With Joke Adeniyi-Jackson
They mill around Geri-Alimi, Ilorin, Kwara State at the site of the ongoing Diamond Split Underpass begging commuters for money despite the attendant danger of plying their ‘trade’ by the road side. There have been records of accident at that site involving articulated trucks that fell on their sides. There was a recent one and another sometimes last year that almost crushed a smaller vehicle, consequently the occupant(s) escaped death. That is however not the thrust of this piece, but the beggars who cheated death by providence. I frequent that road and what particularly catches my attention is the clusters of beggars who lined up the road side to ply their ‘trade’, oblivious of the inherent risk of hanging around that area at this time when the terrain makes smooth driving herculean task and thus drivers manoeuvre dangerously.
This again pops the issue of influx of beggars in Ilorin again. It would be recalled that this problem was addressed sometime ago, which brought to barest minimal street begging in the state capital. However, these beggars have again found their way to the streets. It is obvious from their physical appearance that the beggars migrated to the state capital from other parts of the country. There are also among them Nigeriens kid beggars. This case is particularly pathetic because the futures of these innocent school aged children are being mortgaged inadvertently. Aside Geri Alimi, we have preponderance of the category of people soliciting alms at Offa Garage area, Oja-Oba, Oja-Tuntun, Gambari, Maraba (all within the state capital) among others. Interestingly, these beggars are gradually infiltrating streets, soliciting alms from residents.
It is quite unfortunate that begging population of able bodied people in the ancient town is fast expanding.
The increasing population of beggars in Ilorin constitutes an eyesore and public nuisance.
Begging is no doubt a social menace which has a negative multi-facet implication. It is also common sight nowadays to see supposed Non Governmental Organisations soliciting alms for people with health challenges, particularly those with infectious and contagious diseases. Interestingly, mothers who had given birth to twins take to begging as a cultural practice.
It is also noteworthy that beggars constitute social threat. They portray a bad image to outsiders or strangers. Geri-Alimi is the gateway to the state capital and having destitute turn it to a haven of beggars will give bad impression of the state to first time visitors. In addition, they constitute security threat as some criminals hide under the guise of beggars to perpetuate evil. They are sometimes ready tools for criminals who use them as spies. This should be of concern particularly at this time when the country is facing insurgency challenge.
Begging also is an economic problem to the society as beggars are not economically productive in any way since they contribute nothing to the economy. This will not help development in any way.
Sadly, this trend has been sustained by philanthropic display, and religious justification.
Those who value public decency would find this trend irritating and embarrassing. A situation where hordes of beggars swoop in on people at public places is mortifying.
In some climes, such as Britain begging has been labelled as criminal offence. It is a most welcome development that some state governments are seeking for ban of street begging. But, to ban street begging, government must be ready to address the socio-economic problems confronting the poverty stricken beggars. More resources should be challenged towards raising standard of living and comfort of ordinary citizens particularly the vulnerable ones.
This can be addressed through proper rehabilitation to help them live independent lives. Since it is believed that majority of them do not have families. Then, there is also the need to genuinely seek to support vulnerable Nigerians. People should constitute themselves into charitable organisations, not for the purpose of defrauding donors, for the causes they support.
In addition, these beggars can be trained and equipped to live independent lives with the support of governments. There is the need to enlighten the physically challenged among them that the fact that they are disabled should not mean that they cannot be useful to themselves and the society.
One must however note the effort of the state Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development under the leadership of its commissioner, Hajia Ayinke Saka for effort at ensuring sanity in the state by ridding the streets of lunatics and destitute.
The new commissioner, Hajia Taibat Ahmed, must be ready to tackle this menace headlong in order to put an end to this social problem.