About 13 years ago, Samuel Tanimola ran away from home in Ifo, Ogun State, at the age of 10 years. He came to Lagos and settled down in Dopemu area of the state.
Tanimola, who is now a vulcaniser, told our correspondent that he was fed up with the living condition at home.
However, things were not as easy as he had hoped. He had no friend and knew nobody in the new place he found himself, yet he had to feed.
Tanimola joined hordes of street children roaming the streets and feeding through the use of their wits until he was eventually arrested by the Environmental Task force on Special Offences in 2004.
He said, “I ran away because I was not happy at home; it was a polygamous setting and my mum was not living with us.
“Although things were tough on the street, it was better than home. I even tried to escape when the police raided Dopemu that day. They grabbed as many of us as they could lay hands on and took us to the remand home at Oregun. I was so scared that I imagined the worst.”
For two years, Tanimola remained at the Oregun Juvenile Centre under close supervision without any contact with the outside world.
Then in March 2006, Tanimola was transferred to the Correctional Centre for Senior Boys, Isheri, where he stayed another three years.
He said, “The centre at Isheri was much better than the one in Oregun. We were allowed to go out and then return to the centre. But at Oregun, we could not go out. It was while I was staying at Isheri that I decided to learn a trade and become a vulcanizer. I have no interest in school.”
PUNCH Metro learnt that Tanimola was reunited with his family in 2009. His father did not, however, return to the centre after his first visit until November 2010, when his son was formally empowered to become self reliant.
Now 23 years, Tanimola plies his trade at the Vehicle Inspection Office at Ojodu, a place which he secured through the efforts of a permanent secretary at the Lagos State Ministry of Youths, Sports and Social Development.
He said, “I have moved out of the centre; I now live at Akute. Business is good; there are just two of us here. On a good day, I make as much as N5,000; sometimes N3,000, and on some days, nothing at all.
“On the whole, I can take care of myself. I used to think that it was over for me but now I am happy.”
The Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor on Youths, Sports and Social Development, Dr. Enitan Badru, said, “About 10 to 20 children come into our correctional centres monthly- most of them minors, caught roaming the streets or even committing crimes. Those caught committing crimes, usually face the justice system.
“These children often run away from home or were brought to Lagos by relatives. Others, fed up with life in the village, heard of a place called Lagos and got into a bus to come here, sleeping under the bridges and motor parks.
“When these children are brought in, we try to trace their families and reunite them. When we are not able to do that, we go to the courts and secure the right to keep the child and find the best means to help the child live a fulfilled life.”
He said Tanimola was an example of the fact that street children could be made to become useful citizens with love and patience.