AREPO PARENTS: Our Children Are Becoming Violent, Restless

militantsArepo, a rustic community in Ogun State, has been on the spotlight for a while now. The once quiet community, which was made popular by the creation of a Journalists’ Estate by the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State chapter in the 1990s, is gradually turning into a theatre of war. It has made media headlines, though for all the wrong reasons. Going there at present is like toying around a lions’ den.

This is in spite of the heavy security presence, stationed to help maintain peace and keep vigil in the neighbourhood. From Okada riders to artisans, petty traders, old and young, everybody is a suspect. However, for innocent residents, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipelines that pass through their locality has become a burden and source of sorrow.

And since vandals, who metamorphosed into militants started operating in the area some years ago, bursting NNPC pipelines and siphoning fuel, their lives have not remained the same. However, the most hit, according to findings, seems to be the youth, whose parents and other residents of the area said are now becoming restless and displaying violent behaviour.

A concerned parent, who on condition of anonymity, said: “We live in fear here because you don’t even know who is who. The worst part is that you don’t even know whom to talk to. “If you call the police, or any other security personnel around, how are you sure you won’t be met with violent response? Even while the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) men were here, a lot of people were never comfortable giving them information because people are afraid.

This awkward behaviour seems to have now been transferred to our children in this neighbourhood. This may be what we could be confronted with after the tension may have calmed down,” the woman lamented. Another parent, who resides in the area, Bolanle Balogun, corroborated this fear when she said: “We are in deep trouble at Arepo at present. Though, we are battling the militants, who are being contained by the security personnel stationed here, the more dangerous repercussion is what we are likely to face in the near future. The violence in our vicinity is gradually being transferred to our children.

“Everywhere within the community, children are behaving strangely; they are agitated and displaying more violent tendencies. If this could be happening now, it means we would be in real trouble when the tension created by these vandals and militants subsides.

Some of us are not really sur-prised because we see this happened in post-Apartheid South Africa. If you go there today, an average South African is violent. “This has to do with long marriage to violence occasioned by the struggle to extricate themselves from the yoke of Apartheid slavery. How we are going to deal with this remains unknown. I am saddened, like many other parents,” she said.

The women are not the only ones worried; the men too. For instance, Dr. Kexter Donald, a parent and resident of over five years in Arepo, said that what the youth in the area are exhibiting now is frightening and could be likened to a time bomb. “The rate of aggression among youths of this neighbourhood is intense. They seem to be mimicking the vandals and militants that have been terrorising us for long now.

“However, the security agents’ presence is another source of worry. Before, they were not quite civil in their conduct as they molest everyone at sight under the pretence of looking for the vandals. Even the OPC that took over the guard of the pipelines and waters within this vicinity did not help matters. Their bravado, often times, sent wrong signals to our young ones.

Over time, gradually, these violent behaviour crept into the consciousness our youths; you know it’s a psychological thing. It’s an unfortunate leftover, if you ask me.” For a member of the Community Association who craved anonymity for fear of being visited with attacks, “something urgent must be done to stem this ugly tide. But, how and who will help us solve this monster of a problem, is another problem.

Some families have started taking their children out of this community to save their future. It is that bad now.” Dr. Richard Ademola Adebayo, a consultant psychiatrist and acting managing director, Yaba psychiatric home, described the state of pandemonium and tension children in Arepo often found themselves as terrible. According to him, they are exposed to so many things that their young minds cannot comprehend and rationalise.

They would witness their parents abandoned their homes and ran away, others had their heads cut off and in such a state of insecurity, they would surely be affected. “Imaging the gory events that has been happening there; schools will be closed, so many of them will be orphaned and for children to be seeing all these kind of things, seeing people coming to their houses to attack them will definitely create a negative impression in their impregnable minds.

Those who have lost their parents eventually may not find a meaningful livelihood again and some of them, it will be in their minds for so long and they might want to seek revenge against the society. “Some of them might start thinking that violence is the best way to achieve their means. So, if care is not taken, they will have the erroneous impression that the best way and the easiest way to survive is to take to violence, take up arms and begin to form gangs like cults and begin to maimed lives.

Others may grow up to think the best way is to destroy others. “If you look at those militants, you could find out a lot of them. You could tell the kind of communities they are coming from; violence is the other of the day there, just as it is happening in the delta region. And if these children are taken care of and stop on time by the security forces and government, I’m afraid, we may end up paying for that.

Already, we raising future generations who may transfer their frustrations and violence experiences, they are likely to tend towards criminality in life. Children who see violence daily in their lives, what do you expect from such children? That psychological trauma would be there and they would definitely vent their anger at one time or the other on others and the society.

And some of them will suffer other forms of psychological problems in the future that will push them into violence, like depression and drug abuse, for instance. When our correspondent visited the palace of the Olu of Arepo, Oba Atanda Oyebisi, he was said to be out on an urgent assignment. However, the Personal Assistance to His Royal Highness, Nurudeen Taoreed, who was detailed to speak with the reporter, denied claims by most people that children in the community are gradually taking to violent acts.

Taoreed said he would not dissipate energy talking about something that is the figment of some mischief makers who are bent on rubbishing his domain. “We can talk about more important events in recent time and leave such frivolous issues to busybodies who have nothing serious to talk about,” Taoreed fumed. He, nonetheless, admitted that the issue of militants, who seemed to have laid siege on the community, is a very serious matter.

But, said that the security operatives detailed to maintain peace in the area have been civil in their conduct so far. “To me, I do not see them as vandals but militants. This is because vandals would want to concentrate on their oil looting activities; they just deal with the pipelines and after their operation, they would go.

While the militants would continuously terrorise the community and its people; although, some said they only graduated from vandals to being militants, and I intend to agree with such thinking because they are also involved in siphoning fuel from the pipelines. “But now, all of that are changing with the military bombardment of their enclave in recent time. Today, we can sleep with our two eyes closed, a thing we have not done for a long while now.

When the military informed us of their intentions, we were a bit scared. We got scarier when we saw the helicopters and fighter jets hovering over the community. Fortunately, they were very professional about their operations. “They did it at night and on the daytime. The first day they struck, it was between 12noon and 2pm. That was the first day we experienced it; there was a great shock.

But the second day, after we got the news that we are safe, everyone felt relaxed because they assured us that they knew their target. We were watching it. It was as if we were seeing a movie. At that point people didn’t panic again. We are happy with their conduct thus far and hope they would sustain this,” Taoreed pleasantly said. Journalists and Beach Land estates welcome visitors to Arepo neighbourhood.

A casual stroll down the bumpy road will equally reveal other sprawling estates behind, with some of the houses still under construction. Some alleged that these private homes, tangled with the murky environment around, provide adequate cover for vandals to operate.

There are also shanties and bamboo tents used by some land grabbers, popularly known as “Omo onile”, to collect tolls from truck drivers. They create a different and unpleasant picture. Some of them, alongside others, built with ridged iron sheets serve as home to the lower class. This stark reality of a class contrast among the inhabitants of this quarter stares visitors in the face and could be source of friction, according to some opinions. Over time, sporadic shootings, coupled with intermittent explosions, became common occurrence at the community.

This may be why vandals and security personnel now engage each other daily in battle for control of the area. The inhabitants, however, have become victims in most instances as security personnel and those perceived by the vandals as saboteurs had been abducted, killed and allegedly buried in shallow graves in the creeks. From time to time, thick cloud of dark smoke could be seen oozing from burning ruptured NNPC pipelines, according to residents.

To them, this regular feature only tells that the vandals have resurfaced. In such instances, they would burst oil pipes and scooped fuel, even at the risk of losing their lives. Presently, a joint military task force comprising the Army, Navy, and Air Force, as well as officials of the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps (NCDC) and the police are combing the creeks in search of them.

Recent happenings, however, are raising hope as the secu-rity personnel stationed in the neighbourhood aim to combat what was creeping into some sort of notoriety that is gradually but steadily turning the environment to that habited only by criminals. These militants are believed to be drawn from different parts of the country. As the military commenced bombardment of Iroko creeks in the area, gunmen, the militants shift base to Isawo area of Ikorodu, Lagos, to continue with their atrocious act. The shelling, it was gathered, is being carried out in a joint military operation that commenced last week.

Details of the action are still sketchy but unconfirmed reports had it that many lives were lost and some houses destroyed. Another report indicated freshly that some residents of Voera Estate in the Arepo area vacated their homes as they fled after militants killed a senior police officer in the community. Some luxury houses were said to have been deserted due to the attacks as holes created by bullets were equally said to have been observed in the fence of one of the abandoned buildings.

In an exclusive telephone interview with the Director of Public Relations and Information of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa, said that the operation is being carried out in collaboration with men of the Nigerian Navy Special Boat Services.

He said the attention of NAF has been drawn to reports of apprehension and panic by members of the public living around the area of ongoing air operations at Arepo and its environs. “As a result, we advised the civil populace not to panic but to go about their legitimate businesses,” Famuyiwa said, adding, “the NAF i s careful to ensure that only legitimate targets, such as observation post, anti-aircraft gun position, boats laden with suspected stolen petroleum products and armed combatants, are selected for strike.

In aligning with this global best practice, we usually undertake surveillance flights before and after each strike to mitigate incidental harm to civilians and property.”

Arepo, a community in Ogun State, is tensed at present. Moving around the neighbourhood could be likened to toying around a lions’ den. Since vandals, who graduated to militants’ started operating in the area some years ago, and unleashing terror in the locality, the lives of the inhabitants of the area have not remained the same. The most hit, according to findings by ISIOMA MADIKE, who just returned from a visit of the locale, appears to have been the youth whose psyche seemed to have been tainted with display of strange violent behaviour

Arepo, a rustic community in Ogun State, has been on the spotlight for a while now. The once quiet community, which was made popular by the creation of a Journalists’ Estate by the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Lagos State chapter in the 1990s, is gradually turning into a theatre of war. It has made media headlines, though for all the wrong reasons. Going there at present is like toying around a lions’ den.

This is in spite of the heavy security presence, stationed to help maintain peace and keep vigil in the neighbourhood. From Okada riders to artisans, petty traders, old and young, everybody is a suspect. However, for innocent residents, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipelines that pass through their locality has become a burden and source of sorrow.

And since vandals, who metamorphosed into militants started operating in the area some years ago, bursting NNPC pipelines and siphoning fuel, their lives have not remained the same. However, the most hit, according to findings, seems to be the youth, whose parents and other residents of the area said are now becoming restless and displaying violent behaviour.

A concerned parent, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “We live in fear here because you don’t even know who is who. The worst part is that you don’t even know whom to talk to. “If you call the police, or any other security personnel around, how are you sure you won’t be met with violent response? Even while the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) men were here, a lot of people were never comfortable giving them information because people are afraid.

This awkward behaviour seems to have now been transferred to our children in this neighbourhood. This may be what we could be confronted with after the tension may have calmed down,” the woman lamented. Another parent, who resides in the area, Bolanle Balogun, corroborated this fear when she said: “We are in deep trouble at Arepo at present. Though, we are battling the militants, who are being contained by the security personnel stationed here, the more dangerous repercussion is what we are likely to face in the near future. The violence in our vicinity is gradually being transferred to our children.

“Everywhere within the community, children are behaving strangely; they are agitated and displaying more violent tendencies. If this could be happening now, it means we would be in real trouble when the tension created by these vandals and militants subsides.

Some of us are not really sur-prised because we see this happened in post-Apartheid South Africa. If you go there today, an average South African is violent. “This has to do with long marriage to violence occasioned by the struggle to extricate themselves from the yoke of Apartheid slavery. How we are going to deal with this remains unknown. I am saddened, like many other parents,” she said.

The women are not the only ones worried; the men too. For instance, Dr. Kexter Donald, a parent and resident of over five years in Arepo, said that what the youth in the area are exhibiting now is frightening and could be likened to a time bomb. “The rate of aggression among youths of this neighbourhood is intense. They seem to be mimicking the vandals and militants that have been terrorising us for long now.

“However, the security agents’ presence is another source of worry. Before, they were not quite civil in their conduct as they molest everyone at sight under the pretence of looking for the vandals. Even the OPC that took over the guard of the pipelines and waters within this vicinity did not help matters. Their bravado, often times, sent wrong signals to our young ones.

Over time, gradually, these violent behaviour crept into the consciousness our youths; you know it’s a psychological thing. It’s an unfortunate leftover, if you ask me.” For a member of the Community Association who craved anonymity for fear of being visited with attacks, “something urgent must be done to stem this ugly tide. But, how and who will help us solve this monster of a problem, is another problem.

Some families have started taking their children out of this community to save their future. It is that bad now.” Dr. Richard Ademola Adebayo, a consultant psychiatrist and acting managing director, Yaba psychiatric home, described the state of pandemonium and tension children in Arepo often found themselves as terrible. According to him, they are exposed to so many things that their young minds cannot comprehend and rationalise.

They would witness their parents abandoned their homes and ran away, others had their heads cut off and in such a state of insecurity, they would surely be affected. “Imaging the gory events that has been happening there; schools will be closed, so many of them will be orphaned and for children to be seeing all these kind of things, seeing people coming to their houses to attack them will definitely create a negative impression in their impregnable minds.

Those who have lost their parents eventually may not find a meaningful livelihood again and some of them, it will be in their minds for so long and they might want to seek revenge against the society. “Some of them might start thinking that violence is the best way to achieve their means. So, if care is not taken, they will have the erroneous impression that the best way and the easiest way to survive is to take to violence, take up arms and begin to form gangs like cults and begin to maimed lives.

Others may grow up to think the best way is to destroy others. “If you look at those militants, you could find out a lot of them. You could tell the kind of communities they are coming from; violence is the other of the day there, just as it is happening in the delta region. And if these children are taken care of and stop on time by the security forces and government, I’m afraid, we may end up paying for that.

Already, we raising future generations who may transfer their frustrations and violence experiences, they are likely to tend towards criminality in life. Children who see violence daily in their lives, what do you expect from such children? That psychological trauma would be there and they would definitely vent their anger at one time or the other on others and the society.

And some of them will suffer other forms of psychological problems in the future that will push them into violence, like depression and drug abuse, for instance. When our correspondent visited the palace of the Olu of Arepo, Oba Atanda Oyebisi, he was said to be out on an urgent assignment. However, the Personal Assistance to His Royal Highness, Nurudeen Taoreed, who was detailed to speak with the reporter, denied claims by most people that children in the community are gradually taking to violent acts.

Taoreed said he would not dissipate energy talking about something that is the figment of some mischief makers who are bent on rubbishing his domain. “We can talk about more important events in recent time and leave such frivolous issues to busybodies who have nothing serious to talk about,” Taoreed fumed. He, nonetheless, admitted that the issue of militants, who seemed to have laid siege on the community, is a very serious matter.

But, said that the security operatives detailed to maintain peace in the area have been civil in their conduct so far. “To me, I do not see them as vandals but militants. This is because vandals would want to concentrate on their oil looting activities; they just deal with the pipelines and after their operation, they would go.

While the militants would continuously terrorise the community and its people; although, some said they only graduated from vandals to being militants, and I intend to agree with such thinking because they are also involved in siphoning fuel from the pipelines. “But now, all of that are changing with the military bombardment of their enclave in recent time. Today, we can sleep with our two eyes closed, a thing we have not done for a long while now.

When the military informed us of their intentions, we were a bit scared. We got scarier when we saw the helicopters and fighter jets hovering over the community. Fortunately, they were very professional about their operations. “They did it at night and on the daytime. The first day they struck, it was between 12noon and 2pm. That was the first day we experienced it; there was a great shock.

But the second day, after we got the news that we are safe, everyone felt relaxed because they assured us that they knew their target. We were watching it. It was as if we were seeing a movie. At that point people didn’t panic again. We are happy with their conduct thus far and hope they would sustain this,” Taoreed pleasantly said. Journalists and Beach Land estates welcome visitors to Arepo neighbourhood.

A casual stroll down the bumpy road will equally reveal other sprawling estates behind, with some of the houses still under construction. Some alleged that these private homes, tangled with the murky environment around, provide adequate cover for vandals to operate.

There are also shanties and bamboo tents used by some land grabbers, popularly known as “Omo onile”, to collect tolls from truck drivers. They create a different and unpleasant picture. Some of them, alongside others, built with ridged iron sheets serve as home to the lower class. This stark reality of a class contrast among the inhabitants of this quarter stares visitors in the face and could be source of friction, according to some opinions. Over time, sporadic shootings, coupled with intermittent explosions, became common occurrence at the community.

This may be why vandals and security personnel now engage each other daily in battle for control of the area. The inhabitants, however, have become victims in most instances as security personnel and those perceived by the vandals as saboteurs had been abducted, killed and allegedly buried in shallow graves in the creeks. From time to time, thick cloud of dark smoke could be seen oozing from burning ruptured NNPC pipelines, according to residents.

To them, this regular feature only tells that the vandals have resurfaced. In such instances, they would burst oil pipes and scooped fuel, even at the risk of losing their lives. Presently, a joint military task force comprising the Army, Navy, and Air Force, as well as officials of the Nigerian Civil Defence Corps (NCDC) and the police are combing the creeks in search of them.

Recent happenings, however, are raising hope as the secu-rity personnel stationed in the neighbourhood aim to combat what was creeping into some sort of notoriety that is gradually but steadily turning the environment to that habited only by criminals. These militants are believed to be drawn from different parts of the country. As the military commenced bombardment of Iroko creeks in the area, gunmen, the militants shift base to Isawo area of Ikorodu, Lagos, to continue with their atrocious act. The shelling, it was gathered, is being carried out in a joint military operation that commenced last week.

Details of the action are still sketchy but unconfirmed reports had it that many lives were lost and some houses destroyed. Another report indicated freshly that some residents of Voera Estate in the Arepo area vacated their homes as they fled after militants killed a senior police officer in the community. Some luxury houses were said to have been deserted due to the attacks as holes created by bullets were equally said to have been observed in the fence of one of the abandoned buildings.

In an exclusive telephone interview with the Director of Public Relations and Information of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), Group Captain Ayodele Famuyiwa, said that the operation is being carried out in collaboration with men of the Nigerian Navy Special Boat Services.

He said the attention of NAF has been drawn to reports of apprehension and panic by members of the public living around the area of ongoing air operations at Arepo and its environs. “As a result, we advised the civil populace not to panic but to go about their legitimate businesses,” Famuyiwa said, adding, “the NAF i s careful to ensure that only legitimate targets, such as observation post, anti-aircraft gun position, boats laden with suspected stolen petroleum products and armed combatants, are selected for strike.

In aligning with this global best practice, we usually undertake surveillance flights before and after each strike to mitigate incidental harm to civilians and property.”

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