Very big begging business
Whoever has taken a critical look at events around the country especially in and around Lagos will not but be shocked at the large number of beggars clustered in almost all the popular streets corners. That the number of beggars mostly from other states of the federation are increasing at a very alarming rate should not surprise anyone. In a land where some states of the federation are governed by those who refuse to educate a large percentage of their people but prefer to blindfold them with pure indoctrination of accepting poverty as an act of God, there is no way such people would not litter other states of the federation with the only trade they profess.
Viewed from another perspective, it is also possible to blame the high number of beggars parading the streets on acute unemployment plaguing the land. But if the truth must be told, most of those who resort to begging, especially those who are without any form of deformity are never people who take to begging because of unemployment but simply people they choose begging as their preferred option and culture.
There are stories of how some beggars are offered employment by some individuals but they stylishly declined. Yet what is the dignity in begging for living if such people are guided by proper counsel? To start with, most of them have neither attended any school nor learn any trade in the first place, and right from birth, what their parents intended for them is to engage in begging even from childhood.
Stories are told, though the veracity is difficult to establish, about how some parents in a particular part of the country are in the habit of deliberately injuring and rendering their kids handicapped in different ways from birth so that they will grow up to have no other option than accepting begging as their only means of livelihood and survival. Closely associated with begging is also the problem of out of school children which has been a major focus of international organizations as they continue to draw the nation’s attention to the problem they portend for the future.
Uneducated children are like poison to any society because they can easily be manipulated to carry out so many anti-social and nefarious activities. There is a major link between the handicapped and many out of school children because the former cannot move alone without the aid of the latter who take them around the streets but who ordinarily ought to be in school. Failure to attend school or learn any trade means the tendency for those normal children to also become beggars in the future, or to become agents of antisocial activities such as suicide bombings.
Perhaps what gave rise to the multiplicity of beggars everywhere is the position some religions place on kindness to the needy especially the handicapped and the usual appeal for mercy for them by those who have the means. Because of such directive, most people have tended to do whatever they can to assuage the sufferings of the less privileged. However, the general show of generosity enjoyed by beggars has now led to a situation where beggars are fast outnumbering those willing to work.
The reason is that apart from the handicapped who can be said to have an excuse to resort to begging even though there are still few of them who rather than beg prefer to engage in a trade or another, many able-bodied young boys, men and women have now taken to street begging and the number of beggars on the streets now is quite frightening. As a matter of fact, the number of beggars on the Lagos streets alone got so high at a time that the then governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola was irked by the trend and he got most of them rounded up and returned to their states.
But the action also got many people angry and they started accusing the governor of discrimination against people from other states of the federation. Such accusation has tended to force subsequent state executives to exercise some restraint in carrying out similar actions. However, inability to take a strong stand on the issue has resulted in general upsurge of beggars in Lagos and other major cities with all the environmental degradation implications. But something ought to be done to curtail the activities of beggars all around the country.
If Lagos for instance is to maintain its slogan as the center of excellence, a concrete action needs to be taken by the ministry of environment on the problems associated with beggars.
Oyewusi the coordinator of Ethics Watch International wrote in from Lagos.