Security being the protection of lives and properties; it is also the absence of fear from danger, harm or threat and not merely the absence of harmony, tranquility and safety in a given environment or society.
Street begging, according to Fatai, et al (2017) is “an individual such as children, elderly, disabled people, and families who are normally found in public spaces such as shopping areas, churches, mosques, busy streets, roadsides and intersections among others asking for alms. Street begging is any systematic effort and activity which involve soliciting for food, money, clothes and other material objects to promote the sustenance and welfare of the beggars.”
Please, let us not take or consider street beggars as same with Almajiris.
It was in the early 2018, that I read in one of the prominent news dailies in the country that the Federal Capital Territory Minister, Malam Muhammad Bello, promised that “all street beggars would be apprehended and brought to the vocational and rehabilitation centre in Kuchiko, Bwari Area Council, Abuja.”
Whether the minister had fulfilled his promise or not is not the issue and it is obvious that, nothing or little was done in that regard, though, the astronomical increase in hardship in Nigeria and the unemployment rate among abled bodied men/women have not only resulted in criminalities but also increased in other vices like street begging.
It was on a Monday morning at about 6:37am, I was a bit late to have left for work because of the ‘usual’ traffic at Karu Bridge, because of the convergence of motorists from Mararraba axis, Karshi/Kurudu axis, and Karu village/site; at the foot of the bridge. At the point, there is a unit of both the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and the Directorate of Road Transport Service (DRTS), the popular VIO as well as passengers waiting for Taxis (Kabu-Kabu) and people crossing the highway from the Kugbo community. Nobody can escape the early morning traffic, which usually lasts till 10:30am, that is if there is no “broken down vehicle”on the route.
This early morning traffic is giving the opportunity for “beggars” around Karu village, Mararraba, Nyanya, Kugbo and environs to gather and settle for what they know how to do best – begging.
Women numbering about 25 or more, 15 children ranging from age one through seven years running in pursuit of motorists for alms, old men are also involved, some with various degrees of physical challenges. Most disturbing of all was the sight of those under-age children running in between vehicles: some playing, eating and even s answering the call of nature in the open.
As I drove to the convergence point, I stopped and asked the FRSC and DRTS officers on duty, why were they allowing such practice on the bridge, judging by the security implications attached. I alerted them that if a beggar is killed, what do they think that will happen? I told them that these people might mobilize from within and around the environs to stage a protest. Those officials told me that it is not their duties to chase the beggars away but that of Abuja Environmental Protection Agency (AEPA).
These wandering begging children, if not properly educated, will in turn become political thugs, hooligans, and other forms of criminalities in the future. As Obafemi Awolowo said: “the children of those you refused to educate, will be the ones who will deny your own children peace in the future.” States like Kaduna and Kano had made primary and secondary education free and compulsory. And the majority of these beggars come from the far Northern states of Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, etc, to the FCT and Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) that have a policy on street begging. Why not enforcie the policy? There are policies on open defecation, vocational, rehabilitation and welfare centre, which the FCTA spent billions of Naira, acquiring buses, mobilizes the security agents as well as social welfare staff for enforcement.
Little children are being hired, some are taken from Local Day Care Homes (Gidan Raino), working class women who cannot afford an organized Baby Day Care Homes/Centres take their children to Gidan Raino and those operators (women) will either rent the children out or do it by themselves.
And the vast majority of those practising this ugly trend of begging” are, with due respect, our brothers and sisters in Islam, not knowing what the religion of Islam says about Begging. During the time of the Second Caliph, Umar Bin Kattab (RTA), he met a man begging for food, the man was given and Umar (RTA) met him in another street begging again, he (Umar) ordered for the man to given some stroke of cane, to serve as deterrence for begging as a profession.
This ugly trend of begging on Karu Bridge, if not properly handled, can result in:
Traffic jam: The activities of the beggars on and around Karu Bridge, will increase in traffic log jam, this can also affect the man hour of the teaming middle class workers of the FCT and causes more stress as the workers cannot give their best at workplace.
Accidents: Criss-crossing of the beggars on and around the Karu Bridge, might cause serious Road Transport Accidents (RTA) and this can be avoided.
Stealing/traffic robbery: For those beggars lining up in large numbers, and some of those under-aged children running after people’s vehicles, begging for alms and knocking on windows/vehicle bodies, peeping into vehicles, infringing on motorists privacy, constituting nuisance. These are how traffic robbery started in major cities like Lagos, Kano, etc. A friend told me that, one day he was coming from work, around Nyanya Bridge someone took away bread he bought for his family as he forgot to winds up the rear glasses.
Inferiority complex: As a result of the beggars developing inferiority complex and loss of self-respect, self-confidence and dignity, they can be provoked easily to smash one’s vehicle. I witnessed an incidence when a driver gave a girl money and one boy was running to catch up but was not given, the boy started hitting the vehicle in annoyance. So, what will happen if provoked at a slightest chance?
Lack of education: Those children of the beggars on Karu Bridge need to be sent to schools in order not to become serious security threat in the future. Education is a great tool to avert insecurity of any nation. Researches had shown that, countries that take education serious like the Scandinavia: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, etc have low crime rate due to their level of education and awareness.
It is highly recommended that the FCTA should enforce its policy on street begging, rehabilitation, vocational and welfare centres.
Arrest and repatriate the beggars to their original states of origins and compelling the parents of the under-aged children to take them to school.
The National Assembly should enact a legislation on free and compulsory education from primary to secondary level across the country and criminalize refusal.
FCTA must cooperate and liaise with area councils and traditional institutions to discourage the patronage of Gidan Raino and possibly prosecute the operators/patrons.
– Fagge writes from Block 70, Igbo Street, Beside Total Academy Karu Site, FCT.