One of the tourist attractions in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital is being taken over by urchins who are currently extorting tourists at the site.
Located in the Mpape area of the capital city, Mpape Crushed Rocks, a former excavation site by construction companies, has become a popular tourist attraction because of a lake that sits among the crushed rocks.
Mpape, a well-populated district under Bwari Area Council is a rocky area located opposite Maitama, one of Abuja’s highbrows.
With grey rock and green grass, the site became a tourist hotspot after images surfaced on the internet shortly after lockdowns were eased in August 2020.
While Nigerians and foreigners flock to see nature’s beauty at the site, the ‘area boys’ are already taking advantage of the influx of tourists to extort money from people before being allowed into the place.
Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria’s Vice President visit on December 30, 2020, had raised hopes and expectations of the Federal Government taking control of the site. Many had hoped that the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) that is the direct owner of the area would come up with an initiative to develop and manage the tourist spot, which could have in turn benefited the country financially.
This reporter was accosted by the urchins during a visit on Sunday, April 18 to take pictures of the site.
He was stopped on a commercial bike by a group of boys who were smoking substances suspected to be Indian Hemp. They demanded that he pay before entering the site.
The area boys, as they are called, stationed themselves at two strategic locations at the entrance with blockades right into the amazing sight of water beneath the rocks.
Without hesitation, he gave them N200 and pleaded that they manage it, before he was allowed to proceed. But another set of guys were waiting ahead. They blocked him at the exact entrance to the waterside of the tourist hot-spot and requested that he still pay another money. They claim to be of a different faction.
The reporter paid. Stunned by the development, he decided to revisit the place to authenticate the true facts about the activities of the area boys.
Three days after, this reporter was at the tourist spot and documented his experience.
One of the area boys whom the HumAngle reporter engaged in a conversation after bargaining entrance fee of N1000 to N200 claimed they own the entire area.
He explained that the difference in the amount collected from people is based on class presentation and how that they sometimes operate on shifts.
The reporter had first feigned familiarity with the boys, claiming to have always given them money especially on Sundays. However, one of the boys insisted that he gave them money until they could place his face as frequently.
The reporter had given him N200 regardless, then further engaged him in pidgin English.
“Bros we are yet to master your face, once we do, you will enter and go out as one of us. Even if I am not on the site you can still ask about me,” their leader said.
“You see those cars driving out just now, we collected N1,000 each from them to gain entrance into the tourist site.”
“They are here to shoot a movie. They are Nollywood celebrities, so they have money. Since there are so many boys, we have to collect good money from tourists, so it would go round.”
Their leader said they collect money from tourists since they are the ones keeping the entire location clean from litters and dirt, while looking out to protect the tourists’ cars and valuables, citing an instance of the cars parked right where he was seated.
Patience, one of the tourists who was at the tourist site on Sunday, shared her experience.
“I was stopped on the bike and asked to pay before our bike man could go through,” Patience said.
“Both of us were there for a photoshoot. I didn’t have cash on me, and had to call my photographer to help me with cash while my friend stayed with them as I took a bike to get money from my photographer.”
Patience said she paid N500 at the first blockade and N100 at the main entrance before she could enter the tourist location for her shoot.
“I didn’t know they had started collecting money here because I have been here once when this place received much awareness,” she said.
“This place is not looking so safe for tourists anymore. Just imagine the way people are smoking everywhere and have taken control of the entire location in a city with laws.”
The boys are filling in the gap created by the absence of the FCTA whose department of Parks and Recreation is ordinarily expected to take charge of the tourists’ site.
In September 2020, Ramatu Tijjani Aliyu, FCT Minister of State was at the site saying that she was there to see how the site could be converted to a tourist centre. “I paid a working visit to The Crush Rock Mpape, under Bwari Area Council of FCT, to see how the beautiful site could be converted into a tourist centre,” the Minister wrote on her Twitter handle.
She said that was her third visit, and was there with a team of developers, saying that the FCT administration would be moving in to provide all the necessary infrastructure.
“We are looking at how we will be able to drain this water, fill it up with hygienically clean water, get recycling plants, get fountains. Definitely, this is going to be a sight to behold for all tourists,” she said.
Seven months on, there is yet to be the presence of the government at Mpape Crushed Rocks and area boys are feeding fat there.