SQUALOR AMID SPLENDOUR: The story of Aboki Estate in the heart of Elegushi beach
A visit to the very popular Elegushi beach situated around Ikate area of Lekki in Lagos offers a first timer or even a regular caller the opportunity to escape from the daily hustle and bustle that the city regularly throws at residents especially on week days.
The highly patronised beach is known to offer visitors a variety of exquisite restaurants, night clubs, and hangout spots that feature local foods, variety of live shows including music and jamborees all week.
Owned by the Elegushi royal family in Lekki, the private beach also offers relaxation opportunities for tourists seeking to have a feel of the white sand beach and rippling waves that lap the shoreline.
The famous beach which prides itself as one of the most visited spots on the Lagos Island also annually plays host to Copa Lagos – a world beach soccer tournament that features best playing teams from all continents.
Visitors are also greeted by the well-structured modern apartments that litter the road leading to Elegushi beach and its environs but in the midst of all the fun and excitement which is regularly on offer at the exquisite beach, a sandy community for low income earners called ‘Aboki Estate’- tucked within the beach premises exists.
A first timer who visits the community which derived its name from the fact that it is occupied by traders, mostly Hausas, is greeted with a gate made of zinc leading into another world of never-say-die Nigerians who engage in different kinds of businesses to make ends meet.
Aboki Estate, divided into two districts, business and residential, and located just beside the opulence of the Lekki Estate extension, the sandy community represents in itself, the life of Nigerians at the lower rung of the society who do anything in their power to make a living despite the many hassles they are faced with on a daily basis.
The Elegushi family are overlords
The vast space of sandy landmass owned by the Elegushi family is controlled by Alhaji Agbawo and his assistant Jamiu Oyegunle, aka Osomo, who both work day and night to ensure that peace and security is maintained in the community.
According to Jamiu, the Elegushi family makes millions of naira on a daily basis from fun seekers who throng the beach to unwind and share quality time with loved ones and friends.
“Everyone who comes to the beach to have some fun must to part with N1000 as entry fee and as you can see, the beach is open for 24-hours, and one thing you are guaranteed of is security.”
When asked what life is like on a daily basis within the Aboki Estate, Jamiu who hesitated before answering the question said; “I wouldn’t like to comment about life in this community, you know recently, the Lagos State Government came hard on ä similar community at Jakande Estate opposite Shoprite which was brought down to rubbles.
“I wouldn’t like that same fate to befall this community anytime soon but I can tell you that as caretakers we do everything to ensure peace and security within the premises as we try to make this place inhabitable for criminals and criminal activities.
Jamiu also informed that the large population living at Aboki Estate is as a result of the fact that living on the island is very expensive and not everyone can afford to rent a flat or even aspire to own a land within or around the vicinity.
“This estate is inhabited by different tribes but the Hausas who do brisk business are the highest in terms of numbers. Other tribes include the Yorubas, Igbos and others from the South South region of the country”.
Agbawo, the caretaker who is judge
When asked if measures are put in place to ensure peace just in case a dispute arises among members of the community, Jamiu said; “We have measures in place to ensure such disputes are dealt with immediately.
“Alhaji Agbawo serves as a judge in every case of dispute brought before us and he delivers judgment based on the rules set by the Elegushi family. We do not allow disputes to fester as we know the repercussions therein if fair and prompt judgment is not delivered,” he added.
Jamiu also informed that the Elegushi royal family has lofty plans to turn the premises into a world class resort centre in years to come.
Squalor and taste of poverty
On entry into the residential district of Aboki Estate, one is greeted by a long row of shops and apartments made of wood on both sides which interestingly also houses a school named Future Hope Academy where residents take their kids to.
A regular day at the residential area of Aboki Estate is characterised by brisk trading and exchange of banters by mostly young jobless residents who try all they can to make themselves happy despite the prevailing harsh economic conditions and infrastructural deficit.
Residents mostly young who make bread and butter hustling within the Elegushi beach premises are made to pay between N4,000 and N5,000 per month as rent to live in the wooden apartments covered with black polytene used to prevent water from entering during heavy downpour.
But shop owners, in the business district, as it were, are made to bear the brunt of fees collected for the ‘masters’. Asides the N2,000 the pay as shop rent monthly, they also cough out another N1, 000 monthly which is reportedly delivered to the Oba of the area.
To ensure the security of their shops, each shop owner is made to pay N300 monthly, and another N200 for sanitation every month.
The wooden apartments, some of which are surrounded by filth due to human activity are built in a straight line with zinc toilets and bathrooms built by the side without sewage.
Despite lacking in decent facilities like good roads, power supply and proper healthcare facilities in an environment that falls short of living standards, residents seem to be satisfied with their daily life especially with the dizzying high cost of renting a standard apartment in Lekki and its environs.
Spiritually inclined residents at Aboki Estate are not left disappointed without a place of worship with two churches; Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries (Lekki Phase 1 Regional Headquarters) and the Eden Ministry strategically situated in the sandy community.
‘Life is fun here’
Daniel Ikem, aka DJ Echo, who makes a living as a disc jockey playing at different hang-outs within the sandy community says life at the Aboki Estate has been fun especially with the fact that one can readily get a job and earn a living.
DJ Echo who has been living in the estate for the past three years after relocating from his home in Egbeda where he was living with his parents says he likes the business inclined nature of the estate.
“I have been living here ever since I left my parent’s home in Egbeda; I left because I wanted to make a living for myself. I was understudying one DJ in Egbeda and when I felt I had gotten enough experience. I left him but stayed at home for some months when I couldn’t get regular gigs to play at.
“But along the line, I met a friend of mine who told me about Aboki Estate and the business opportunities that abound in the sandy community and based on the fact that I knew the island would be a good place for me to display what I learnt; I prepared myself to leave home to make a living for myself. It was my determination at the time to stand up and become responsible for myself by earning a living that made me relocate and I have not regretted taking that chance,” DJ Echo noted.
Tunji finds succour
Another compelling story is told by 27-year-old Tunji Adebanjo who left his parents in Akure, the Ondo State capital at the age of 14 and has been living in Lagos for 13-years, four of which has been within the premises of Aboki Estate.
“My parents relocated to Akure town from Lagos when I was younger, and while growing up, I felt the town was not the kind of place I could grow and develop myself. I couldn’t go to school like most kids at my age at the time. I later told my folks that I wanted to become a tailor since I was idle doing nothing at home but they were not buoyant enough to support my dream and my idleness got to me as I became stubborn and started giving them problems by playing truant.
“At a point when I couldn’t bear the frustration and idleness at home because there were no job opportunities and most youths like me were idle, I decided I wanted to move to a more productive city. It was then I started telling my parents that I wanted to relocate to Lagos but they still didn’t support my idea because they thought I was too young to be thinking about making such a journey to Lagos especially when I had no relation to stay with in the city,” he said.
Tunji who had long had the dream of moving to Lagos in order to change his life status having heard stories about the endless business opportunities that abound in the city, revealed that he had to patiently wait to steal his mother’s savings made from selling fire wood to finally make his journey to Lagos.
“I had no choice but to steal from my parents, my mum to be precise, I pray she forgives me. I was just 13-years-old approaching my 14th birthday when I left home, I was young and restless. I stole about N8, 000 from my mum at the time, but funny enough, I did not come straight to Lagos, I stopped at Ibadan where I lavished the cash I had on me after paying my way from Akure to Ibadan,” Tunji said.
The aspiring tailor also informed that after spending all the money he had on him, he did menial jobs to raise little cash to move to Ifo, Ogun State, where he stayed for a while before migrating to the Ikorodu area of Lagos.
“After I left Ifo, I moved to Ikorodu where I have distant maternal relations but I couldn’t stay there for long because of the restrictions I had and that made me move to Ijora 7-up, from there I left for Mile 12, then I moved to Oshodi where I stayed on the streets for a while before I moved to Obalende which marked my entry into Lagos Island.
Tunji also informed that his venture to the Island saw him relocate variously to areas like Lakowe, Awoyaya, Ajah and Jakande before he eventually decided to finally settle at Aboki Estate.
“Ever since I have been living here, I have not experienced any fight or riot, because those who manage the place on behalf of the Elegushi family do not joke with security.
The graveyard that became Aboki Estate
While DJ Echo may be living life to the fullest, what he, perhaps, failed to realize is the eery history of the community from where he sweats for daily survival. The Aboki estate was once a graveyard!
Lanky and ebony looking Tunji also revealed that the spot where Aboki Estate is now located used to be a burial ground where people who drowned at the beach were laid to rest.
“This place we call Aboki Estate used to be a burial ground before. In the past, people who unfortunately drowned at the beach and could not be identified by their relations or family members were buried here as soon as their bodies were washed ashore.
A night with ‘indigenes’
As the evening sun sets, ushering in the darkness of the night, the business district of Aboki Estate gradually comes alight as shop owners crank up their generating sets awaiting the usual buzz associated with night activities considered the peak period to do brisk buying and selling.
On entry into the area, the nature of human activity that takes place there reminds one of life in a typical busy street on the Lagos mainland as there are a litany of shops scattered around offering just anything you may want buy.
Per adventure you are sea sick, need some pain killers or medication, a dedicated chemist is available in the area just beside a saloon where most of the ladies within the sandy community make their hair and attend to other beauty needs.
If you are an avid football follower, there are quite a number of spacious viewing centres scattered around the area where you can hangout and watch your favourite football team do battle on the field of play.
For those who are fans of indoor games and want to while away time having fun, there are shops where one can play video games, snooker, cards, ludo and droughts.
Nightlife can never be complete without drinking parlours, and the business district has a whole lot of open bars on offer where visitors and residents alike can unwind and have some amusement.
Decorated with neon lights coupled with the blaring of contemporary music from huge speakers, bar and restaurant owners are usually seen standing in front of their shops beckoning at customers and beach goers to patronise them.
Located at the end of the long line of shops in the area, near the bamboo boundary that demarcates Elegushi beach and Aboki Estate, is a popular bar cum wooden motel known as Small Dawn; which is perhaps the busiest spot in the estate, as it has a collection of call-girls of different complexion, tribes, shapes and sizes on display as major attraction.
Some metres before entering the bamboo demarcation separating Aboki Estate and Elegushi beach, a heap of garbage where residents of the estate defecate and dump their refuse along a footpath could be sighted, and it is at that spot that hemp sellers and smokers converge.
As from 7pm in the evening, the call-girls line-up in their numbers, manning strategic locations around the bar and the boundary which witnesses a mass influx of people in and out of Aboki Estate, soliciting for men who may want to have s*x in exchange for money.
“Oga how far? Check me out. See as I set, I go do you well. I no go give you wahala, any style you want, I dey. A trial will convince you. Please don’t turn me down”, one of the heavily endowed girls who had a Calabar accent told a man who seemed interested in her.
Leaning forward and looking straight into the eyes of the fidgety man who was now vigorously feasting his eyes on the ample flesh she put on display, she coyly said; “If na one hour, your charge is N1,000 (one thousand) but if you strong for all-night marathon depending on the time of the night way we start, your money na N3,000 (three thousand)“.
Pondering on what next to do, the man who couldn’t control his breath any longer due to the temptation in front of him looked at his wrist watch and on discovering that the night was far spent, made his escape, walking into the dark as he headed to the other upscale part of Elegushi beach.
As the saying goes, every person has a place in the shadows, and though, the living conditions at Aboki Estate could be described as pathetic, most residents from the look of things are comfortable in their environment despite the challenges they face living daily in the sandy community.
Save a soul
Aboki Estate, another sprawling shanty in the making, is a sad reminder of Otodo Gbame, a city built on stilts by the shores of Lagos lagoon which recently became rubbles by the action of the state government.
The move to destroy Otodo Gbame which was thumbed down by Justice S.A Onigbanjo of the Lagos state high court who accused the Lagos State Government of contempt of court was also criticised by Amnesty International Nigeria which blamed the LASG for illegally and brutally demolishing the water front community.
Incidentally, the Elegushi family had also been fingered as owners of the waterfront community that is now history. Will they watch Aboki Estate sprout into another Otodo Gbame or take steps to forestall a catastrophe waiting in the wings?
Story written by Ahmed Boulor…