Samuel Bello, Abuja
It appears that the days of ‘conventional’ street begging in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, are in the past. Many no longer bother to stand on the paved streets of the capital city to beg for alms.
Instead they ride with residents in buses, ‘occupy’ the gates an d premises of banks, churches, eateries, supermarkets and ATM points or cook up other gimmicks to make residents part with their money.
At the entrance of these places, beggars, mostly women who clutch little kids and handbags, are always on hand to approach anybody they sight.
Some residents told Daily Sun that, every day, beggars who often times are well-dressed, prance around the cityready to unleash different tricks to get money from Abuja residents.
When Daily Sun visited some banks in key sections of Abuja, several customers complained of how beggars would sit near ATM points and accost anybody that withdraws money. They lamented that the situation was creating fear among them.
Lanre Gbadamosi, a car dealer, narrated his encounter with the beggars: “One particular woman in my area comes up with different stories every time, just to beg for money. It has become a very dirty and addictive habit that she does not even recognize the people she uses the trick on anymore. I have seen her close to five times at a bank ATM stand in Garki.
“The first time she asked me for money, her strategy was to pretend she was trying to withdraw money but could not. She would wait for your money to start counting then she would start interacting with the person withdrawing. She would pretend to be shocked why her own ATM isn’t dispensing. Then she told me she was stranded and I had to give her money.”
Gbadamosi’s encounter with the same lady was not just a one-off thing. “The second time I saw her, I greeted her, thinking she was back on her feet, but she obviously could not recognise me because she talks to many people. I asked her if the ATM was working and she said no because she had been trying it since. She said she was on her way to Kaduna and I should help her even if it was N2,000, so I gave her.
“The next time I saw her, she said she bought some things at H-Medix and her card was not dispensing that all she needs is something to eat for dinner. That was when I got angry and confronted her that she should stop cooking up stories and beg if she wants to beg. I didn’t give her anything that day; I just left her there. After that day I still saw her again but didn’t give her room to even talk to me.
“I saw her speaking Hausa with a man that eventually gave her money. I was wondering why she had to be doing that just to survive; she is a very lazy person. One night, unfortunately for the woman, a worker in the bank who noticed her standing by the ATM longer than usual, had to call police officers who eventually told her to leave after several arguments that drew serious attention. She said she was waiting for someone that told her to wait at the ATM. The officers tried to reason with her and told her to stand somewhere else, but she refused and kept arguing. The officers had no other choice but to bundle her out of the premises.” Ahmed Azmak narrated his experience at cash machine stands this way: “A guy also tried it with me at the Diamond Bank ATM stand in Wuse 2 and said he needed some money for his daughter and, after looking at him, because of this sincerity he was wearing on his face, I gave him some money. Another person I can remember was one that said his wife put to bed that she gave birth to twins but needed to be operated. I told him I don’t have because the story had to many ups and downs and then he left.
“They don’t enter the bank, they stay on the walkways in between both places. Immediately they see people walking out, if you are not driving, they block you and download tragic stories on you that would start pinching your feelings. Some women also team up with area boys to beg for money from people at the Atiku Campaign Organisation building outside. Some of them resume there as early as possible, in case a very wealthy person shows up there for one reason or the other.”
Apart from ATMs, it was discovered that the beggars also stay outside churches, big restaurants, banks, lounges, gardens and filling stations among others.
According to Collins Nnabuife, a Catholic, “Every Sunday, It is very annoying. I witness it every time. Men and women coming to beg for money; some of them even come with their children to beg for money. At first, I was giving but it got to a point I stopped. You will see them on Sundays streaming out of church after service. Some of them attend churches and immediately they share the grace they start meeting people to beg for money. Some of them even go as far to tell you to go to the ATM to withdraw.
“I am a Christian and I try my best to take my offering seriously. Sometimes, I don’t pay and the best way I try to clear my conscience is to give to the less privileged as much as I can. But when I noticed these people, especially familiar ones who cook up several stories just to collect small money that would not do anything in their lives, I gave up on them. Even filling stations where attendants are being paid salary monthly, they still beg for money and pad it up with stories just to fleece you of your money.”
Joy Falaju feels differently about the situation. She said, “Anybody can be found in a tight situation that even if he explains to you, you won’t believe it. But the truth is, believing it shouldn’t be the matter but realising that it is not in our place to judge, but to exercise the best empathy that we can. Give what you can and always be thankful that you are not in their place. Along with giving, say a silent prayer that the person’s needs are met, rather than blaming the individual. Think about the social i justice that has caused so many to be reduced to beggars.
“Go with your heart, inform your conscience, decide on your principle on giving alms to beggars, decide on how you are going to act if you think a beggar is conning you and stick with your decisions. Also, don’t forget to offer it up to your God in prayer and ask him to guide your decisions.”