Harsh Economy: Beggars Surge Paralysis Lagos, Abuja Cities


LAGOS JULY 22ND (NEWSRANGERS)-Walking around his area in Dutse-Alhaji, a longtime resident, Waliu, cannot help but notice that the number of beggars who had approached him was much more than usual. Another thing he noticed was that a number of people joining the league of beggars were Nigerians.
Usually, most of the beggars in the area used to be from the Niger Republic. But now, more Nigerians appear to be more in their midst.
Also surprised at the current rising number of beggars, our reporter, Tomi Falade, noticed that the number of beggars in Ketu Bus Stop in Lagos have increased tremendously.
From one end of the overhead footbridge to the other end, there used to be four or sometimes five beggars. But on her last visit to the place, she saw numerous new faces ‘plying their trade’. She counted more than 13 beggars at just one side of the bridge.
If you also live in other urban cities across the country, you too would probably have noticed the phenomenon.
Helping Hands Centre (HHC), a Non-Governmental Organisation, which feeds beggars and the homeless, also agreed that the rising number of has become phenomenal. According to the organisation, its research showed that the number of beggars on the streets of major cities across the country has doubled in the past year, and even tripled in some places.
John Akpobome of HHC explained that the group had to double the number of people it was working with in recent times, in order to cope with the expanding number of beggars on the streets.
“This year has been hectic. By the end of last year, we thought the number of beggars on the streets was rising because of the holidays, but instead of returning to their normal size, they have continued to increase in size. By March end, we were forced to do a survey to find out how much the number of beggars had grown.”
According to the outfit’s findings, Abuja has recorded the highest growth in the number of beggars. “In some areas like Wuse Zone 2 and Maitama, the number has increased fourfolds. More and more people keep coming on the streets to join the trade, most of them women and little children,” Akpobome said.
He pointed out that Lagos has the second largest growth in the number of beggars. “If you go to Kano Street in Ebute Meta as we speak, the place is over flowing with beggars. We have been working with beggars there for years, but things have gotten out of hand. We are finding it hard to feed some and not feed others. So, for now, we have stopped going there to focus on less concentrated areas. The place has been known for beggars for a long time, till recently; it is catastrophic,” he said.
It seems major cities in Nigeria have now become a dumping ground for all the economic liabilities, and the failure of the government to arrest the economic crunch has fueled this beggar epidemic.
“Aunty please assist me, my wallet which has my ATM and some vital cards got stolen a few minutes back and I am stranded. Please, I need you to assist me to get to my destination.” This was the adopted modus operandi of a middle-aged man who stood by Ikotun bus stop in Lagos. Unsuspecting sympathetic passersby were observed responding positively to his requests, unaware that this man, who was always putting on neat corporate clothes, has made begging his major source of livelihood.
Ifeanyi Chukwu, the beggar, is a father of three children who live at Ajangbadi, on the outskirts of Lagos. His children are living very fine and he changes locations from time to time to get money from unsuspecting persons. He fends for his family from the proceeds of this begging. “He is a graduate and he combed the streets of Lagos for years searching for a job. He is living very fine with this begging act,” a man who claimed to know him very well affirmed.
Though the Federal Government, months back, announced that the country has started coming out of recession, the social dependent disposition of many Nigerians, accentuated by vanishing hopes of a better tomorrow, have increased the tribe of the beggars. The situation seems to have caused a mass exodus of all manners of street beggars to major cities in Nigeria.
To most ‘practitioners’, it is a profitable business. This fact was reinforced by Nigeria’s finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, who recently announced that some beggars would be made to pay tax.
At a point in time, Lagos State Government announced that it was taking beggars off the streets. This was a welcome development in some quarters. while those concerned kicked against it and they, under the aegis of Beggar Association of Nigeria, even protested against the decision.
Street begging in Lagos ought to be a punishable offence. Lagos State government, in its attempt to sanitise public places, clamped down on beggars, returned non-indigenes to their various states of origin and sent indigenes to rehabilitation camps.
Beggars on the streets used to be people with disabilities or injuries, but a trip to some parts of Lagos revealed that most of the beggars are not disabled in any way either. The women who beg around Yaba, Oyingbo and Berger area are as fit as a fiddle. Many of them have turned themselves to beggars because they have twins, triplets or quadruplets.
“Having multiple children is not a disability, but the recent situation in the country has forced many to beg, says Eniola Adeniji, a social worker based in Lagos. She however urged such women to “work hard with the support from their husbands or the fathers of their babies. This is not a disability for crying out loud. They are a disgrace to womanhood.”
Cases of physically challenged people who must have chosen to earn a living for themselves abound. Adamu is a cripple who sells recharge cards and other petty items at Abacha Barracks in Abuja. This has endeared many people to him. According to Adamu,
“some people, even though they don’t need the recharge card and would just appreciation for my diligence.”
A philanthropist and social worker, Folusho Liasu, said more beggars are emerging daily, especially on social media, not just because of economic recession but because some people derive satisfaction in “milking others by cooking up lies just to get something out of their pockets.”
Liasu however opined that economic recession is not justification for begging and begging cannot be an alternative to hard work.
Some beggars are even getting more creative. A reporter with Independent shared an uncommon experience. “I was driving by Ogba and someone by a car was smiling and flagging me down. I thought he was a friend, so I stopped. When I wound down to ask what the matter was, he quickly placed his shoulder on the window, this I quickly figured was to discourage me from winding up. The man proceeded by telling me how he forgot to buy fuel in the car from home and his wallet was at home. He said he only needed N2,000 to fuel the car. I wanted to zoom off, but his hand was still on the window, so I told him I wanted to park in front to give him money. Immediately he removed his hands, I zoomed off.”
Some, however, blamed those who indulge them through their handouts to them for the increase in the number of beggars.
Temitope Adewumi, a civil servant, when asked what motivates her to give beggars especially those who seem ‘okay;’ said: “I pity them because it takes a lot for any man to go and beg. The fact remains that there are many fraudulent people out there whose only venture is begging, but some people’s cases are genuine.
“There was a time I lost my purse and I had nothing on me for transportation back home. I was just crying and roaming about because I couldn’t imagine myself begging for money. It took God’s intervention as I saw a friend who gave me money to board a bus home. I also give anybody that begs if I have the means in appreciation of God’s benevolence to me.
“Majority of the beggars you see on the streets are not handicapped, but because they see it as the fastest, easiest and cheapest way of making money, some run it as every other business is run. They employ people like family members or minors and their babies; they formulate strategies, render accounts and make returns, incur overhead costs and record profits or losses. The influx of beggars in our cities especially Lagos is not just because the economy is bad but because of the get-rich syndrome which we are used to,” Oluwole Arajo, a poultry farmer, said.
Many also blame religion for the mass influx. They say most religions preach giving to the poor, hence, it is right for people to beg. However, Islamic cleric Uztaz Nojeem Fagbemi said Islam frowns at begging but encourages giving to those who are genuinely in need.
“My religion, Islam, teaches me the importance of giving to the needy but I don’t condone indolence. Islam, however, does not by any means welcome a life of pauperity. You are very right, the economic situation has helped raised more beggars. No country in the world is without the poor and needy, but the serious governments provide for them, at least, basic needs like food, clothing and shelter to discourage them from resorting to begging and crime,” Fagbemi explained.
President, Heal The World Mission, an International Charity Movement located in Ogun State, Dr. Tola Olukilede asserted that there are more people in need as a result of the economic situation of Nigeria, hence many have turned to begging.
According to him, “many people are now looking for one form of assistance or the other due to the economic situation. While there are some genuine people, others are just lazy. They come over, cook all forms of lies, but we investigate before we give help. They have made begging their major occupation because begging is the easiest thing to do. Unknown to them, they can’t be great as a beggar. I think we should stop encouraging lazy people by giving them. If you really want to give, look for genuine organisations who know those who genuinely need help.”
Olukilede however urged governments at all levels to set up farms and other ventures so that many can get means of livelihood as against taking to begging.
Another cleric, Ken Caleb of Faith Aglow ministries, said something should be done soon to arrest the situation. Begging, according to him, is the lowest way to find money. But “pride is not for the hungry. If you are hungry, you beg. If you don’t get people to give you, you end up stealing; it is human nature.”
Unless something is done somewhere to instill fairness and justice into governance, many citizens will continue to fend for themselves through begging without considering the legality of the sources. As it is, if the economy is not properly addressed, all forms of begging might increase in leaps and bound.
Olukilede advised the Federal, State and Local governments to “collaborate with relevant stake holders to put all hands on deck to make skill acquisition policy a priority. By so doing, all street children, who voluntarily go into begging can be trained to become better people to¬morrow.”
Daily Independence

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Posted by on Jul 22 2017. Filed under State. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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