By Olasunkanmi Akoni
Lagos State, in recent times has witnessed an upsurge in number of beggars, including foreign nationals, such as Nigeriens. It will be recalled that in 2013, Lagos State Government moved 270 destitute to their states of origin in an operation that generated controversy.
The state government added that this year alone 2, 217 beggars, destitute and mentally challenged persons were rescued from the streets for rehabilitation.
Also, this year under review, a court sitting in Lagos sentenced 30 beggars to jail for constituting themselves into public nuisance, among other related offences.
Skills acquisition programmes
Determined to eradicate street begging and also rid the streets of urchins the state government created rehabilitation centres that come with skills acquisition programmes as part of development strategy aimed at enhancing the individual’s capacity for self-development and enable them build a better life.
To further ensure welfare for its citizens, the state government established the State Office of Disability Affairs, LASODA, to protect people living with disabilities against all forms of discrimination.
However, the refusal of the beggars to go to the rehabilitation centres is a matter of worry to government and concern citizens of the state as beggars including foreign nationals continue to storm the streets and major roads in search of alms.
The most disheartening part of the development is the introduction of children to the “profession”.
At that early age, the children are corrupted and exposed to a life of loafing. Last week, the state government concluded arrangements to prosecute a woman who engaged in begging for alms with the two children she brought from the village to assist her in trading. It was gathered that the children used for alms begging were brought to the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, WAPA, after they were rescued in Badagry, Ajamgbadi and Maza-Maza areas.
Other areas where beggars are rampant include: Egbeda, Iyana-Ipaja, Ikeja, Lagos Island, Ikorodu among others.
Permanent Secretary, WAPA, Mrs, Omobolanle Ogunmola speaking on the worrisome development said government would prosecute the woman for engaging the children in begging, advising parents to live up to their responsibilities by not releasing their children to others without proper investigation.
However, one of the beggars (Names-withheld), explained that the suspect, identified as Amaka told her parents in Abia State that she wanted to engage her in selling provision for her in Lagos, but on getting to Lagos, she was turned into a beggar and paid N100 every month.
The girl who is 19 years old, was discovered to be pregnant, said one of the boys in the neighbourhood got her pregnant, saying that she detested begging which she normally did at Alaba Market in Ajamgbadi.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State, had earlier, ordered the State Task Force on Environmental Sanitation and Other Special Offences to rid the state off miscreants and enforce the law prohibiting begging in the state.
Ambode , through, the Secretary to the State Government, Mr. Tunji Bello, expressed concern about the resurgence of street trading in major areas of the state, noting that not only do they constitute environmental nuisance, but also pose security threat to citizens.
The governor explained that the 2010 environmental law prohibits street trading in the state, urging those interested in doing businesses to seek for legal space in the various modern markets redeveloped by the state government to enhance business activities.
According to him, “At the State Security Council Meeting on July 7, it was resolved that the act of street trading that has continued to hamper free flow of traffic on Lagos roads which further constitutes nuisance and security threat to law abiding citizens will no longer be tolerated.
“Therefore, street traders and buyers will henceforth be arrested and prosecuted. The Task Force on Environmental Sanitation and Special Offences has been mandated to ensure the Law of the State against street trading is enforced to the letter”, he added.
The governor noted that some unscrupulous persons hide under the guise of seeking alms to rob unsuspecting members of the public, saying “efforts will be made to rid the state of street beggars and destitute. “We’ve had security reports on the activities of persons who pose as beggars, especially in traffic, but their sole aim is to perpetrate evil.
“We are putting a search light on this trend and one way to do that is to ensure that we take pre-emptive measures to forestall this development,” the governor said. The governor added that all security agencies have resolved to beef up security in the state so as to ensure that it remains safe for citizens and investors alike.
He also urged residents in the state not to encourage the trend by patronizing them, saying in doing so, they indirectly aid and abet crime.
According to an official of the state Ministry of Sports, Youth and Social Development, who crave for anonymity, “Begging has become a profession or a way of life for the beggars on the streets, no matter how much is been made they are never contented, as they keep coming back for more. Some of them even build houses in their state or country of origin. However, the state government is not relenting in its efforts to develop its people despite the daunting challenges.”