Clampdown on the destitute intensifies
• 260 beggars evacuated from Lagos in the last 100 days
ALTHOUGH begging is a universal phenomenon precipitated either by economic or health challenges, the army of beggars invading major cities across the country has remained a source of worry for government authorities.
In Lagos, the situation is not different as beggars from all parts of the country have continued to litter street corners in the metropolis despite efforts to stem the tide.
The cosmopolitan nature of Lagos has also made begging attractive to many beggars, who were displaced by the raging insurgency in the northeast and they have devised several means, including renting children for begging.
In the past few years, successive administrations in Lagos had adopted a number of measures to check the menace of beggars, which included the establishment of rehabilitation and vocational centres to provide shelter and skills acquisition opportunities for the destitute and deportation of beggars to their states of origin.
At a time, the Lagos State government in the bid to rid beggars off the streets enacted a law, which made the giving of alms to beggars anywhere in the state an offence punishable by two years imprisonment without an option of fine.
But these measures seemed not to yield the expected results, as beggars still remain in several streets in the state.
To check the trend, the state has continued to crackdown on beggars and destitute, which led to the evacuation of 260 beggars in the last 100 days.
This figure was contained in a document released recently by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Aderemi Ibirogba, during the 2,800 days celebration of the Governor Babatunde Fashola’s administration.
This is coming in spite of the public outcry that greeted the forced deportation of some Igbo indigenes from Lagos in 2013.
Last year, a special court at Alausa, Ikeja, sent a 20-year-old Shadia Nasiru to jail for begging with three hired children.
This came shortly after officials of the Lagos State Task Force on Environment and Special Offences at Seme Border arrested another woman, Jemilat Oseni, for begging with five children that were not hers.
Sometimes, children are allegedly rented from some unscrupulous baby homes and daycare centres, where a child could sometimes be hired for as low as N1,000 per day, while in some cases, the amount made at the end of the day is shared between the beggar and the custodian of the babies on an already agreed sharing formula.
According to a businessman at the popular Computer Village in Ikeja, Nnamdi Ankpa, begging is also blossoming because the two major religions, Christianity and Islam, encourage adherents to give alms to the poor and the needy in society.
In both religions, almsgiving are seen as a sacred obligation, which explains why beggars prefer places of religious worship as hunting grounds.
He said: “Before now, there are at least two major beggars’ colonies in the state, where the beggars converge to solicit alms from passers-by and residents.
“Notable locations include Ebute Metta/Oyingbo and Agege. But places like Ojodu-Berger, Yaba, Egbeda, Ikeja, Alaba-Rago, Ikotun, Abule-Egba and environs now have a fair share of the beggar’s menace.”
According to Ankpa, begging has now assumed different nomenclatures, such as corporate, group and medical begging.
“It is not uncommon to see beggars pretending to be patients brandishing medical reports and drug subscriptions at various bus stops all in the guise of raking in some money from unsuspecting residents,” he added.
For Mojeeb Aina, a bus driver, who plies the Egbeda-Ikeja axis, begging has become a lucrative business as people are brought to Lagos for the purpose of begging.
But a female beggar soliciting money at Secretariat Bus Stop, Alausa, along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, said she was forced into begging as a last resort after she lost her job.
The lady, who simply gave her name as Judith, said although people used to castigate beggars, it was, however, a lesser evil, when compared with prostitution.
She said: “I did not just decide to beg, it is because of condition. I was working at Ikeja before the company decided to relocate its business, which put me back to the labour market. I am only begging to raise some money to enable me start a business.”
She wondered why the Lagos State government should continue to crack down on helpless beggars, when the same government cannot provide jobs for her citizenry.
Judith is among the army of beggars, littering the streets of Lagos to make ends meet.
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