest in being enrolled in school while some said they would learn a vocation.
Rotn. Adeniyi Sowemimo, President, Rotary Club of Admirality, urged the boys to cultivate the habit that would make them excel in life.
According to Col. Vaughan, the 13 adopted street boys were provided with shelter, clothings, medicines, food and every other things required for them, ‘’With the support of my wife, we were able to take 13 of them out of the streets.
“Though this is capital intensive, but God is providing the enablement as we have decided to shoulder the responsibility and made up our minds not to bother people with it.’’
Ogundele later handed over two of them who indicated interest to be salon operators, to a popular barbing salon operator in the estate.
Also, he invited three of his friends to adopt one each while thanking the Vaughans for their efforts so far.
He said, ‘’On listening to the plights of the boys, I have invited Master Cut to adopt two of them who indicated interest in barbing to be trained in that capacity while my three other friends would adopt one each.
‘’My ministry will work with the residents, Col. Vaughan and other stakeholders to chat the way forward for reintegrating the children.
“To those who would like to return to their states, we won’t hesitate to work out logistics to achieve that.
‘’I commend Lekki residents, Rotary Club of Admiralty and The Place Restaurant for putting this together.
“This is a good gesture and I wish the 57 local governments and council development areas in Lagos State can emulate this,.”
He said his ministry was looking at possible ways to take children out of the streets and Lekki would be used as a case study so that others would learn from this.