PRO-democracy and leading Civil Rights Advocacy Group:- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has cautioned the Lagos State’s legislature against criminalizing begging in the state unless the state has wiped off poverty from face of Lagos state first and foremost.
HURIWA argued that mass poverty were actually inflicted on the masses largely due to political corruption, bad governance and the brazen theft by state officials of funds budgeted and released for the building of socio-economic infrastructures to better the costs of living and the living conditions of the citizens. The Rights group therefore wants the Lagos state Assembly to tackle the root cause of begging which is mass poverty rather than chase shadows and engage in semantic gymnastics targeted at wiping off the poor from the face of Nigeria by criminally forceful means which offends the fundamental human rights provisions guaranteed in chapter 4 of the Nigerian constitution.
“It will be fool-hardy and will inevitably be like using force to stop hungry and deprived citizens from wailing/crying or chasing after bread and butter through legitimate appeal for generosity from rich Nigerians, if the Lagos State legislature criminalizes begging so long as the same government has abysmally failed to fulfil the legal obligations of making living for the citizens much more seamless, less complicated just as the government must first of all, criminalize poverty by retrieving all the stolen Lagos State’s resources diverted by past and present public office holders including a certain godfather and then create the enabling environment for all who desire to work to find well paid employment.”
HURIWA reminds the Lagos House of Assembly that section 7 of the constitution provides that the House of Assembly of a state shall have power to make laws for peace, order and good government of the state,” even as the Rights group argued that making a law to forcefully send indigent citizens to their early graves by stopping them from begging to survive, is tantamount to inflicting social conflict and unleashing disorder on a large scale given that majority of Nigerians numbering over 133 million households, are multidimensionally poor.
HURIWA said further: “The primary duty of government is the security and welfare of the People”, in accordance with section 14 (2) (B) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended).
HURIWA is rather suggesting that the Lagos State government in partnership with Corporate bodies and charitable organizations, should set up massive skills acquisition centres, whereby genuine poor and unskilled citizens of Lagos and legal residents can be giving life saving skills and ways and means of providing economic empowerment to power the establishment of their small businesses provided for.
“It is after that, those who opt for begging rather than accepting to be economically empowered can be deemed to be undesirable elements that constitute social nuisance on the streets, and then legitimately expelled from the streets. Lagos State is the richest state in Nigeria and rich states must not send the poor members of their community to their early graves else, any policy purporting to deprive them of their livelihoods, would be challenged because not every poor person can be silenced without grave repercussion and consequences and the law against begging, without actualizing the conditions precedent as aforementioned is a threat to national security.”
HURIWA recalled that the Lagos State House of Assembly says it is considering promulgating a law to curb street begging across the State.
The lawmakers at a plenary session on Tuesday argued that criminal elements who always disguise as beggars have taken over the streets of Lagos.
Reacting to the motion brought by Hon. Abiodun Orekoya and some of his colleagues, the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa noted how previous administrations in the state made efforts to curb street begging, but that the challenge had not abated.
Obasa emphasized the need for a law that would criminalize street begging and also penalize individuals who give money to beggars on the roads.
“When we address the source, then we can curb it. When you go on the road, you find children within the ages of five and six begging. It means there are established groups of people benefitting from this. They warehouse and provide for them.
“Beyond the child rights law, we should come up with another law that speaks to begging and giving. We must come up with genuine law and institutions that handle begging.
The Speaker said the proposed law should aim to establish a centre where individuals who wish to give alms can do so, while the centre would ensure that the alms reach those in need.
“The law will create a fund to be managed by people with integrity so that if you are in need, you would go there,” he said.
Obasa said while this would help people fulfil their religious beliefs about alms giving, it would also help curb street begging, reduce crime on the road and promote greater responsibility among residents.
The Speaker said the smart city goal of the state cannot be achieved when beggars adorn the roads, inhibiting free movement and engaging in crime which include drug peddling and stealing from motorists.
He questioned how children as young as five or six manage to travel from other states to Lagos, suggesting that some individuals may be sponsoring and accommodating them.
Calling for a holistic approach to end the challenge, the Speaker said it was better to tackle it from the source which includes discouraging giving directly to the beggars on the road.
Obasa also urged local government chairmen to come up with ideas to manage street trading rather than thinking of outrightly chasing traders off the streets.
“Street trading happens across the world. It is for our council chairmen to come up with ideas to better manage the activities of traders in their domains.
The law, if it comes into existence, would also penalize encouragement of street begging by residents. In this way, it would be an offence to give money to a street beggar.
HURIWA said the law is fascist, undemocratic unconstitutional and dehumanising which must not be allowed to sail through or else the Lagos state government would have legalised SURVIVAL BY THE FITTEST AND MIGHT BECOMES RIGHT.
-November 08, 2023 @ 17:41 GMT |