By AbdulYassar AbdulHamid
Our societies are facing diverse and difficult socioeconomic problems that have both direct and indirect social and physical implications.
What first comes to the mind when analyzing such nuisance is: how will our society look like in some years to come with street begging in the rise? What measures our governments and other social institutions are putting in place to address this social menace?
Of recent, there has been the issue of increasing drug and substance abuse, widely reported in many media outlets and which is yet to be addressed or regulated.
One of such issues is the BBC’s 2nd May report on substances abuse titled ‘Sweet Sweet Codeine – inside Nigeria’s deadly cough syrup trade” and which has received a warm reception from the federal government and attracted responses from different levels of governments.
Now street begging is stealing the show; it will not come as a surprise that begging has been institutionalized, with many young and old, male and female beggars inundating our streets. The idea of stigmatizing beggars is no longer there. Some beggars are begging out passion and pride.
Street begging is increasingly becoming not only a social menace, but also a dangerous practice nowadays. The trend is shifting from traditional begging when beggars go from door to door, begging for food leftovers or cast-off clothes. Begging today has been reshaped, many vices have been engrafted to it and it is being glorified by many people that today.
Many beggars have taken up begging as a life-long source of sustenance or means of livelihood .They, as business owners, have time for opening their perceived businesses and when to close. They keep small denominations of money in case of change when their clients are in need of some. Perhaps in the future, some may even carry POS machines for crediting of alms into their bank accounts with the ‘business’ becoming more and more sophisticated! You know nothing is impossible under this sun.
Early in the morning, beggars and their guides (mostly sons or daughters) line themselves by the streets waiting for their clients who in some cases arrive in droves. They often refuse to disclose their day earnings; but reports have it that in a commercial nerve center like Kano Sate or Lagos State a beggar can get up to N3,000 a day – when calculated, the beggar’s monthly earning is more than four times the N18,000 minimum wage paid to the hapless Nigerian worker.
There is no gainsaying the fact environmental factors, government’s policies and the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor contribute to the making of beggars and begging; but even those assumed causes should not justify the dimension begging is taking these days.
Despite the environmental, security and health threats beggars’ pose to our societies, especially those among them struggling with infectious diseases, the number of beggars on our streets is rising by the day.
In 2007 when I was managing one of my father’s business outlets, I met one beggar upon whose head, feet and hands were Atopic dermatitis (skin rashes that make skin red and itchy) and ringworms. The boy was busy scratching his arms and neck. When I called him nearer, I noticed that his skin had come off in many places.
Apart from this, as many analysts have claimed, beggars are economically unproductive in almost any way and criminals may pretend begging by dressing like the ones to achieve their nefarious missions, beggars significantly contribute to heaps of festering waste dumping in almost every place, which is undoubtedly hazardous to public health and may lead to environmental pollution.
Of course, government at almost every level has been employing street sweepers to keep streets clean especially in our cities; but has that rid our streets of heaps of wastes? The answer is no. beggars have the habit of accumulating and gathering dirty materials which they keep as belongings by the roads.
However, beggars are at risk of carrying a greater health risk compared to other members of the society. This is because their vagrant lifestyle exposes them to health problems and make them easy target and vulnerable to criminals. They sleep by the streets, in front of shops, in uncompleted houses or under bridges.
I still remember a female beggar who lives in our neighbourhood; she and her guide-daughter used to pass by our house. Many people were shocked when the pale-looking daughter was impregnated. Neither the mother nor the daughter really knew who was responsible for the pregnancy.
Some months later she gave birth to a baby girl. Both the mother and the daughter died following the childbirth, probably, because there was nobody to provide them with either medical services or food. And the old woman has gone mad.
This is one example out of tens of beggars’ female guides who have been abused and others impregnated and left at the mercy of labour, madwomen notwithstanding.
Ubiquitous presence of beggars is everywhere. They are visible at public places, motor parks, places of worship, school campuses, hospitals, ATMs. They are very good at timing when salary is due so that they will be at salary earners’ heels.
On 26th July, 2018, my elder brother sent me to an ATM to withdraw some amount for him for he was travelling to a neighbouring state the following day. While waiting on the queue, I was so startled of how beggars strode to approach those who withdrew some amount, feigning gnawing hunger or acute pain. What impression does this give to an outsider?
Consider the way beggars today obstruct free flow of traffic. One must be extra-vigilant to steer away clear of them, for they do not give it a damn. The cripples will wheel carelessly between rows of cars and motorcycles begging for alms.
Many beggars, although, may look like ones, are double agents. They beg and act as liaison between prostitutes and rich men. They have their codes and sign language that only few persons who are within the circle can understand.
On Sunday 5th August, 2018, a commercial motorcycle rider narrated one heart-breaking story to me. “I was conveying a passenger to a company”, he started, “when I saw somebody parking his car some meters away from where the beggars of the area took their places. At once, I saw all the beggars crowding around the car and hailing the owner of the car. At that very moment when they ringed the car, one fine looking and well-dressed girl sneaked into the car.
To my utmost surprised, the beggars, about 99% were old women, dispersed waiving at the driver and he ignited his car and drove away. Abdul, this is begging for you today.”
To be continued
AbdulYassar AbdulHamid wrote in from Kano and can be reached on; firstname.lastname@example.org