‘Some beggars have huge amounts of money, own commercial vehicles but remain professional beggars, living wretched life to cash in on public sympathy’.

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By Luminous Jannamike, Abuja

However, some think differently and perceive street beggars as lazy folks who simply take to begging as a way of life, and a lucrative business that provides them with a shortcut to comfort and wealth with little stress.

The story of Hassan Alhaji, and Abdulmalik Mohammed, two uniquely disabled street-beggars in the nation’s capital, however, reveals that asking for alms every day is not their target, but raising capital to venture into commerce and rise above their unpleasant circumstances remains their point of focus. 

Sighted in the popular Wuse market of Abuja where they move around begging for alms from members of the public, the physically challenged men go through unimaginable horrors to survive. 

While 54-year-old Hassan Alhaji has developed serpentine locomotion in the bid to overcome his handicap of non-functional limbs, Abdulmalik Mohammed rolls on the floor in a manner comparable to a moving tyre, because his lower limbs are warped.

But Abdulmalik has the ambition to live beyond his disabilities, make giant strides, do business and record achievements more than the lazy able-bodied.

Apart from having very badly twisted legs, he also had no roof over his head until recently when some good Samaritans gave him money to start a business. Unfortunately, he had to channel the money into renting a house in accordance with Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory. 

“As I am rolling on the floor, many people do help me, but I haven’t started the business I plan to own. Not long ago, some people gave me money to start a business, but I used it to rent a house for my family. I have a wife in Niger state,” he told Saturday Vanguard. 

For Hassan Alhaji, a Yobe state indigene, who has been arrested and detained on multiple occasions for begging in the marketplace, the authorities lack the moral justification to criminalise street-begging.

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He said the Federal and State Governments, unlike their counterparts in other parts of the world, do not provide social security services for citizens, especially the very vulnerable ones.

According to him, the unfortunate ones ought to be helped by the rest of society to live independent lives.

Recounting some of his ugly experiences as a street-beggar, he told Saturday Vanguard in the Hausa Language: “Look, if I enter the market, I am regularly arrested and locked up in a detention facility, because the market task force doesn’t want to see me.

“Just a few days ago, I had a serious showdown with the head of the task force. I asked him: ‘If I stopped coming to beg for alms in the market, where do you want me to go?’ If I don’t come out to beg, will he feed me?” 

Asked what help he wants from the authorities, Hassan said beggars who have no families must be accommodated in hostels or homes while a special ministry, department, or agency of social welfare will have to train personnel who will care for their needs.

Though Hassan and Abdulmalik still beg to raise enough money to start provision stores, they confess that street-begging is not a dignified way of survival; stressing that with begging, true joy remains elusive as beggars can only depend on what others give them each other.

Meanwhile, in the Federal Capital Territory, the Social Development Secretariat of the FCTA is saddled with the responsibility of catering for vulnerable people through initiatives aimed at eliminating their pains.

Speaking on the menace of street begging in Nigeria’s capital city, the Ag. Director, FCT SOS Social Welfare Services, Sani Amar Rabe, lamented that some people have successfully made a profession out of begging to the extent of carrying huge sums of money in cash anywhere they go while still dressed in rags and soliciting alms.  

He said, “Some beggars you see carrying huge amounts of money, instead of them to invest and quit begging, they will continue to beg, keep the money, refuse to invest it and keep living wretched lives just to cash in on public sympathy and the public.

“You can see here one Mallam Bello (a street beggar) was arrested with N190,000 stashed in his pocket yet begging. We also have here one Abdul, who by himself confessed to having commercial vehicles yet also begging.”

However, banning street begging cannot be a cosmetic affair just as the late political analyst, Dr Anthony Akinola, succinctly put it: “Those who want street begging to be banned must not deny that a serious sociological problem exists.”

While some people believe that begging should be prohibited, others think that a new approach to alms-giving should equally be institutionalised in the country to allow those who genuinely seek to support vulnerable ones to constitute themselves into charitable organisations for the causes they are concerned about.

It is easily observable that many Nigerians have generous hearts and can enthusiastically support the unfortunate ones among them if convinced they are not being defrauded by some unpatriotic individuals.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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