7th March, 2011
Lagosians have loved and hated the incumbent governor of the state, Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, for many reasons but many have loved him more for his concern for the environment, especially keeping Lagos streets clean and beautiful for both residents and visitors.
At the beginning of his tenure, the governor ordered the streets cleared of beggars and promised Lagosians that government would keep them off the streets. He kept the promise by banning beggars from the streets of Lagos. He even went further by setting up a task force to ensure the beggars did not default. Some of the beggars were rounded up and taken back to their states of origin but somehow, most of them found their way back to Lagos, a state they believe flows with milk and honey.
Agreed, the economy is bad and several people have had to take to begging to survive but the menace of begging in such places as airports and five-star hotels is sad. No place is sacred to these beggars as they daily line the streets and highways soliciting for alms.
Some of those who come from the Northern part of the country include the lame and the blind but those from the Southern part of Nigeria are most times just plain lazy folks who discovered that begging in Lagos is lucrative.
One sad aspect of the problem is that some of the beggars are organised to fully exploit the kindness of Lagosians. Some of the disabled ones are brought in vehicles or wheelbarrows very early in the morning and are again picked up late in the evening. The proceeds are shared with their minders.
Others wear rags, carry babies, especially twins and triplets and either roam the highways or sit at strategic positions and beg passers-by for alms.
Gradually, the beggars are again taking over and becoming a menace to road users and even motorists at traffic lights, public car parks and markets. Restaurants and bars are not left out and these beggars ply their trade till late at night.
On Lagos Island, Surulere, Yaba, Onipanu (Ikorodu Road), Ikeja, Maryland, Ojota and Oshodi, one cannot walk 10 metres without being approached by an unkempt, malnourished and often stinking individual begging for alms.
They look so bad that one is forced to part with some money, just to get them off your back. It is that bad.
Lagos State government must renew its efforts at tackling the problem of begging and its attendant nuisance. We cannot continue to subject tourists to the whims of these individuals. This embarrassment must be stopped, even if it means outlawing begging in certain areas. Enough of the embarrassment.