By Henry Umoru
ABUJAâ€”IT was a theatre of the absurd, weekend, in Abuja when beggars residing in the nationâ€™s capital city struck, attacked men of the Abuja Social Development Secretariat, Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, as well as detachment of the Nigeria Police while resisting moves to evacuate them from the streets of Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.
The event which took place in front of the National Mosque had the irate beggars numbering well over 60 mostly women, children and young boys, as well as old men with various degrees of physical disabilities.
Sighting the law enforcement agents and knowing fully well that they were out for them, the beggars in defence picked up sticks, stones, clutches and cudgels and attacked the force comprising seven mobile police men and five staff of AEPB.
The irate beggars, some of who were on wheel chairs and clutches overpowered the task force and smashed the windscreen, as well as side glasses of the Hiace bus with registration No Kano XA491MDB that conveyed the task force to the National Mosque for the exercise.
According to the beggars, it became imperative for them to take that action because they needed to defend their rights as citizens of Nigeria, just as they claimed that they equally have the right to live anywhere in Abuja like the money bags.
At the end of the fight and when they escaped beingÂ lynched by the angry beggars who rained curses on them and the FCT administration the task force officials scampered for safety to the back of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, where they took cover.
It was gathered that when the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, Senator Bala Mohammed was briefed on what happened, he was said to have given the head of the taskforce a directive to reinforce team with more policemen and carry out the exercise, just as it was also gathered that he insisted that beggars must be removed from the streets of Abuja, rehabilitated and conveyed to their states of origin.
Some of the beggars who expressed their anger in Hausa admitted that they must feed and there was the need for them to come out, beg and fed for themselves when administrations after Mallam Nasir El-Rufai abandoned them, adding that during his administration they were taken to a place well built with all the facilities and he was paying them N4,000 monthly as allowance.
According to them, the government was not serious with what it termed repatriation policy as they were often dropped off far the road from their destination in the name of repatriation.
When contacted, the Director Finance and Administration at the Abuja Social Development Secretariat, Alhaji Garba Mohammed Dukku who described the attack on his men as unfortunate, however stressed that the intention of government was to rehabilitate them at the rehabilitate centres in Bwari, Gwagwalada and Lugbe, adding that the governments plans to remove beggars from the streets of Abuja and take them to any of the FCTâ€™s rehabilitation centres for training as well asÂ empower them.
According to him, â€œWe were in Kaduna and we met the Commissioner for Social Welfare to consider synergy between us and neighbouring states. It is an ongoing thing as we are going round the states to solicit their support and understanding in this directionâ€.