Nigerian Street Children
It is estimated that there are over 100,000 children living on the streets of
Lagos in Nigeria alone, with many more living 'in' the streets, that is children who beg
and steal, but have homes to return to each night. Whilst there is obvious
sympathy for the events that led to them living this lifestyle, inevitably they
end up extorting money from pedestrians and motorists alike.
locally as 'Area Boys', gangs of these Nigerian street children
hang around bus stops, markets and main roads menacing others for money. Many end up in
prisons without charge just to keep them off the streets, and without anyone to
advocate for them, are further brutalised and exploited. Others make their money
by washing cars or peddling their wares, often stolen and normally drugs
(a recent survey found that 12.2% of these street children dealt drugs and
a further 60.3% were addicts themselves.) Some bribe legitimate traders to
leave them in peace.
One boy who has been living on the streets of Lagos since he was just ten
commented “I have two sisters that I have not seen in five years, I have smoked
Indian hemp like other boys of my age, got beaten by bigger boys, robbed of my
money, took my bath in the canal and slept under the bridge. The good thing is
that I am alive!” Come nightfall they retire to abandon buildings, schools
and under bridges for safety. Their parting shot to those they have taken money
from is often "May your son never be like us".
Children end up on the streets of the former Nigerian capital and other
cities for a range of reasons, from being abandoned by parents who can't afford
to keep them (over 65% of the country's population live under the poverty line
and half of those live in abject poverty) to family breakdown, violence and
1.2 million Nigerian children have lost parents due to AIDS so have to
fend for themselves when wider family member's aren't prepared to commit to
their care, and, more disturbingly thousands of Nigerian children are accused
Those who aren't murdered after being accused find themselves expelled from the
family home and have to survive on the streets. The chart below shows the results of a survey undertaken with Nigerian street
children exploring major issues and family contact.