By Kingsley Adegboye

The growing population of destitute and beggars in the Magboro/Arepo axis in Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State, has become a source of concern to the residents of the area, particularly as their presence constitutes an eyesore, environmental nuisance and health hazards in the case of some of them that have infectious and contagious diseases.

Magboro under the bridge and beside Arepo under the bridge are the two locations where destitute and beggars have their colonies. They go out during the day to beg for alms and return at night to sleep in their colonies.

Under Magboro bridge where they converge as early, 6 am till late evening before returning to their sheds to sleep, the place has become an eyesore, and posing environmental nuisance and health challenge to the community, as the destitute and beggars urinate and defecate indiscriminately within their mix and exhibit all manners of dirty habit.  

With the recent outbreak of cholera in the Magboro community, residents are afraid of another outbreak of the disease, seeing the growing population of destitute and beggars by the day under Magboro bridge.

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In Arepo, a neighbouring community to Magboro, another community of destitute has been established and is fast-growing with an influx of almajirai (beggars) all over the place begging for alms.

Under Arepo bridge, a very busy place serves as mechanic shops, food and herbal concoction vendors, a prayer ground for Muslims predominantly from the North, and others.

But before the recent influx of children beggars to the area, a set of old men, some of them physically challenged, had invaded the location, carving out place beside under-bridge where they built sheds made of mainly thick black nylons and carton boxes. During the day, they sit outside their so-called home soliciting alms from passers-by, and at night, they retire to the sheds while some of them who don’t have sheds to lay their heads, retire to under the bridge to sleep at night.

Speaking to Vanguard Metro weekend on the take over of Magboro under the bridge by destitute and beggars, and the worry it causes to the community, Chairman, Oke-Afa CDC, Hon. Ezekiel Sunday Shobowale, who described the situation as terrible, said “We have asked Obafemi-Owode Local Government Council to evacuate them. They have not done anything concerning that. But we are still waiting for their response.”

 Also commenting on the nuisance the presence of destitute and beggars is causing under Magboro bridge, a leader of the community and Chairman, Success Estate CDA, Emeka Kalu, said “The place is posing a very serious health challenge to the community. They urinate, defecate and do all sorts of things that can cause an outbreak of cholera in the community.

“When the community experienced cholera outbreak recently, it was the dirty habits of these people that caused cholera outbreak. The relevant authorities should do something urgently to avert another cholera outbreak in the community.

“Their children who beg on the busy road in between vehicles poses danger to motorists. People are being attacked at night under the bridge and you don’t know where the attack is coming from. Lack of sufficient light under the bridge at night is fuelling activities of hoodlums under the bridge. The government needs to do something to sanitise the place”.

In his comment, Gbenga Lawal, Youth Leader, Oke-Afa CDC, said “We as leaders of the community frown at the situation under Magboro bridge which is constituting nuisance to the environment. They defecate and do all sorts of things there. These are habits that can cause an outbreak of cholera in the community. We learned it was their dirty habits that caused the recent cholera outbreak in Magboro.

All the communities around Magboro came together and agreed that the underbridge should be designated as a garage for bus drivers where passengers going out of Magboro and coming into Magboro will board vehicles and alight respectively. But we suddenly realised that destitute and beggars have taken over the place. They were a few of them initially under the bridge. But today, they have become an uncontrollable crowd.

“The situation as it is now is beyond us at the community level. All efforts at the community level initially to eject them out of the place did not work because of the powerful people behind them. It is the only state government that can eject them out of the place”.

In his reaction, a health officer at Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area, Mr Akintola who is a deputy director, said the new executives at the council are just trying to settle down for work, pointing out, however, that it is little the council can do about the destitute and beggars under Magboro bridge because of the paucity of funds at the council.

According to him, “If you are talking of relocating them from under Magboro bridge, does the council have a place where to relocate them? With the lean resources of the local government, can the council embark on the relocation of these people to a place of their own? It is only the state government that can embark on such relocation. The former governor of the state, Ibilkunle Amosun did when he relocated them to a place around Lafenwa in Abeokuta”.

Meanwhile, in trying to find out from the destitute the reason for their presence under the bridge, one of them who said her name is Hauwa Tanko, from Kebbi State, said she and most of other destitute and beggars ran away from their communities in the north because of Boko Haram terrorists and bandits’ harassment.

The woman who spoke through an interpreter, a northerner and a hawker under the bridge, informed that they decided to run away from their various communities to look for means of livelihoods elsewhere, as they were chased out of their homes and farms.

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