Making it to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), is all beggars from some African countries pray for. They are trooping to the seat of power in thousands.
Officials of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), are grappling with the increasing number of these beggars and destitute in the city center and other major satellite towns. Some residents linked the development to insecurity in many African countries.
The beggars are mostly women and children with neither formal education, nor skills. With no option left and quest for survival, the foreigners alongside their children mobilised to the streets of Abuja for a means of survival. They are applying unique methods to outsmart local beggars, thus making more fortune than them.
On daily basis, the beggars receive serious heat and chase from the AEPB task force team who are bent on evacuating them from the streets of Abuja to some rehabilitation centres. But that has not deterred them from reappearing the next day.
The endless chase and unfriendly environment created by AEPB officials, apparently, has made it a bit difficult for them to operate freely. However, they unleash their “arsenal” in the night when state officials might have closed for the day.
Many others who could not withstand the “heat” were forced to move down to major satellite towns in Abuja to ply their trade. There, they operate freely during the day and night with limited or no disturbance from state officials.
Themselves and their children are fully unleashed on compassionate Nigerians for alms and they make unimaginable fortunes on daily basis. The presence of these alien beggars could be conspicuous in Wuse and Utako markets, and other major markets in Abuja. They are also found in Kubwa, Nyanya, Gwagwalada, Garki and Jabi Motor Park.
More worrisome is that children who are supposed to be in school are the key players in the exercise. For instance, they are unleashed on commuters at various bus stops to ask for alms.
Some Abuja residents expressed serious concern about the future of the children. The fact they are denied family and societal love, education, training and others could be security concern for the society.
A motorist at Jabi Motor Park, George Uwana, said the activities of these foreign beggars should get urgent attention of the government, “because they are increasingly becoming nuisance and security threat to the society.”
He said passengers had on several occasions, alleged that their valuables were stolen by these kid-beggars, who in most cases, appear innocent and harmless: “Their mothers have taught and trained them on how to appear gentle, harmless but hostile. Their mothers would ‘perch’ one corner and be guiding them on how and when to ‘strike’. Aside the normal begging, their mothers monitor peoples’ movement and those that are careless with their valuables.
“The children are then asked to go after passengers’ belongings. They often succeed in most cases except in few ones. Hunger, bitterness, poverty seem to have taken away the innocent mind in the children and replaced it with hostility.”
In other areas, the children run after pedestrians or bystanders with handkerchiefs cleaning their shoes or trousers, and in some cases, car windscreen for a token. They usually become hostile when they are denied the token.
In Karu and Nyanya axis, both the children of local and expatriate beggars are unleashed on commuters. It is indeed a fierce competition for survival. The children and their parents take strategic positions at various bus stops and carefully target passengers who might want to collect N50 or N100 change from commercial drivers. They would go after the passenger, cause serious disturbance and embarrassment until something is dropped for them.
A passenger at Nyanya, Abuja, Idris Bello, said he used to show compassion to the children and their parents especially at the peak of the Boko Haram activities in the North. He said he stopped giving out money to the children when he noticed that the children are being used for business:
“I noticed the children and their parents enjoy begging and they are making fortunes than the person giving the money. In fact, I became very strong in my decision after the 2019 presidential election when I saw that these same people who are being impoverished by their ruling class overwhelming voted for them again.
“With no apologies to anyone, I have put a stop to giving money to these women and their children on the street, and I have no regret about it. You can imagine that they are increasing in number and breeding in a hopeless situation. That is a serious social and security threat to the society.”
Some FCT residents appreciated the efforts of the AEPB to sanitise the society, and suggested that new approach be adopted to achieve a better result. They challenged the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and other relevant government agencies to go after the alien beggars and return them to their countries.
Additionally, it was suggested that NIS should wake up from its “official slumber” and tackle the issue of influx of foreign nationals into Nigeria for crime and other social vices.