9 February 2013

Nigeria: Clampdown On Lagos Beggars


This Tuesday, a court in Lagos sentenced 30 beggars to jail for constituting themselves into public nuisance, among other related offences. The government of Lagos State, it seems, is determined to eradicate street begging and also rid the streets of urchins. The state government has put in place rehabilitation centres that come with skills acquisition programmes.

The efforts of the government must be recognised for what it is: a development strategy aimed at enhancing the individual's capacity for self-development and enable him to build a better life for himself. The refusal of the beggars to go to the rehabilitation centres is a matter of grave concern to all well-meaning people. The question that begs an answer is why any sane person would want to live the miserable life of a beggar.

Whatever money is made from this degrading "profession" cannot make up for all the indignity and humiliation suffered in the hands of law enforcement agents. The Nigerian political and economic situation needs to be thoroughly examined and evaluated to determine the underlying cause of such pervert preference for misery by a population of mostly abled-bodied men and women. The most disheartening part of the phenomenon is the introduction of children to this annoying, disgusting, and disgraceful "profession".

At that impressionable age, the children who are our collective future are corrupted and exposed to a life of loafing; their inherent capabilities are truncated, leaving them empty shells. This is one big danger we must contend with and this is why we call on government at all levels to address the issue of youth unemployment and also take a look at our socio-economic environment that encourages begging.

It has become a way of life for many: you have to beg the political godfathers to get nominated if you are a political aspirant. You beg the state governor to allow the state House of Assembly to pass bills. We have to beg to get budgets and important bills signed. We have to beg in order to retain our positions and stay on our jobs.

They call it "lobbying" but it is simply glorified begging. The difference is that one is on the streets and the order takes place behind closed doors. Both don't require special skills or merit and the dividends are probably worth it for those who undertake to operate in that mode. We are a nation of consumers and rent seekers; street begging is just one of the many negative fallouts of a system that has failed itself.

It is beyond superstition. The motivating factor is just the lack of will to engage in any meaningful endeavour. However, the Lagos State government should not relent in its efforts to develop its people despite the challenges. We must not fall prey to apologists who make reference to the lack of an enabling environment. Lagos is right and deserves a pat on the back.

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