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Stealing in the name of ‘iron condemn’

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Eunice Nwankwo (4th right), Pastor Nwoye (3rd right), Ben Okeke (4th left) and some members of Apostolic Faith Church Amawbia at their vandalised facility.

THE shout of “iron condemn” by metal scrap scavengers is common these days. Their voices rent the air announcing their presence in the neighborhoods. They are ubiquitous in search of condemned or abandoned items – mostly metals to purchase at a give-away price and resell to collectors who supply the items to recyclers.

   Back in the days, people were used to scrap collectors. They go mostly for items consisting of metals to buy. They are hardly seen on the streets soliciting items and stuff to buy. People with disposable stuff often go to them to sell to them. But things have changed with the entrance of iron condemn collectors who go virtually for everything not minding the iron in their names.

   The economic situation has necessitated several means for survival and one of such are scavengers who tread the nooks and crannies of most towns (even villages) in search of ordinarily what would have been left to rot. Food, beverage cans or plastic containers however small they appear are difficult to find on the road today. Crunching economic reality has forced most people not to discard such but sell to make little cash. 

   The twist to this issue of trying to eke out a living by some of these iron condemn collectors is the new devise employed by them to vandalise or rob people of their properties. Houses without  fences suffer the most.

   Recently, a woman in Awka, left her big pot, commonly referred to as iteona after cooking. Coming out much later in the day to wash it, she  discovered it was missing. Similar stories of such were reported in the neighborhood until an iron condemn collector was caught. In Lagos, an iron condemn collector was almost lynched after he was allegedly caught with a gagged baby in his sack.     

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  Somewhere near Eagle Estate, Awka, an un-mounted iron gate of an uncompleted building was carted away. Few days later, they struck at Apostolic Faith Church, Amawbia. The building, which is under construction is the new facility of the church meant to serve as a camp meeting ground, and for conferences.

  Coordinator, Apostolic Faith Church, Awka Zone, Pastor Samuel Nwoye, said it was saddening to discover suspected iron condemn collectors broke into their church building. “They destroyed the two staircases leading to the top floor, removing the rods. An ugly experience, especially now that building material has skyrocketed.

  “It is disheartening to see this sacrilege; someone vandalises a place of worship. Why should that be? I have not seen something like this in my life. We are calling on the state government to come to our aid. They should put the necessary mechanism in place to prevent inglorious acts such as this in our society.

  “In the name of collecting unwanted stuff or abandoned items, no one has any right or claim to something that doesn’t belong to them even if it was supposedly lying waste, especially in neighbourhoods and within confined areas. What we are doing in churches and schools is for the good of our society. This nefarious activity discourages the church. In the name of looking for a source of livelihood, they vandalise buildings removing rods, metals or anything they call scrap that catches their attention.       In his reactions, a church member and water resources engineer, Ben Okeke, said they feel sad by the activities of the iron condemn collectors because their church project is being done by common people with little resources they pulled together.

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   “You can see the work has been so slow due to lack of funds, yet vandalised by these hoodlums. Just last month, when our members travelled to Lagos for a programme, they invaded our facility to cut rods supporting the building.    For now, we have suspended the building project because of their evil activities. We can’t keep investing the little resources we have for them to turn it into a wasted effort. 

   A retired staff of National Light Newspapers and member of Apostolic Faith Church, Amawbia, Eunice Nwankwo, visibly unhappy with what she described as havoc that the iron condemn collectors cause said it was high time a stop was put to it.  

   “They go to people’s properties, especially uncompleted buildings to collect anything metal and other things. They pull down iron doors and gates and cart it away. They sometimes squeeze properties worth hundreds of thousands of naira; they squeeze it into unrecognisable size and sell it for an insignificant amount. They don’t spare anything..

  “They are ready to fight if you confront them in solitary places. Some of them are armed with weapons. They master the terrain that sometimes they can be found in places unfamiliar even to the indigenes.

  “Now look at our situation, pulling down steps that cost hundreds of thousands of naira. The first time they came, they carted away chairs and later removed one of the iron doors, forcing us to remove other doors for safekeeping somewhere else. If we should keep quiet, likewise town unions and the government watch things go like this, it could lead to a grave situation someday. We call on the Anambra State Government to curb their activities.

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   On a visit to two major collection centres where iron condemn collectors exchange their goods for money within the Awka Capital Territory, to ask if they have any idea that some items they bought were stolen. They refused giving their names neither would they comment on the issue.       

   Early this year, the Akwa Ibom State Government banned the activities of iron condemn in the state, accusing them of perpetrating criminality and threatening peaceful inter-ethnic relationship in the state. The ban came after the government received complaints of the scavengers either destroying or stealing people’s properties, sometimes, even assaulting people in the cause of their activities. 

   In July this year, ‘iron condemn’ and landlords clashed at Dutse Makaranta in Bwari Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory, after the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) had demolished some houses in the area.   Trouble started when scavengers attempted to cart away valuables of the demolished houses but were chased away by the landlords. They regrouped later in a larger number to attack the landlords but for the timely intervention of police.

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