By Williams ABAH
Residents of the Federal Capital Territory have for a long time had to contend with activities of scavengers, popularly known as Baban Bola, who move around seeking recyclable items from refuse bins.
Oftentimes, these baban bolas also serve as refuse collectors in neighbourhoods where garbage trucks are absent. It is therefore not unusual to find scruffy looking young men roaming the streets of Abuja pushing fabricated carts or hoisting dirty sacks on their shoulders collecting refuse for a fee, or rummaging through dumb sites for recyclables.
Unfortunately, some of these refuse collectors and scavengers now constitutes security threats in some neighbourhoods, as a number of them have been found to be involved in criminal activities ranging from petty stealing, to armed robbery, vandalism of public utilities and other form of crimes and criminality.
To regulate their activities, the FCT Administration had in August 2018, put a law in place restricting Baban Bolas to pick scraps from a designated refuse dump site.
A statement by the media advisor to the FCT minister, Abubakar Sani, had at the time said action was necessitated by outcries from residents to the effect that many valuables have been lost to scavengers in the territory.
According to the statement, “Baba Bolas are to operate only at the Gousa, Karshi, Bwari, Gwagwalada, Kwali, Abaji and Kuje approved dumpsites as opposed to moving from one neighbourhood to another collecting waste objects across the city of Abuja,” he said.
“In furtherance of the commitment of the Administration to protect and secure lives and property of all residents of the Territory and in accordance with section 35 sub-section 1(i) of the AEPB Act of 1997, which prohibits the collection and disposal of refuse without authorization, the FCT Administration hereby bans scavengers also known as Baban Bola from collecting, disposing of refuse, trespassing on refuse bins or similar activities in any part of the Federal Capital City.”
Despite the restrictions on the activities over three years ago, scavengers still roam freely on the streets of the Abuja, constituting nuisance and threat to law abiding citizens.
These scavengers who commence their activities in the early hours of the day, move from one refuse bins to another in the neigbourhood to search for scraps of wastes products, leverage on these activities to steals and involves in other forms of unwholesome practices that seem to defy all solutions put in place by authorities.
Recent investigation revealed that Baban Bolas have grown into a full robbery activity, as their basic mission of searching for scraps from the waste bins is no longer their primary aims of scavenging, but using it to deprive residents of their valuable properties.
Aside their dirty appearances, most scavengers are in the FCT have no known address as most of them reside in uncompleted buildings with no means of identification making it difficult for security operatives to trace them when they commit crimes.
Investigations by our correspondent revealed that the illegal activities of these scavengers thrives because there are willing buyers ready to purchase stolen goods as soon as they make their way into any of the “Pantaker markets.”
Metro also gathered that some traders at the scrap markets also connive with scavengers to make them remain active in the illicit trade.
A cross section of residents interviewed at the Area D axis of Nyanya, describe the activities of the scavengers as a threat to other residents.
Chioma Onyeji recounted an incident in her compound where a baban bola almost went away with a neighbour’s home appliances left under the sun.
“I was in the palour, I overheard noise outside, when i peep through the window, i saw a young man with a long sack bag on his shoulder close to our waste bins, with electric iron and a home theatre. I came out side and asked him, where he took those things from; he simply replied that he got them from waste bin, pointing his finger towards a neighbour’s waste bin. While we were still on the issue, the same neigbour he referred to ran towards us, shouting that her electric iron and two speakers of home theatre have been taken from where she kept them to dry, after she cleaned them. She quickly recognized the items instantly and raised alarm, before people could gathered, “Baban Bolas” took to his heels and escaped.”
Onyeji called on the authority to restrict the scavengers from residential area, to ensure that peoples’ properties will be saved. ” Government must do something about these menace, these people are no longer looking for scraps in the waste bins, they are now stealing valuable items”.
Another resident in the area, Bulus Usman, is calling for outright ban on the activities of scavengers, as he said, “They are using this opportunity to commits so many atrocities. If nothing is done, this will escalate to crisis, the way we react to issue in this country is not friendly. If it happens that the masses lynch any of them now, you will see reprisal attacks from difference quarters. It is better now to nip this ugly trend in the bud.”
The unregulated activities of Baban Bolas are not peculiar to the nation’s capital as neighbouring states of Nasarawa and Niger are also grappling with these marauders.
For instance, not too long ago in Masaka, a suburb in New Karu local government area of Nasarawa state, residents complained of missing items, especially cooking utensils and other household iterm such as the Charcoal stoves, popularly known as Abacha Stoves.
At the Angwan Tiv area of Masaka, a young man, Thomas Oke, narrowly escaped death when a scavenger heat him on the head with Iron rod, when he caught them packing his clothes from the line.
Luckily, the victim’s cry for help attracted neighbours who rescued him and took him to nearby hospital for treatment. The angry mob then descended on the scavengers and beat them to death and set them ablaze. It was learnt that some scavengers threatened to take revenge on the community, however, the community head in Masaka intervened and have been engaging with relevant stakeholders to halt the situation.
Resident in the area are calling on the government to take urgent action against the unwholesome practices of Baban Bolas to ensure peace reign in the niegbourhood.
A resident of the community, Danladi Alaga, is accessing government of doing little to bring this ugly trend under control.
In his words, “This is not the first time baban bolas are caught stealing. Last year, sometime in September, 2021, they stole a laptop, my niegbour kept on the table in front of his house. When he sighted the baban bolas, he ran away with the lap top. One Francis Ewoha was also attacked and killed at Kuchikawo in Masaka by baba bolas. I think to ensure peace in the neigbourhood, the activities of
Baban bolas must be restricted to refuse dump sites to avoid them Interfacing with residents and stealing from them. Authority must put law in place for this to take effect immediately “
In Gwandara, cross section of residents interviewed lamented over their properties lost to baban bolas. They described their activities as criminal, as what they do now is no longer picking scraps from waste bins.
Also speaking, a vigilante who works in Nyanya, Yusuf Musa, said the group has been working to curtail the activities of baban bolas in line with directives by the police hierarchy.
“Residents have reported to us series of criminal acts perpetrated by these baban bolas, but we are engaging various traditional rulers so we can all agree on the best strategies to apply in curtailing the situation”.
The restrictions by the FCTA seem to have little or no effect of the scavengers as they are still very much around even in the city centre vandalising public utilities including manholes and power cables.
File photo: A typical ‘baban bola’ at a dumpsite