We’ll free Kano of beggars, Govt insists

By Abdulmumin Murtala

AS hard times bite harder following the COVID-19 pandemic, beggars in Kano State have adopted new begging strategies to survive. Findings by Arewa Voice indicate that the beggars have become more creative and strategic in sourcing for their means of livelihood despite the outlawing of street begging by the state government in 2020. With the ban in place and the beggars unwilling to beat a retreat from street hustling, many of them, particularly, women and children have taken to novel tactics to eke a living out of the street.

Against the well known and outdated method of using fierce-looking and unappealing young boys to solicit for alms, beggars now come in the form of young and middle-aged women scouting the street corners for aid. Others, who are familiar with Kano city and its people, locate themselves in strategic places; especially in areas that are frequented by prominent persons, to solicit for alms not minding the time of the day.

Others settle for begging in choice areas where rich persons relax in the evening after the day’s job while another set of beggars come in the form of young mothers with ‘helpless and handicapped’ babies in dire need of help to beg for assistance from prominent persons. All these tactics, which constitute a nuisance to public order, have already been banned by the Kano State government and the beggars are merely testing the will of the state.

To show its resentment against street begging, the state governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, early this year, announced a ban on street begging by almajirai while introducing new measures to support his administration’s policy on free and compulsory education in the state. The governor also rolled out punitive measures for those caught for street begging and violators of the ban.

He said: “When almajirai are caught begging, it is not only that beggar that is caught, but his parents or guardians. Such parents or guardians would be taken to court to face the wrath of the law. This policy of free and compulsory basic and secondary education goes along with its integration of our almajirai system into the mainstream policy implementation. This suggests that English and Arithmetic must be included in the almajirai schools curriculum.”

Similarly, the state government through the office of the commissioner for women affairs also launched a programme to take both married and unmarried beggars off the street. In March 2021, the commissioner launched a street operation culminating in the arrest and repatriation of some beggars while others were given some financial assistance to leave the street.

The state government, however, complained that most of the beggars were from neighbouring states of Kaduna, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe and others and that they were not ready to allow the nuisance of begging to continue unabated.

The commissioner, Dr. Malama Zahra’u Umar, said: “We noticed that because Kano is peaceful, that is why they came. It is very dangerous to leave them on the streets without knowing their parents because bad behaviour is mostly found among the beggars. We will continue to arrest them to ensure sanity and rid the streets of all forms of crimes.”

One of the beggars told Arewa Voice that they had no option but to continue begging as life was getting more difficult for them who are unemployed and have no benefactors to cater for them. She said: “We are poor and our father is unemployed and we have to use any available technique in order to elicit help from anybody who is willing to assists us not minding what people think about us. We are not too happy to be on the street begging but we have no option than to do anything in order to survive.

“Sometimes we need to carry children because our potential helpers are easily touched by the sight of the children we carry. There are other times and places we need to go and beg and come back with some money without carrying children when we have no option that is why you see us with the children because our helpers know that we really need their help.”

A staff nurse with one of the hospitals, who has been witnessing the harassment of members of the public by beggars for cash, said the government needs to urgently address the nuisance of beggars in the state before it gets out of hand. “The government is yet to review this issue despite the way people are complaining of having to face embarrassment of being approached by married women asking them for money. There is need for drastic action to control it as a result of the way it is growing. It could be as a result of poverty and hardship but is not an excuse,” the medical worker state.

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