Lagos - Criminal gangs have taken over the diplomatic district at Walter Carrington Crescent on Victoria Island, Lagos, extorting money from people besieging the area to transact consular businesses.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that unscrupulous young men have turned the area, popularly known as Eleke Crescent into a goldmine, collecting money from visitors for various services.
NAN learnt that the gangs often compel visitors to pay as much as N1, 000 before they could be allowed to urinate in bushes on the lagoon coastline.
Visitors desiring to use shanties erected by the gangs to ease themselves were forced to pay N200 before they could be allowed to use the facilities.
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A company executive, Mr Andrew Ekpah, told NAN that he was man-handled for daring to resist paying the gangs after he urinated at the lagoon coastline.
"The guys swooped on me and insisted that I must pay them one hundred naira after I finished urinating at the refuse heap at the lagoon coastline.
"I didn’t see why I should pay them because the place I urinated belonged to nobody. It is bush.
"More so, the boys are not local government officials. I argued that people should not be extorting money from innocent people simply because they can fight and intimidate.
"Has government abandoned its citizens to be exploited by unscrupulous elements?’’, he asked, displaying wounds inflicted on him by the hoodlums.
Investigations showed that motorists paid as much as N1, 000 to park on the road adjacent the Indian High Commission on Walter Carrington Crescent.
The toll collectors told NAN that they were collecting the money for Capital Oil Ltd, whom they said, "owned the road.’’
One of the collectors, who pleaded for anonymity told NAN that "the road belongs to Capital Oil not local government; we have been collecting tolls here for many years’’.
But motorists are wondering why such tolls should be paid to a private company, instead of the Eti-Osa Local Government Council, the statutory owner of the road.
Eti-Osa Local Government Council officials kept sealed lips on the matter when a NAN correspondent sought their view on the issue.
A visa seeker, Mr Johnson Oye, told NAN that the activities of criminal gangs at the diplomatic area could be sending wrong signals on the level of lawlessness in Nigeria.
"How can some unscrupulous elements take it upon themselves to collect revenues for themselves that should ordinarily be collected by government?
"Government should arrest persons or gangs extorting money from people who come to Eleke Crescent to do legitimate businesses,’’ Oye said.
Another visa seeker, Mr Obasegun Olaoye, described Eleke Crescent as a goldmine that had provided limitless income to unscrupulous people over the years.
``Something must be done to curb the excesses of boys around the embassy areas. What they do here is not just good for our country because foreigners see these things every day.’’
A photographer, Mr Vincent Ogbonna, who runs a shop at one of the car parks, said that some people had been making their living from illegal businesses at the diplomatic area.
"Millions of naira are collected here from parking vehicles year to year but nobody knows where the money goes to,’’ he said, pointing to one of the parks, manned by soldiers.
"This particular park is owned and managed by the Nigerian Army and so much money is made from this park every day.
"So much money is collected here but nobody thinks of making this place to look good so that people can get value for the money they pay parking their vehicles,’’ he said.