Oshodi, a suburb of Lagos, Southwestern Nigeria, is debatably one of the notorious places in Lagos metropolis riddled with hoodlums, fraudsters, pickpockets, and bag snatchers.
Among these are a large percentage of out-of-school children and homeless kids who find succour in sleeping under the bridge to survive the shackles of the night.
Down memory lane, the term ‘sleep under a bridge’ was coined in the ’60s and ’70s, at the start of Nigeria’s industrialisation, when Lagos made its earliest claim to becoming Nigeria’s commercial hub, harbouring scores of migrants from smaller, less-commercial Nigerian cities who made a staple that represented the struggle.
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Findings revealed some of these people came to Lagos for the opportunity and a go at greener pasture pursuit, without a support system, so they slept under bridges and in unholy places till they could afford homes.
The rate of homeless kids in Lagos, especially Oshodi where some children spoke to Quest Times’ AROGBONLO ISRAEL has skyrocketed in recent times.
In a bid to find out how these children manage to survive the harshness of the night, our reporter studied this demographic for one month by interacting with them to be able to unravel some of their untold stories.
One of the children identified simply as Adeyemi told Quest Times that he dropped out of school in 2016 when he was in JSS 3.
“I have been living here (Oshodi underbridge) since after the death of my mother in 2016. My father is late as well. I have some of my friends who smoke but I always advise them to stop.
“Living under the bridge has not been easy but I have no choice seeing as there is no one to run to for assistance,” said the 18-year-old hustler.
Michael, a potter, became homeless after he could not find his way back home since he had no money to transport himself following the alleged abandonment of his uncle who reportedly brought him from the village (name undisclosed) to Lagos.
Another respondent who identified himself as Odunayo Ayomide said part of the challenges faced while sleeping under the bridge was neglect and hatred by the market women who he claimed treated them with disdain following their social status.
“I don’t like this place anymore. I would like to go further my education if I can get a sponsor,” says the SSS 3 dropout.
Quest Times also spoke to a 10-year-old boy (name withheld) who is a drug addict.
According to him, he was lured into smoking at age 8 when he absconded from home “due to poverty” and has been sleeping under the bridge since then.
Lovebirds under the bridge
Interestingly, Quest Times reporter caught up with two teenagers who have been lovers for months under the bridge.
When asked how they fend for themselves despite their present state, the teenage girl identified simply as Kehinde said her boyfriend (Olajide) had to hustle by pottering around doing a few odd jobs such as hawking, shadowing (transport business), and carrying loads for people.
Kehinde left Ibadan for Lagos after “too much suffering at home” to join her friend (Tope) who has been sleeping at Oshodi underbridge a couple of months before her arrival.
She could not hide her emotions when asked if their love story would end up in marriage.
“Yes, I would like to marry him (Olajide) if God says so,” she emphatically replied.
Olajide on the other hand, ran out of home when he could no longer feel safe staying under the care of his stepmother who has been nurturing him since his childhood.
He has been living under the bridge since 2021 just before the celebration of Ramadan.
Chess in Slums
Relief came as some of the children became actively engaged through the intervention of an initiative organised by Tunde Onakoya to reach out to homeless kids in the suburbs of Lagos.
According to Onakoya, the founder of Chess in Slums Africa, he was inspired to focus on this circle when one of them walked up to him one day to beg for money, and he couldn’t help but come up with a programme that would, in turn, get them busy and help them become better persons in the society.
“I’m engaging these children to teach them to dream and believe in the power of dreams because they are loaded with potentials that can be used for the betterment of the society at large,” he told Quest Times.
Watch the Oshodi documentary below;