UNWRAPPING THE AGBERO PANDEMIC IN URBAN CITIES

Agberos are nightmares to Lagos public transport users

The word “Agbero” is borrowed from the Yoruba dialect, which loosely means “a person who harasses passerby, engages in criminal activities and is used by political players to cause mayhem.” The word “Agbero” has also been used loosely, “to refer to organized gangs of street boys composed in major cities in Nigeria, who usually stay in motor parks loading passengers for commercial vehicles.” Some “executive “Agbero” earn as much as some bank executives while some of the lower level “agberos” earn more than some contract staff in Nigeria. Though they earn more than most low-class earners in Nigeria, these earnings are usually nonreflective. The majority of these earnings are spent on prostitutes, drugs and other mundane interests.

The primary function of the police is to ensure the security of lives and properties. It is surprising to see how these “agbero’s” are allowed to disturb citizens’ daily lives. A closer observation reveals that many police officers are friends with some of these “agberos”. Some allege that some corrupt police officers get paid to ensure they (agberos) continue their activities without disturbance from the police.

These “agberos” (also referred to as “area boys”) are at bus stops and motor parks. Sometimes, they stand in front of shops and construction sites. They are often demanding money and can be aggressive if denied. Those at bus stops and in car terminals are often employees of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), a private association that collects tolls by any means necessary from all public transporters.

Usually, they live very far from the parks they operate in, likely for safety reasons. Their hygiene is very poor yet, they are in people’s faces. As a result, many experience discomfort and irritation. When asked about their lives before the street, many tell sad stories while others are pushed by the trill of being feared and making easy money. Some believe being “agbero’s” confers certain powers on them since they have the backing of their associations, NURTW.

As a result of the violence caused by these “agberos”, they are hugely stigmatized and come under heavy critique from members of the society. They are seen as criminals and threats to society. Despite this criticism, and laws against touting, extortion, and toll collection, authorities do little to rein in on the “agberos”.

Agbero’s on the move

For Lagosians, a day is not complete without one funny and sometimes, brutal encounter with these “agberos”. They have managed to shroud their daredevilry and daily assault on the psyche of peace-loving commuters under an omnibus umbrella, “Members of Road Transport Workers Association.” From Oshodi to Okokomaiko, to Dopemu, there’s hardly any place you venture to that you will not meet them.

There’s hardly any slang that gained currency that did not emanate from them. For these “agberos”, language is a combination of verbal and nonverbal communication. Their speech is always dramatic, gestural and aggressive and filled with violent slurs that pollute the minds of little children around them. Lagosians have devised many ways to avoid their troubles but these “agberos” still devise actions to add to their ( Lagosians) daily struggles.


ThankGod E. Airiohuodion (Awake Nigeria)


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