Isaac Anumihe, Abuja
Begging in Nigeria has assumed an alarming dimension to the extent that both the weak and strong have turned it into a lucrative business. There are different types of beggars. There are executive beggars, physically challenged ones and pretenders.
Executive beggars are those that dress like corporate executives who usually ask for money to complete their transport fare; while the physically challenged ones are those who have been weakened by illnesses or accidents.
Principal, Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Rehabilitation Centre, Bwari, Mr Bala Musa, said 90 per cent of the beggars in Abuja are fake, pretentious lot, who can easily mimic sufferers of any ailment or deformity to attract sympathy from unsuspecting members of the public:
“Many of them are pretending, 90 per cent of the beggars in Abuja pretend to be disabled. One man was caught and brought to my centre. When I saw him begging outside with closed eyes, I told people that he was not blind. Then I asked if he could recognise my voice. When he opened his eyes and saw me he ran away. Then people ran after him and caught him.”
He also gave an instance of a hooded woman beggar who they unveiled and discovered that she had no deformity: “The problem most people don’t understand is that some states have started enacting laws prohibiting begging. Because of that, beggars in such states run away from those states and come to Abuja. But when the FCT Task force brings them to the rehabilitation centre, we will interview them and see the possibility of rehabilitating them. However, the influx is so much.
“It is not the responsibility of FCT administration to take care of all the people with disabilities from other states. Their states too, should take the responsibility. What we do now is that as long as you don’t belong to FCT and you come in the name of begging, we repatriate you to your state. That is what normally happens.”
He confessed it would not be easy to flush beggars from the streets: “It is not going to be easy except FCT enacts a law prohibiting begging. That is the only way out. And there is no law in this country that prohibits people from moving to other states.
This is a big issue that most times the law does not cover. But I assure you that anyone you see on the streets begging, he has just come to Abuja from another state.”
Some of the beggars who spoke to Daily Sun through an interpreter, disclosed that they have been in the business for decades and may not leave the business at old age.
Confirming what the principal of the rehabilitation centre said, some of them admitted they were from different states like Nasarawa, Kano, Kaduna and Katsina.
For instance, a supposedly blind middle-aged woman, Aisha Magodo, said she came from Nasarawa State and that she has been begging all her life. She makes an average of N1,000 a day. She also said she has not heard about FCT Rehabilitation Centre.
Abdulrasheed Musa is in his thirties. The wound on his left leg is still fresh with bandage soaked with blood. He was knocked down by a hit-and-run driver. As he had no money to treat himself, he resorted to begging. He also claimed not to have heard about the FCT Rehabilitation Centre.
For Maimuna, what qualifies her to beg was that she has a month-old baby. She wraps the baby at her back and solicits for money.
She claimed she had no money to take care of the baby as the father of the baby abandoned her and the baby and fled to an unknown destination. Similarly, Maimuna said she has not heard about the rehab centre.