By Romanus Ugwu
Any car owner residing in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, who has not visited Apo auto mechanic village, may just have been missing the other side of owning a car. The auto repair village is home to the good, the bad and the ugly in the capital city.
Those who are conversant with the place refer to it in different names, just as it means different things to various people. For some, the Apo auto mechanic village is a haven for criminals. For others, it is simply the Sodom and Gomorrah of the FCT. But it is the most convenient place to fix any kind of faulty car, with relatively cheap and genuine spare parts.
There are no dull moments for those who take their cars to the auto village for repair because there are thousands of other activities to engage and keep car owners busy and entertained while their cars are fixed. The village is a custodian of immorality, criminality, drugs, fun and auto mechanic wizardry.
Popularly known as Apo Mechanic Village, the place is a typical example of everything under one roof, as people with auto problems don’t need to search too far to get the results to their problems. From welders, panel beaters, alignment and wheel balancing experts and the main auto repairers to the enclave for fun seekers, gamblers, drug addicts and sexual exploration, everything is within reach.
Except for those living in the Zuba axis of the FCT, there is perhaps no part of the capital that can compete favourably with the Apo auto mechanic village in terms of sourcing genuine parts for any type or model of vehicle or fixing any faulty one.
With vicinity spanning over three square kilometres, Apo auto village reportedly houses the best technical hands to provide solutions to any faulty vehicle and shops to source for genuine new or used spare parts to replace any faulty part of any vehicle.
With warehouses and containers for original and fake, imported, new and refurbished auto parts, popularly called Belgium parts, in almost every cranny of the village, Apo mechanic village has assumed the status of a referral point for many people of the FCT to source for auto parts.
It is common in Abuja to hear popular names like Honda Line, Toyota Line, Mercedes Place, Volkswagen Arena and or AC Home as identities of the right places to source for auto spare parts at a price comparable with any other part of the country.
For those wishing to rebrand their vehicles or panel-beat accidented vehicles with any kind of auto base spray paint, Apo auto village is equally the place to be as it offers the best panel beaters and welders to give vehicles the new look replica of a new one.
Apart from the panel beaters and auto base spray experts, those in the business of beautifying cars with all kinds of adornments are also available.
There are equally several experts that specialise in fixing faulty vehicles. Although there is strict adherence to areas of specialty, the competent auto mechanics in Apo village encompass every car brand and model available in the country.
There are specialties in repairing faulty Mercedes, Volkswagen, Peugeot, Honda, Toyota and every other car brand and series. In fact, there is a popular saying there that any vehicle that defies repair at Apo auto mechanic village is a product of the archive, which goes to underscore the fact that the auto village is the last resort to fix any broken-down vehicle.
From competent hands that have lasted several decades in fixing vehicles to the now high turnover of apprentices, technicians are really not in short supply to fix any auto problems.
Interestingly, the village is a microcosm of the entity called Nigeria. As there are Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas and there are every other ethnic nationalities of the country. The village provides a potpourri of choice of the ethnic nationality that vehicle owners can patronise.
Comically speaking, the village is a mini Nigeria, as every ethnic group is represented. Those uncomfortable with an auto mechanic from a different ethnic group handling their cars need not search too far to get solutions from their kinsmen.
As the fixed cars leave the mechanic workshop, the experts in wheel balancing and alignment are very much handy to perfect the comfort the initial problem denied you. The air-condition specialists are also accessible to give your vehicle extra luxury.
However, all these and many more are the unbeatable pleasures the auto village could offer. Sadly, though, in the same way the village could boast of quality and availability of parts and technicians, so could it wreck one’s vehicle. In the local palace, the advice to anybody wishing to patronise the auto mechanic village would be to “shine your eyes well well.”
The village is made of good and evil, sadness and joy, sorrow, pain, agony and happiness in almost equal measures. It is a place where, within the blink of an eye, you could forever regret ever going there.
At the Apo Mechanic Village, there are hawks and fraudsters among the auto mechanics, spare parts dealers and panel beaters, among others. The village is dominated by unscrupulous conmen looking for whom to devour. The language of the village is, trust no one.
An auto mechanic identified as Jude warned that it has become very difficult to sieve the wheat from the chaff among his colleagues and other occupants of the auto village. He lamented that the biting economic hardship has even increased the rate of sharp practices.
“Like a typical Nigerian setting, we have fraudulent people here also. My advice to anybody wanting to fix his or her vehicle here is to avoid trusting any mechanic on first encounter. There are many good ones around here but the rule of the game is not to trust anyone immediately until he shows enough convincing evidence to be among the few good ones. The village is full of good and bad people but with the current economic hardship, there are more bad ones now,” he said.
Crime and criminality
Apart from the antics of the auto mechanics and the sharp practices of the spare parts dealers that car owners have to contend with, there is also a high rate of criminality going on at the Apo mechanic village. Despite the visibility of several police teams patrolling the area for several hours, there have been periodic robberies, especially at night.
An apprentice, Joshua, who confirmed the robbery incidence in a chat with Daily Sun, noted that the robbers clash with the police patrol team from time to time, and they usually vandalise parked cars for parts like battery and sensitive fixtures.
“They usually come at night when only the apprentices are around. The robbers would vandalise cars undergoing repairs and take the parts, ranging from car battery to air condition compressor to resell. They sometimes demand cash, handsets and other valuables from the apprentices sleeping inside the vehicles.
“In those days, they moved from one vehicle to the other, vandalising them. It became so much that the apprentices deviced a means to check the situation. We would hide inside the vehicles and set bonfires to warn any robber of the danger that awaits him if he dares. The rate has reduced now,” Joshua said.
There are also daylight robbery incidents from majorly the Hausa scrap collectors. Any carelessness on the part of owners or repairers who look away from any of the parts of vehicles undergoing repair, means it is as good as gone. There have also been incidents of car owners losing car batteries to scrap collectors.
This regular feature of the auto village comes in different forms and guises. From those neck-deep in card gambling, to those staking money in exchange for products or for higher amounts, the vicinity bubbles from morning till night with betting activities.
Intermittently, the area will go into a frenzy or ecstasy or wailing from those celebrating victory or mourning the loss of the money they staked on a bet. It is a common sight to see these smooth operators trying to outsmart each other in attracting the attention of customers with an assortment of products like expensive wine, perfumes, bags of rice, cartons of biscuits and yam tubers loaded in wheel barrows.
Some of the gambling operators would also lure customers with big chickens, peacocks and financial inducement such that even some very decent-looking car owners cannot resist the temptation of playing to win the up to N100,000 worth of products, by staking as little as N100 or N200.
One thing that is surely not in short demand and supply is booze, as evidenced in the proliferation of drinking joints operated mainly by seductively-dressed ladies. The joints are strategically located to supply alcoholic drinks and delicacies such as pepper soup.
One significant thing about the joints is the multi-purpose service they provide to keep owners busy while the repair work on their vehicles lasts.
According to a car owner who chose not to be named, “Any man who thinks he can only come here to fix his faulty vehicle may not have really explored the environment very well. With these tempting joints around and the provocatively dressed ladies, it takes a principled man to resist the temptations.”
The ladies in question are infamous for their readiness to engage in a free-for-all fight with other ladies to prevent any trespasser from snatching her car owner lover. With steady patronage from car owners, the chilled alcoholic drinks, pepper soup, food vendors and the ever-ready service ladies, the Apo auto village bubbles from morning till late evening.
“What surprises me is the rate at which some men you think are responsible jostle to toast these ladies. They never care if they are belittling themselves before the ladies that ought to hold them in high esteem. The number of the ladies keeps increasing by the day.
“The most annoying part is how some of them toast ladies operating joints close by. Such actions have resulted in the ladies fighting to be the rightful owner of the men. I don’t think the men even bother about the embarrassment of competing with their mechanics for the ladies,” a mechanic, Folorunso, told Daily Sun.
As activities at the drinking joints wind down late in the evening, the action shifts to the several brothels littering the settlement. The brothels, which operate 24 hours non-stop, basically provide carnal satisfaction and services to the shop owners, mechanics, the apprentices and vehicle owners.
Investigations revealed that Apo mechanic village ranks above other parts of the FCT for parading underage prostitutes. Ladies, ranging from age 14 and above, from every tribe of Nigeria, live in shanties to provide sex to those in need of sexual satisfaction.
There may be brothels in every part of the auto village, but the most popular is the ever-bubbling Arab joint. Ladies of all shapes and sizes, provocatively dressed, are available, round the clock, at a fee from N500 and above for quick sex.
Until it was demolished on January 17 this year, the Arab joint at the mechanic village was a semblance of the biblical Sodom and Gomorrah, where apprentices, their masters and area boys converged for sexual satisfactions.
Expectedly, most hotels around the area offer short-time services for the big boys and their ladies. Many customers who raid the area for ladies easily part with N2,500 and above for a quick roll under the sheets in the hotels while waiting for the auto mechanics to fix their cars. In fact, short-time is trending in the auto village.
The stench of marijuana from every corner of the auto village is enough confirmation to visitors and occupants that the level of drug trafficking and consumption at the village is spiralling, perhaps more than in any other part of the FCT.
Apart from those consuming it openly and in every corner of the mechanic village, the use of marijuana, especially in the brothels, cuts across men and women. It seems prostitutes compete with their customers and area boys on who would outsmoke the other in the consumption of the weed.
“Don’t deceive yourself that only those at this auto village consume drugs, there are many car owners that hang around and consume them too. Little wonder that some of them would be gentle when they arrive with their cars only to turn to beasts after taking the drugs with some of guys here. Sometimes, security agents even join them in the consumption,” a mechanic, Mohammed, quipped.