Determined to eradicate public alms begging in the state, the Special Offences Court sitting in the Alausa area of Ikeja, Lagos, has sent 30 beggars to Kirikiri and Badagry prisons for soliciting alms, and other offences.
The government, in its bid to let the beggars and sponsors know that it is longer going to be business as usual, charged them to court for constituting nuisance to the public by begging for alms.
The attorney-general of Lagos State, Mr. Ade Ipaye, who was the prosecutor in the case, slammed some count charges against the beggars which include conducting themselves as disorderly persons without visible means of livelihood and thus committed an offence under the Criminal Law of Lagos State.
They were also charged for conducting themselves in a manner likely to cause breach of peace and for receiving, demanding and or collecting dues or unauthorised levy from persons and thus committed offence punishable under the law on illegal collection of dues in public places.
The beggars, 39 in number, pleaded guilty to the offences and were consequently sent to Kirikiri and Badagry prisons for one month pending when the final judgement would be meted out to them.
Nine of them, as a result of their disabilities were rejected by prison officials and were then taken to the Lagos State Rehabilitation Home, Majidun, Ikorodu, on the outskirts of Lagos.
Our correspondent gathered that some of the beggars prosecuted were said to have attacked government officials during a rampage at the Lagos State Rehabilitation Home, Majidun, the place where they were being rehabilitated.
In another ligation process, a set of 13 beggars were also arraigned on Friday by the government at the same Special Offences Court.
Three of the beggars were sentenced for 72 hours community service or pay a fine of N5,000, while 10 others were sentenced to three month imprisonment or pay a fine of N10,000 each.
Three others were sentenced directly to 72 hours community service without the option of fine.
Confirming the state government's action, the special adviser to the governor of Lagos State on youth and social development, Dr. Dolapo Badru, said government decided to begin prosecution of beggars because it had exhausted its patience with them.
"We still rehabilitate some of them, but most of them don't want to be rehabilitated and they don't want to work. They feel more comfortable preying on people with superstitious beliefs," he said. "Some people believe that if they are unlucky in certain cases or looking for certain ways to make it in life, what they need to do is to give alms to beggars so that their fortune can change. Some believe that if someone debars their progress in life, what they need to do is to give money to beggars to change their fortune. Lots of beggars now prey on these people's superstitious beliefs to get money from them. Many of them pretend to be blind, cripple, among others. They make more money than many people gainfully employed."
Badru added that the cosmopolitan nature of Lagos had made it possible for barons to shift beggars to the metropolis to beg for alms, making lots of money. Many of them felt so comfortable begging for alms on roads, he said.
He lamented that the state government had tried to rehabilitate the beggars by making some of them learn a trade, saying they didn't want to work.
"Some of them don't want to use the skill we taught them to work, but they prefer to be on the road because they make more money at a go than using their skills," he added.