There are growing concerns over the activities of the scavengers, popularly known as ‘babanbola’ in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, and other major cities across the country.
Indication reveals that several criminal activities, including theft, attack, kidnapping and even vandalisation of government properties have recently been linked to the activities of the bola boys who continue to comb entire streets in search of scrap metals.
Following records of theft and destruction of critical infrastructures in the FCT, some residents and organisations have asked security agencies to put a stop to the menace.
It would be recalled that in a bid to curtail the ugly trend in Abuja and its neighbouring states, the FCT Police Command on April 11, 2022, banned the bola boys from the nation’s capital with a vow to deport them to their states of origin.
However, the unscrupulous elements causing nuisance in the city have defied the restriction by the command, causing havoc in relatively all parts of the nation’s capital.
A resident of the city, Mrs Joy Ateh told newsmen in Bwari Area Council on Saturday how she was robbed by the ‘babanbola’ at midnight.
Narrating her encounter with the boys, Mrs Ateh alleged that: “On 5th April 2023, they jumped over my fence and entered my poultry farm where they stole eggs”.
Before that night, there was a day when three of them came to my gate and were shouting ‘iron condemned’; we had a gas cylinder, pressing iron, fan and other items to sell to them.
My 15-year-old daughter came out and called them into my compound, I was not even at home, otherwise, I wouldn’t have allowed such persons into my compound.
Three days later, the boys jumped over my fence at about 2 am, went straight to the farm, carted away eggs, a motorcycle parked outside and other valuables.
Another resident, Adeboye Olumide said the criminal elements mostly commit their crimes at noon when residents are yet to return from work.
It was because of those boys that I decided to move out of Lugbe. We were living close to Akara junction, after the car wash, there was no day that people would not lose their valuables because of those boys called ‘babanbola’. They are thieves.
You don’t dare forget anything outside, otherwise, it is no longer your own. If you wash your clothes in that area, you need to stay outside and watch it dry. There is no crime that they don’t commit.
The problem is that when you confront them, the next thing is they will go and reinforce and return in large numbers. They can do anything and get away with it. They don’t even have a house, so how do you even arrest them? They will commit crime in Lugbe and move to Gwagwalada. No identity, no residence, they are just very dangerous, he lamented.
Some rape cases, especially defilement of minors, have also been linked to the scavengers.
Recently, there was a report of how the scrap metal collectors allegedly carted away about $4 million cash haul stockpiled in an apartment by a government official.
Report indicates that the Commissioner of Police in charge of the FCT Command, CP Haruna Garba had on July 20, 2023 disclosed that over 200 scavengers were arrested from different parts of the city between June and July.
Speaking when he played host to Assistant Inspector-General of Police in charge of Zone 7, Adebowale Williams, Garba said those arrested were destroying the critical assets in the FCT.
He said, “In the last two months, the Command has clamped down on activities of the scavengers otherwise known as ‘Babanbolas’ whose habit is to destroy the critical infrastructures in the FCT”.
Their activities have become a source of concern and threat to the residents of the FCT. They have been involved in theft and destruction of critical infrastructures in the FCT. In the last two months, 212 scavengers have been arrested and arraigned in Court.
Investigation revealed on Saturday that the police on Friday, arraigned two of the scavengers, Hussani Salisu and Musa Shaibu before a Kabusa Grade l Area Court, for allegedly breaking into a shop and stealing items worth N164,000.
The defendants, who both reside in Kabusa village, Abuja, are standing trial on a three-count charge of criminal conspiracy, housebreaking and theft.
They, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The Judge, Abubakar Sadiq, who granted the defendants bail in the sum of N50,000 each, with one surety each in like sum, adjourned the case till Aug. 6 for hearing.
While responding to the development,a security expert, Kenneth Ugara told newsmen on Saturday that the activities of the scavengers if not curtailed could lead to a serious security issue in the country.
According to him, some terrorists and bandits may have been disguising as scavengers to commit their heinous acts.
He said, “It is actually a serious matter because most of the suicide bombers usually disguise in that manner, they will be pushing their trucks as if they are actually scavengers but they have other motives”.
Some of them are spies sent to either monitor events or gather information in preparation for attacks or other criminal activities.
Remember that about two years ago, some shoemakers were arrested in some areas and they confessed to being members of Boko Haram. While we expect the security agencies to do their jobs, we should also be vigilant and report whenever issues of security breach come up.
Speaking on possible solutions, Mr Kenneth said, “It still boils down to the need for state police. It is only community policing that can eradicate crimes like this”.
We have been saying this over and over. Several criminal activities, including banditry will come to an end when the government allows for state police.
The FCT Police Public Relations Officer, SP Josephine Adeh confirmed that several of the scavengers have been arrested and charged to court.
Asked on what other measures the command is taking to end the menace, the PPRO simply said “for now, we are only arresting and charging them to court”.
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