By EBUN SESSOU
When hundreds of beggars stormed the Lagos State Government Secretariat and the House of Assembly to protest what they called undue harassment and plans to ban their activities, one wonders what informed it.
They carried placards , chanted Islamic songs and blocked the main entrance to the government secretariat causing traffic gridlock, and dared motorists to enter the secretariat.
The highly enraged beggars later moved to the state House of Assembly where they converged in their large number.
In a similar manner, the beggars last Wednesday stormed the premises of the Vanguard Media Limited at Apapa.
In their effort to register their plights, the representatives of the Joint Association for the Physically Challenged through its spokesperson, Mr. Zakari Hassan, accompanied by the Chairman, Mohammed Dahiru Dan Adan, narrated their ordeal since the inception of the present administration.
“The State Government and its lawmakers passed a law called 49/50, this law affords some people the privilege to arrest and detain us at Lagos State Rehabilitation Centre, Majidun in Ikorodu and treated us badly. The place was not a rehabilitation centre but a detention centre by the government.
“Those who were arrested are put into a congested room where they sleep, urinate and excrete in the same place. Those who are blind are faced with serious challenge as they cannot recognise where they are going to or coming from. Even the odour from the room poses serious health hazards to our lives.
“Once we are locked up in the cell, there is no way of escape except if our family members come to bail us. I was bailed with the sum of N45,500 before I was released. My relative who paid the bill said, he paid to a bank account belonging to the government.
“They call it centre for rehabilitation but it is a prison yard.
About 63 to 65 people are put in one room. We are telling the government to take us as human beings and they should consider our problem. We deserve to be treated as human beings and not animals.
“We have so many of our people in the home because they don’t have enough money to bail themselves. They give us food that is not well cooked everyday. They serve us with three buckets of maize and one bucket of beans that is tasteless. This food is served between 11 am and 6 pm on a daily basis without water. We are not allowed to take our bathe and have been deprived freedom of worship. I was there for eight days but I cannot cope with the standard of living there. At times, they take some of our people to a thick forest where they are abandoned for months before the people are able to find their ways back to the city.
Their excuse is that the home cannot accommodate so many people. They took some of us to Okene in Kogi State, Lokoja and this has led to the death of many people. So many people have died in the home because of lack of proper care.”
The beggars also expressed displeasure over the ban on begging in the state entrenched in the new Lagos State Traffic Law.
According to the aggrieved beggars, “First, our movement within Lagos State metropolis has been restricted such that anyone caught roaming on the road will be taken to Majidun prison. At the prison, all our belongings will be seized from us and also we will be maltreated by the management.
“It has come to our notice that very soon, anybody found giving alms to us will be apprehended and jailed for two years and that is not good”.
Asked if they know the state of the country as related to the havoc being caused by Boko Haram, he said, they only hear it through the radio.
“It is wrong for them to claim, they are doing this because of the havoc caused by Boko Haram in the country because we are armless. The government did this during Tinubu’s administration and we protested and they stopped it. Now, they have started again and we don’t know what would happen to us. “We don’t have any problem with Lagosians and that is why we are praying for peace and stability in Lagos State and Nigeria in general. We are not given opportunity to move around with the people so that they can understand our problems.”
On his condition, he said, “I became blind when I was three months old. I was born in August 12, 1975. I was unable to know my parents. It was as a result of measles. I was at Kastina State with my mother. I was taken to Quaranic school where our district head gave me the opportunity to go to the Kastina School for the blind. Before then, I was taken to the Kaduna Rehabilitation Centre but I was rejected because of my age.
“Then I was taken to the Kastina School for the blind. I graduated and came to Nigerian Society for the Blind, Oshodi, then I went to Nigerian Farm Craft Centre for the Blind, NFCB.
I graduated but there was no job. I was not employed at my local government. Then, I came back to Lagos and since then, I have been begging. I don’t enjoy begging but there is nothing I can do. Since, there is no help but I am praying that hope would come soon. I have a wife and two children. The first child is three and half years while the second child is 16 months. I pray that God would provide money to send them to school,” he lamented.