‘Army’ of beggars invades Ibadan
An unusually large number of beggars have descended on Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, causing all sorts of problems for the residents amidst efforts by the state government to rid the city of their menace. TAYO JOHNSON reports.
Residents of Ibadan in Oyo State have been having an unusual kind of ‘headache’ for some time now, no thanks to the invasion of their beloved city by a large number of beggars seeking economic sustenance. Major roads and strategic road junctions in the ancient city have been taken over by these ‘army’ of beggars who could also be seen lurking around major motor parks and markets across the metropolis. From Mokola Roundabout in the city centre via Sabo through Jemibewon Road to Molete, Beere junction, down to Oje Market, Agodi-Gate Bus stop, Iwo Road Roundabout, Old Ife Road and up north around Ojoo Motor park, a long queue of old men and women some dressed in tattered clothes with begging bowls or polythene bags in hands could be seen here and there waiting for good spirited people to gift them any amount of money.
And moving around in twos and threes in between slow moving traffic in the city could also be found young children sent out by their parents or guardian to solicit for alms from motorists and even pedestrians. Seated somewhere not too far away from the kid beggars are their adult counterparts waiting for them to bring ‘returns’.
All over the place the city seems to have been taken over by the beggars who are almost becoming a permanent feature of the society that nobody seems to take notice of them anymore save for those who want to give them alms sometimes for religious purpose.
Though the beggars are mostly from the northern part of the country and across the border in Chad and Niger Republics, a few of them also come from some neighbouring states in the southwest.
Homeless, poor, hungry and almost totally illiterate, these beggars some of them physically challenged were drawn to Ibadan by the prospect of being able to make ends meet in a city, the stature of the Oyo State capital, in the absence of any viable economic venture back home where they come from. But their presence is becoming an embarrassment to the residents.
A beggar along Jemibewon Road, Bashir Mohammed, a father of eight children, told The Nation that begging is the only way he could take care of his large family because nobody gives him and his family food.
The alarming and embarrassing trend becomes more worrisome when it is discovered that some of these beggars have no business begging because they seem physically capable of doing menial jobs to eke out a living.
Though poverty and unemployment have been identified as the driving force behind this culture of begging, the ‘business’ seems to have become so lucrative that some like the aforementioned Bashir Mohammed have turned it into a ‘job’.
But another beggar, Sule Mohammed, who does his business around Agodi Gate Bus-stop said the job is degrading. He told The Nation:”ýI never planned or dreamed to being a beggar, even once in my life, but I don’t have a choice because I have to survive. Being a beggar is an unfortunate life experience. God knows I tried every effort to avoid this condition I have found myself now. But, who would give a chance to a man who could not even read or write his name? If ever there are, I never met one. I thought the city would be the best place for me and my family to live in. We left far away Dutse (Jigawa State capital) where we once lived to come down here to survive in this city.
“Many Nigerians probably think that my `job’ is the easiest job on earth. If that would be the case then I have to be the richest “dying man”. Well, they should hear me now. Begging is the most degrading and painful work anyone could ever have”.
Degrading or not, the Oyo State government seems poised to rid the metropolis of the menace of the beggars. Recently, the Special Adviser to Governor Abiola Ajimobi on People with Disability, Prince Paul Adelabu declared street begging in any part of the state as an offence with immediate effect, replacing it with the introduction of a social scheme that would be established to feed and cater for the beggars in a centre to be established.
He said that no indigene of the state is among the beggars, adding that people from other neighbouring states and tribes are the ones littering the streets, constituting the nuisance.
“There is no religion that tells us to go out and beg, henceforth street begging is prohibited in all the 33 local government areas of Oyo State, any beggar found begging on the street will be arrested and returned back to their various states.
“This will also ensure that the practice which allows children of school age to go about begging in the streets in the name of Almajiri is stopped” said he
A social welfare officer in Ibadan, Mr Kehinde Ayinla noted that street begging is not only perpetrated by hopeless, sick or physically challenged people, stressing that strong and agile people do beg too.
According to him “if you go to government ministries, departments and agencies, you will see able bodied men going from office to office begging for money. Some ladies too indulge themselves in the act of begging, some will hold little babies and tell one lie or the other to beg for money, while others hire children to beg and return them later in the day.”
The Nation checks round the city revealed that some parents actively encourage their children to go about begging on behalf of the family blaming it on poverty, a situation a Civil Servant Mr Muyiwa Ogundoyin described as irresponsible parenting.
Much as poverty has been identified as the major cause of street begging in Nigeria, many who spoke with The Nation believe that there was need for government at all levels to eradicate poverty to the barest minimum to reduce the number of beggars on the street. They say government should provide jobs for people so that they in turn can take care of their families while also strengthening social welfare programmes for destitute and the physically challenged.
While some are quick to blame a particular religion for the menace of street begging, the National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Organisation, Abdul-Quadir Abdul-Rafi said “even Allah discourages begging”, noting that the hands that gives rather than collects is blessed according to Islam.
“Anybody that begs has thrown away his dignity and morals. The government needs to clear them off the street in no time, and provide them with enabling social amenities” he said
Abdul-Rafi urged the state government to create a rehabilitation centre for the beggars.
In the opinion of the Presiding Pastor of a Pentecostal Church in Ibadan, Moses Ayanleke begging portrayed that a country is poor and lacking in human resource management.
He said that if the roads and streets were rid of beggars, it would save the image of the state.
A leader of the Catholic Women’s Organisation, Mrs Patricia Chukwu on her part called for the urgent need to take away the beggars from the street of Ibadan. She is worried that visitors arriving in Ibadan could have a negative impression of the Oyo State capital on sighting a battalion of beggars on the roads. She held firmly that there should be a stop to loitering of beggars in Ibadan and urged the state government to take necessary steps to ensure that this was done.
“Street begging in our society today is like cancer in the body. Either we sacrifice the affected part and save the body or we allow it to invade and destroy the entire body. We either summon enough courage or will to break its neck and finish it once and for all, or we allow it to remain a nuisance and an obnoxious part of our culture and tradition till the end of time.” She noted