Posted by Written by FUNMI AJUMOBI on
Lagos street urchins begin a new life as they graduate from a centre where they were rehabilitated.
* Lagos street urchins begin a new life as they graduate from a centre where they were rehabilitated.
AT the onset of the administartion of Governor Raji Fashola, SAN, of Lagos State, news was all over town that urchins known as area boys were being raided by the government to rid them off the streets of Lagos and to be put in an Island where they would not be able to escape and, by so doing, would get serious with their lives.
It was a welcomed idea from Lagosians as they knew if these miscreants were off the streets, harassment, theft and hooliganism at the various parks, bus stops and markets would stop. Since that time, I had been looking for opportunity to see what exactly the state government had in stock for the urchins since it is not getting them off the streets that matters but getting them to get something doing.
A cross section of graduate at the centre
For me to see what the government is doing, there was a big obstacle. The fear of travelling on the lagoon in a boat that one is not sure of the safety not to talk of having insurance set in and I shelved the idea but, last week, an invitation came to me to cover the graduation of forty five rehabilitees at Tekule Island at Lekki which was the same island I was running away from.. I immediately rejected the invitation but the interest I had in knowing what exactly the government is doing there made me to have a second thought and I decided to go.
The journey to the island started around 8 oíclock on Thursday 7, August and we did not get to Lekki until noon. In fact any criminal taken to the place should have repented before getting there.
At the bank of the lagoon, there was a standby boat built to carry up to one hundred and fifty passengers, according to the boat driver, already waiting for us. The boat driver said it was better for us because the tide was high and the small boats might be dangerous. Everybody wore life jackets and we committed the journey into Godís hands but if my B.P was taken that day, the result would have been to go and rest for two weeks because the tide was so high that it was prayer that brought us back home.
On getting to the island, it was a surprise to see many of the rehabilitees in a serene environment in academic gowns posing for pictures. Many of them shared their testimonies to the delight of their parents present, family members and the audience. It was there I learnt that this is the second graduation at Tekule rehabilitation centre.
Fashola, whose speech was read by the principal of the centre, Mr Olabode Ajao, advised the parents to give necessary support to the graduands for them to succeed in their newly chosen vocations as he also solicited the support of NGOs, manufacturers, the private sector and other stakeholders at rehabilitating the youth of the society.
The special adviser to the governor on youth, sport and welfare, Dr Dolapo Badru, at the occasion, also advised the parents /guardians of the graduands not to see the graduands as the people they were before coming to the centre but embrace them and accept them back as bona-fide members of their families.
The best student among the graduands, Mr Foduring Olabirin, said that the award did not come to him as a surprise because he worked for it and assured the government that they were not going to disappoint the government but it will mark the begining of good stories of their lives.
The event was attended by Oba of Lekki, Oba Olumuyiwa Ogunbeku, Aro of Ise who represented Onise of Ise, and many chiefs, among others. Some of the graduands spoke to Sunday Vanguard. Excerpts:
I am Moruf Balogun from Ketu Lagos. I am 40 years old. I had learnt painting before but I was not serious. I joined bad gang smoking in the streets and bus stops. It was one of my brothers that brought me to this rehabilitation centre. Since I was brought here, my life has changed. I donít smoke marijuana, Indian - hemp and all sorts of cigarette again. I donít even drink anymore. I have also met God here who I didnít have believe in before but now I believe that there is nothing God can not do.
After my two years here, I would go and start a new life and get serious with tailoring vocation I have learnt here. Government has brought every equipment I need to start a new life. My advice to people out there still living a useless life, should just look for somewhere like this voluntarily and not by forcing them to come. Suffering is not good for human being and all the life they are living at the bus stop or joints is a useless life.
My name is Ogunyowa Adeyemi. I am 30 years old from Ogun State but I live at Agege in Lagos. I got to the rehabilitation centre in March last year because I had psychiatric problem because I was an addicted smoker. I smoke hemps and all sorts but I thank God for my life now. It was my sister that brought me here. I am an agric student here and I learnt cropping, poultry farming, fishery.
I got admission into part time Polytechnic but now I am into agric and need to seat for examination to study agric after leaving this place. All of us that learnt agric here have also been employed by the Lagos State government. They have really tried for us. I pray that God will bless them and to the people out there, there is no gain in smoking and moving with bad gangs. It destroys. This is an opportunity for you to be reformed, come on your own and donít wait for government to force you to this place. It is to better your life.
My name is Akeem Odebiyi from Abeokuta in Ogun State. I am 27 years. I have spent almost three years here. I was arrested on Carter Bridge while working at the bus stop. Since I got here, I learnt vulcanizing and the government has given me all the equipment I needed to start my work.
I would never go back to the bus stop and now that I am a fine boy, I donít have any relationship with those at the bus stop again. As they see my new life that I donít smoke again, it will change their lives.
I am Jamiu Aremu from Kwara State. I am 30 years old. It was my dad that went to call the police that I wanted to kill him and from the police station, my dad brought my load to me and I was thinking he had got a house for me to go and live but to my surprise, he brought me here to stay. Initially I was angry with him but today I give thanks to God because my life has totally changed. I got into bad gang through frustration from the Police. They came to the shop I was learning sewing and arrested us in the shop that so people burgled a house beside our shop. I did not know anything about it and I was there for more than two months because I donít have somebody that can bail me. It was after that I stopped going to the shop and I decided to be getting money from bus stops and from there I started smoking all sorts of things but I thank God that today my life has changed and I would not go back there again.
I am Kunle Akinwolere from Ondo.I was into politics supporting the politicians and I saw it as a way of life then. But now that I have been trained and at thesame time know God, I can only focus on the trade I learnt no matter the money any politician will give me.
Mrs Akinwolere, the mother who is a pensioner in Lagos state said she brought him here when his trouble was getting to much and because she did not want him to live a wasted life. Now I am glad that his life has changed and I thank the Lagos State government for this type of programme for the youth.
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This is a great piece of history, which is dear to our hearts as people and very much appreciated.
Many thanks to the people who worked hard in the past and those who are still making efforts to keep the institution.
The labour is obviouly worth it. We are proud of you all.
A lot still to be done, with the motivation of the champions of this course, others will follow as well to maintain the institution
May God continue to keep the edifice for development of future generations to the glory of God and the benefits of our fatherland.