By Omoh Gabriel
It is a known fact that cities across the world are confronted with diverse and complex problems which have socio-economic and physical implications for city dwellers. These problems as experienced by cities of less developed countries, are enormous and multidimensional in nature.
One obvious manifestation of these problems, especially in Nigeria, is begging, that is the act of asking people for money, food, clothes. The problem of begging is a social menace which has a negative implication not only for economies of the cities, socio- physical environment but also for beggars themselves.
The increasing population of beggars in Nigerian cities constitutes an eyesore or environmental nuisance and health hazards, particularly those carrying infectious and contagious diseases. Begging has serious implication for the city and national economy as beggars are not economically productive in any way since they contribute nothing to the economy.
It leads not only to social relegation of the city but also to that of beggars as well as stigmatization. Beggars constitute a social threat to the Nigerian society especially in the cities. They portray a bad image to outsiders or strangers. Some criminals hid under the guise of beggars to perpetuate their evil deeds.
They are at times used as instruments by mischief makers, who use them to vandalize public properties and utilities built with nation’s resources. The nefarious activities of those fake beggars such as criminals, area boys” and thugs constitute one of the sources of civil unrest to the city dwellers.
Begging also constitutes economic threat to the society as beggars are not economically productive in any way since they contribute nothing to national economy. The city and national economy is retarded as considerable proportion of beggar’s population. Another set of beggars are the perpetually sick ones; these ones always suffer from diseases, like cancerous growths on visible parts of their bodies, which they wear like a badge of honour.
There’s an old man who begs for money because he had elephantiasis. He is seen around quite a lot and many are feeling if he has gone to a hospital to have his swollen leg seen to. He drags it around like luggage and the sheer size of it intimidates people into giving him money.
At most strategic roads, many with some form of diseases are carried and put at the center of the road with men and women with bows in their hands soliciting for help. They are controlled by godfathers who are entitled to a ‘cut’ of their money in return for ‘protection’.
The godfathers are also responsible for costuming i.e. fake wounds on appropriate parts of your body; for the lame, wheelchairs, wheelbarrows or skateboards; for the blind, a child to lead you around and collect the day’s earnings; and for young women, malnourished looking.
Most worrisome is the fact that Public service in Nigeria is being debased on daily basis. Today each office you go into either at the federal, state or local government level, there are Nigerians who indulge in one form of begging and the other. It is fast becoming an embarrassment across the country when on approaching a supposed security officer, he politely ask what have for the boys, or your boys are here. It is either they are poorly paid or they are not satisfied with what they are doing.
At the nation’s gate way, either at the airport or sea ports many of the immigration officers hold onto traveler’s passport asking for a gift before checking them out or in which ever is applicable. A situation like this can not bring the best out of these men on uniform or in sensitive position in the country.
Every office you enter in the country today, someone somewhere will expect you to perform before you leave and if you fail to, they will boldly ask, ‘Ogah what do you have for the boys?’ At the airport, Murtala Mohammed International Airport in particular, both Nigerians and foreigners complain of the unethical behaviour of most men of Immigration, Police and other agencies at the front desk.
They do not care about the image of the country not to talk of their own. Usually, caution is thrown to the wind. Sadly enough, those in authority do not care nor take notice of this development. At most road junctions across the country where you have policemen as well as other agencies on duty, some are more int
erested in begging.
‘Corporate Beggars’ are actually more of pickpockets and conmen than beggars. The most unfortunate of this category of beggars are those who pose as ministers of the Gospel to beg. They tell you tales of how they are going for a church programme but have no money to go.
One notorious one in Festac/Satellite goes around with his wife and baby begging motorists for money, flashing fake pastoral identity card. While an average person thinks in terms of dignity and the joy that comes from creating something which has the potential to change someone else’s life, professional beggars think in terms of Naira and Kobo. Can the Nigerian nation continue like this?