Kuramo Beach, Lagos, is alluring and provides a good relaxation spot. But it is not the allure of the beach that attracted 15-year-old Kabiru Tijani to Kuramo when he arrived there more than two years ago.
He told PUNCH METRO that the beach became his home when his mother drove him out of their home in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital in 2009 because he lost her N6,000 while hawking.
Tijani, a Junior Secondary School drop-out said, “My mother threatened to kill me if I did not find her N6,000, which I lost in the course of hawking soft drinks and bottled water for her. She drove me out of the house and said if I did not find the money, I should perish anywhere I liked. Because of fear of being killed by her, I decided to run away from home. When I came to Lagos, I headed for this beach (Kuramo).
“I have been here for the past two years. Life here is hellish. I thought I would find succour here based on stories some people had told me, I did not know it was all a delusion. Right now, I am regretting coming to this place. I have been exposed to smoking cigarettes and Indian hemp and the means of survival is tough. We sleep in the open and exposed to the vagaries of different weather.
“When rain falls, we look for makeshift houses to stay. I plead with the government and well-meaning people to come to our aid. I want to go back to school or learn a craft. There is no life here; in fact, I am wasting my time here.”
Tijani was smoking away when a non-governmental organisation, the Coalition Against Tobacco, visited the beach as part of its activities to mark the “World No Tobacco Day” and to sensitise the inhabitants of the Kuramo Beach community on the dangers of tobacco smoking.
Even when some members of CAT were counselling him, he retorted, “If I don’t smoke, what else will keep me high? As you can see, I don’t have money to feed. If I do some runs, I just eat a little food and smoke to feel high.”
As for another teenager, who identified himself simply as Tosin, he told our correspondent that he had been at the beach for seven years and had been smoking since then.
Tosin, a native of Badagry, Lagos State, said he ran away from home because his father was fond of maltreating him and was not ready to send him to school.
Tosin, also a drop-out, said since he arrived the beach, he had neither heard from his father nor his mother, adding that he had become the property of the government and urged the government to come to his rescue.
Another teenager, Tobi Apena, said his parents were divorced and were not willing to take care of him, let alone send him to school. He said after many years of directionless situation, he decided to abandon his parents to eke a living for himself hence he found himself at the beach.
On whether he smokes, he laughed hysterically, “Smoking is a way of life here. I smoke. I smoke even marijuana. It is sold here. It makes one high. But I have seen that the life we are living here is not worthwhile; it is a horrible lifestyle. I will be glad if the government could come to my rescue and evacuate me.
“However, this place can be full of fun most times. If you have money, you will enjoy yourself. It is a community where all manner of things are. We have lodging here where you can take ladies or girls to. In fact, everything is here.”
Addressing some of them on the dangers of cigarette smoking and addiction, Project Coordinator, CAT, Olatoyosi Onaolapo, told them the earlier they quit smoking the better, saying that the habit accounted for over 200 million deaths around the world every year.
She said the statistics of smokers worldwide was on the increase daily, especially among young persons in developing nations like Nigeria, maintaining that about 15 billion tobacco sticks were smoked globally each day.
“Tobacco smoking without a doubt portends lethal health implications not only to the actual smoker but largely unsuspecting passive smokers such as the spouses, children and other persons in the immediate environment of a smoker,” Onaolapo stated.
She said while there was a significant decline in smoking in Europe and the United States, the reverse was the case in developing countries such as Nigeria, noting that smoking statistics in Nigeria increased by about 20 per cent yearly.