By EBELE ORAKPO
“Please my mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, help me with some money to buy food,” a middle-aged woman begged passengers in an Ikeja-bound commuter bus this Friday morning. She begged, cajoled and harassed some people into parting with some few nairas.
As if on cue, a middle-aged man who had burns on his chest, took over, begging for alms while a young lady was standing by, waiting to take her turn as soon as the man leaves the stage.
Said the middle-aged man: “Abeg, my people, make una help me. My God go help una. My wife ran away a few months ago after I sustained this injury,” pointing to the burns on his chest and I am left alone to take care of the children. My only son is dying in the hospital right now and we need N250,000 to save him. I have sold all I have to raise this money but it is not enough. Please, help me. No amount is too small. As you give, God will not allow you to experience such calamity.” On and on he went.
“Haba! Na wetin? They send these people? They no see other buses?” asked Udo.
Said a commuter by name Frank: “Hmm, begging has become a big business in Nigeria. Some of these people make a lot of money on a daily basis.”
“I’ve known that woman for years, always begging for money to eat. Does it mean she has not received enough money to start a business of her own like selling sachet or bottled water?” asked Udo.
Replied Toyin: “They don’t beg to go and improve their lives with the proceeds or to become independent. Begging seems to be in the DNA of some people, they just love it.”
“It’s a pity that an able-bodied adult will pick up begging as a profession,” said Ade.
“Why won‘t they? It’s a very lucrative business,” said Udo.
“That’s very true. I understand they have chief executive officers who recruit them from the north, bring them down to Lagos and set them to work. Every day, they go out to beg and bring back returns to the boss,” said Frank. Continuing, he said: “I heard that their boss in Ebute-Metta owns cars and houses, richer than many civil servants. Can you imagine that? They are quietly making their money.”
“We tend to encourage begging in this country by giving to beggars. If nobody gives to them, they will stop begging and look for something to do,” said Toyin.
“No, that’s going to the extreme. There are people who genuinely need help and we need to help such. We should try to differentiate them from the scammers,” said Ade.
Replied Alhaji Ali who had been quiet all along: “Moslems are encouraged to help.”
“And that is why begging is more rampant in the north,” said Frank.
Said Ali: “The Koran regards those who take begging as an occupation as disgrace. It says that whoever continues to beg people for their property in order to accumulate much property, is asking for punishment. So we are encouraged to help those who genuinely need help.”
“But you hardly know who is who today. People tell lies to get what they want. How are we sure the one that told us his wife left him and his son is dying in the hospital is telling the truth?” asked Ade.
Replied Toyin: “That is his headache. If he is lying, na im sabi!”