Street Begging: A Big Business In Lagos … State Govt. & NPF, Set to Stop the Menace

 

Although, street begging is not a recent development in Lagos state, the old time ‘Kano street’ headquarters for beggars, around Oyingbo axis, is a testimonial to the menace of street begging which, may be, is as old as the emergence of Lagos state itself. Since the establishment of Kano Street, other ‘beggars spots/branches’ are now springing in different parts of the ever busy state. It is therefore, not uncommon to see beggars, converged in different locations within the Lagos metropolis to beg for alms from, motorists, commuters, and any other person willing to hand them some naira notes.

 

To this end, the Lagos state government in collaboration with the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, have set up a special team to curb the prevalence and spread of street begging in the state.

At a press briefing, held at the Lagos State Press Centre, Alausa, Ikeja, on Wednesday, August 18, State Commissioner for Youth and Social Development, Mr. Olusegun Dawodu, in his welcome address said, a Special Team has been set up in collaboration with the Police command to reduce street begging in the State; which constitutes considerable nuisance to law-abiding citizens, who go about their lawful businesses.

 

“Beggars on our streets and roads constitute considerable nuisance to law abiding citizens, who are entitled to go about their businesses without any fear or hindrance.

The Commissioner stated and quoted a portion of the Nigeria’s constitution:

“For the purpose of clarity on this issue, Section 157{1(b) and(e) of the Criminal Law 2015, states that, nuisance is any person who prevents the public from having access to any part of a highway by an excessive and unreasonable use of it or does any unlawful act which causes inconveniences or damage to the public

He added that, street begging has become a big business from which some group of people within and outside the state, benefit from; and the ‘enrolment’ of innocent children in the business, is worrisome.

 

“This, has become big business to some groups of people. Our investigation revealed that beggars and hawkers (children and adults), are transported regularly from other parts of the country to Lagos, with the sole aim of doing this odious ‘business’ that demeans humanity and abuses innocence in the case of children, who are being pushed into this degrading trade.

He quoted,

“In the case of Children, Section 26 of the Childs Right Laws also makes this an offence. And Section 210 (7) prescribes a penalty of ten (10) years imprisonment.

 

He lamented that, persons who send people to the streets, have made a fortune from this inhuman trade without minding the effects of such ‘trade’ on the individuals, especially, children.

 

“These groups of people have turned alms begging and hawking into a huge business, by collecting returns from beggars and hawkers, who incidentally, sleep under the bridges, motor parks, uncompleted or abandoned buildings and other places not conducive for human habitation.

 

He added that, intelligence reports confirmed that, some of the ‘so-called’ beggars, go about with dangerous weapons, from which they assault and rob innocent Lagosians; and stressed, “as a government, we cannot afford to let this continue.”

Commissioner Dawodu, stated the penalties for the illegal business venture.

This is also well corroborated by Section 168 {1(b), (e) and (f)} as well as Section 276, which apart from prohibiting begging, goes further, to prescribe a penalty of Fifteen Thousand Naira (N15,000) for the first offence, and for every subsequent offence, to a time of Forty Five Thousand Naira (N45,000) or imprisonment for three months or both. An offender under this Section may be arrested without warrant; he declared.

 

He continued,

“Thus, a Special Team has been set up to tackle this menace frontally. The operation of this Special Team will commence in the next few days. The task we are undertaking is not only to sanitize our society, but also to restore the dignity of these set of people, who have been sent on to the streets, for alms begging and hawking.

 

In readiness for action, the Commissioner said, nooks and crannies in Lagos city, would be combed to rescue and rehabilitate street children and beggars, mentally deranged individuals and other destitute.

“Therefore, to tackle this menace, the Lagos State Government, through the Rehabilitation and Child Development Departments, of the Ministry of Youth and Social Development, has maintained a Rescue Unit, saddled with the responsibility of rescuing and protecting the destitute and the vulnerable. This we do by combing the nooks and crannies of Lagos State, to rescue and protect the destitute, mentally challenged, street children and beggars off the streets; and after being rescued, our rehabilitation Centres and child friendly homes, usually provide them with treatment, psychosocial therapy, and vocational training, with the aim of making them useful to themselves and the society.

He assured Lagosians that, the Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu led administration, will not fail to keep to the promises made despite the challenging problem of influx of people into the Centre of Excellence.

He affirmed that,

Lagos, with a population of over 20 million people, is one of the fastest growing cities in the world; with representatives of all the ethnic groups in the nation converging daily in the state just in search of a better life, which had put tremendous pressure on the State’s infrastructures and birthing other societal ills.

 

“If there is ever a time for us to roll up our sleeves, and toil day and night, for this menace to be confined to the dustbin of history in Lagos State, it is now… In embarking on this enforcement, we will also deploy a lot of human and material resources towards enlightenment and sensitization via different media platforms… The way to go now, is to enforce compliance with the laws of our state for sanity to reign in our society…

 

He emphasized that the road to the desired destination of ‘A Greater Lagos’, a responsible and responsive government like that of Sanwo-Olu, is expected to move to action:

“As a responsible and responsive government, the Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration will not fold its arms and watch the State become a haven for beggars, it will take action to curb this menace. Street begging is a social vice that we cannot afford to watch attain uncontrollable level before we act. Otherwise, all the good plans and programmes to transform our state would be adversely affected. The same goes for street hawking.

 

He encouraged, Lagosians to donate to registered homes and orphanages, instead of giving to street beggars.

“I would like to also use this medium to inform Lagosians that for us to succeed in this task, alms should be taken to recognised registered homes, orphanages, rehabilitation and faith based organizations, where they will be judiciously utilized for the right purpose of ameliorating the condition of the vulnerable. By so doing, we will be able to discourage street begging.

 

On the part of the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, CP, Akeem Odumosu, he said:

“Now the mission is very simple. The honourable Commissioner has enumerated everything. Our mission is to ensure that, all that has been talked about here, is effected.

 

CP Odumosu continued,

“We have discovered that some miscreants now take refuge in uncompleted buildings to perpetrate crime. We have arrested some people on wheelchairs, with dangerous weapons, such as cutlasses and other dangerous weapons, used to commit crime.

“It is a collaboration between the state government and the police, and we are here to appeal to those concerned, to stay off the roads in Lagos, and those who are or maybe their sponsors, to desist from this unwholesome act.”

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