Before now, street begging was the exclusive preserve of the physically-challenged whose condition usually attracted sympathy. Majority of them were usually seen at bus-stops and other public places soliciting for alms.
But when the population of beggars began to spiral almost out of control in Lagos, the state government quickly moved to check the trend as part of efforts to restore sanity in the state. And as a result, many beggars were arrested.
Unfortunately this step only succeeded in dislodging the physically-challenged beggars as their exit from the scene soon paved way for the able-bodied beggars to take over.
Soon the able-bodied variety of begging became a booming business with many ‘investors’ and ‘shareholders’ smiling their way to the banks. The practitioners appeared to have mastered the art of using hard-luck stories to wheedle money out of kind-hearted Nigerians.
But it will appear that many kind-hearted Nigerians are beginning to see through their ploys and are a little bit more wary or reluctant to part with their money. These days they try to make a careful distinction between physically-challenged beggars and those able persons driven by the passion to beg. Some of these beggars usually display a set of twins or triplets in a bid to attract the sympathy of kind-hearted Nigerians.
Some beggars even go to the extent of praying, preaching or prophesying to individuals while soliciting for alms.
Vanguard Metro was told by some of these beggars that they took to begging in order to offset their medical bills or feed their family.
Apart from this, child beggars are on the increase as many of them are usually found at motor parks and swoop on commuters and motorists while employing songs and dance to solicit for sympathy and patronage.
Some of the more popular haunts of these beggars are Ketu-Ojota, Cele Express, Ikorodu garage, Jakande bus-stop in Isolo, Ojodu/Berger, Agbado-Ijaye, Iyana-Ipaja and Oyingbo to mention just a few.
At Cele Express, investigations reveal that a middle aged man who is simply identified as ‘’Obire’‘ comes to the bus-stop as early as 7am to drop some under-aged children whose job is it to ‘harass’ passers-by for alms while the man monitors developments from a hide-out there. At about 7pm, the man calls the business a day, gathers his flock of beggars and disappears from the scene.
At Ojota, a commercial driver who gave his name as Baba Moria told this reporter most physically-challenged beggars travel to Lagos from the Northern parts of the country to solicit for alms. ‘’When you travel to the North, a lot of beggars are anxious to come to Lagos because they make much money here. With this, some people travel home to negotiate with those beggars and provide accommodation and feeding for them.
They also take the beggars to various locations in the morning and bring them home in the evening. Such people use these beggars to make money and give them peanuts at the end of the year. The beggars are usually paid at the end of the year while those that fail to perform are returned home,’‘ he explained.
He told this reporter how he was able to strike a deal with some of the beggars. ‘’They usually pay me N50,000 to take about 20 of them to Sokoto for the festive season and I have been in the business for the past five years. Those beggars you see on the road are usually on salaries; their Ogas usually collect returns on daily basis and any of them who fails to meet up with the agreement will be returned to the village,’‘ he noted.
At Ijaye-Ojokoro, some beggars who spoke with Vanguard Metro said they took to begging due to the economic hardship in the country. “I lost my husband and two children to an inferno. My third child is out of school. My pure water business cannot take care of us but begging has been helping us because people are always sympathetic each time I tell them about my predicament,’‘ said Mrs. Abiola Angela.
Vanguard Metro ran into a child beggar at Ketu around 8pm who disappeared into thin air as soon as he asked for N20 to transport himself back home. He was seen at the same spot about a week later soliciting for alms.
Some beggars who spoke with this reporter attributed their situation to the economic condition in Nigeria; ‘’Some of you who have a shelter in Lagos should thank God for your life. I sleep in an uncompleted building since our house was demolished about two years ago. I don’t enjoy begging but I do it to survive; it is better than stealing,’‘ said Ahmed Abdul.