Several attempts to get beggars off the streets in Nigerian cities fail because of certain beliefs and practices in parts of the north
| By Augustine Adah | May 27, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
MUKAILA Adeshina, a danfo driver plying Ketu and Ojuelegba, Lagos, was embarrassed on several occasions by highway beggars who went to him to ask for alms anytime he parked the vehicle to pick passengers. I am embarrassed daily seeing beggars coming to me to ask for alms. Sometimes they don’t allow passengers to enter the vehicle freely,” Adeshina said.
Last week, Easy Simon, an upholstery maker in Shomolu, complained that he was accosted by a young mother with two children who came to his workshop asking for just N100 to enable her buy drug for the sick children. Simon, who said he was moved by the condition of the children, managed to part with N50 only.
The increasing menace of begging in many Nigerian cities is posing a serious concern for both the government and individuals. Some of the beggars have devised several methods of soliciting for alms from the people. Apart from the physically challenged persons who throng the major roads begging, now it is a common thing to see a well – dressed man or woman along the major roads or streets asking for N50 or N100 to enable him or her get to a destination. Many of them have also made social events like birthdays, naming ceremonies and burials as lucrative avenues to solicit money from guests.
Several attempts made by the Lagos State government to remove some of the beggars from the streets and resettle them at a camp in Owutu, Ikorodu, have failed to produce results because many of them usually escape from the camp. While some people regard the activities as a manifestation of the increasing poverty which the government is not doing much to address, others regard them as people who take begging as a profession and who do not deserve any assistance.
Ifeanyi Ejiaku, a resident of Oregun, Lagos, regards beggars as lazy people who do not want to work for a living. He vowed not to give a kobo to beggars because many of them took to begging instead of looking for jobs or engage in a profitable business. “I don’t give money to any of them begging because many of them have options of looking for what to do but they chose to beg “, Ejiaku said. He alleged that many of them had been accused of using the money collected from innocent people for diabolical means. Therefore, instead of giving money to beggars; Ejiaku would identify some persons with genuine needs and give them food items.
But Ebong Abasi Ekpe-Judah, author and a sociologist, thinks differently. He attributes the menace of begging to the failure of government to live up to its responsibilities. Ekpe-Judah, who has given alms to beggars several times, said the situation had portrayed the county’s image in bad light. He blamed the government for not putting in place a mechanism to address the problem of joblessness in the society. “Nobody who has something doing will go about asking for alms”, Ekpe-Judah said.
He urged the government to take a cue from what is obtainable in the United States of America, USA, and the United Kingdom, UK, where social security scheme are put in place by government to help sustain people without job or viable means of income. In the US, for example, those who have accommodation problems because of lack of jobs are provided with accommodation at the expense of the government until they are able to get employment”,. Though some people who pretend to be begging are sponsored by men to make money for them from unsuspecting Nigerians, Ekpe-Judah who doubles as a clergy man, believes that if the government can put in place a social welfare scheme for many jobless Nigerians, the problem of begging would be reduced drastically.
Similarly James Teput, lecturer, Baptist Theological Seminary, Kaduna, want people to know that begging is not an easy task because it rubs off on the personality of the beggars of his integrity. He urged those who have the opportunity to give alms not to shut their doors against genuine beggars because almsgiving attracts rewards from God.
The battle against begging has remained a difficult one to win because of certain beliefs and customs practised in some parts of the country. For instance, in some parts of the North, children of school age are left to roam the streets begging without any form of control. Although some state governors in the northern have taken steps to address the situation, the menace has refused to go. Some of the beggars usually find their way into some states in the south.