They jump at you at the slightest pause of traffic light on the road. At night, in the early hours of the morning and day time, able bodied citizens roam the streets and highways; they do nothing but wait on another for their daily meal.
Most people see nothing wrong in giving alms to a ‘beggar’ with all his members in good working condition, because he has found no good use for his limbs; rather, he is quite comfortable by the roadside with his plates outstretched for a drop of ‘mercy’.
The act and art of begging is the lowest level one can condescend in life, because he is helpless or has lost the use of one part of the body or the other, but if so, is unable to help himself or has no means of sustenance. But today, the veil of shame is folded and hidden by the corner, and able-bodied men and women chase their equals on streets or roads for their daily bread. Equals, in the sense that these group of people who term themselves as helpless ought to be part of the workers, farmers or business men and women that make up the workforce of the country.
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It is a big shame that some Nigerians have lost some sense of decency and self respect, they reduce themselves to nothing, and at the same time, turn themselves into nothing but desperate nuisance on the road or streets. In Nigeria today, there are thousands of opportunities to gain from, but many are not willing to get engaged, rather they reduce themselves to nothing but beggars on the streets or highways. This does not paint a good image of the country, but government still refuses to look into this important issue.
Each day, their numbers increase and as though Nigeria turns to harbour what would likely turn to a generation of beggars in the near future. Some people have refused to work, but sit on roadsides, and at the slightest opportunity, they pounce on cars in the name of begging. Some have grown too aggressive, that they curse or hit the side of people’s cars when they are not offered money. Which way Nigeria? Do we continue to encourage laziness and liability or do we get up and get usefulness?
In the early hours of the morning, in dark corners, it is difficult to miss the figure that lurks in the dark; most would either look away or withdraw into thicker darkness when they see someone come their way, while some take it as an advantage to attack with a knife or in their numbers. These well meaning citizens rise early to work by the roadside, the same time factory workers, office workers, business men and women and so on leave for work.
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They sit on pavements, on hard rocks or just position themselves at strategic places, so as to descend on any on coming car. Pedestrians are too scared to take certain walkways to see to their business, while motorists quickly wind up their glass to avoid being harassed or robbed, in certain cases. This issue of roadside begging ought to be re-examined, because a population explosion of roadside beggars might occur in the not too far future.
In some parts of Nigeria, this aspect of roadside begging has become an official work of its own. Very early in the morning, a truck drops them at strategic points, and their pimps hang around or sit with them to monitor their activities, and at the end of the day, they are taken home. On the other hand, it is obvious that there would be a mark out of territory, thus, the birth of a new kind of gang group which could lead to war if not put to an end. The questions boils down to one thing: who is responsible for their transportation from their homes?
It is a pity that many of those that come to beg for money are underaged children, and not too far from them, one can see a grown man or woman, and at each point this child is given money, she runs to place it at her master’s feet. Most women go to the extent of renting out their children to other women, who carry them about, in disguise in order to buy empathy from well meaning Nigerians.
Africa’s culture abhors begging; in fact, Africa upholds hard work, but on the other hand, some religion seems to celebrate roadside beggars; and it seems that it would never leave the streets of Lagos, Enugu, Sokoto, and many more states.
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It is not surprising that in Nigeria, there are people who suffer one disability or the other, but are dutifully engaged in one work or the other: one’s disability does not mean that he can’t make something out of his life. Unfortunately, one see able bodied men and women, children who ought to be in school, begging in broad day. Most people attest to the fact that these beggars blatantly refuse to work in their effort to offer them employment, this shows that they have resigned to be pests to the rest of the working class. In fact, they hold the working class responsible each day they go without food.
With the way the population of roadside beggars increase, it is obvious that very soon, Nigeria stands the chance of high increase in crime, prostitution, population explosion, economic draw back, and much more. The privilege given to able-bodied citizens, turned roadside beggars, might not speak well for Nigeria economically in the nearest future, because a good measure of population of the country’s workforce would certainly reduce, since you have more beggars than workers: the country will cost much more to run or maintain, and there will be more burden on tax payers.
On the other hand, it is right to point out that most times, these beggars are exposed to danger: underage children are either raped, kidnapped or fall victims to sexual predators, cars often knock them down and some just disappear and nobody asks questions.
Government seems less concerned about the menace caused by the community of able-bodied men and women that have chosen the noble profession of roadside begging. It is a shame that a good number of her citizens see roadside begging as the only means of survival or sustenance. Government should never encourage such activities on roadsides. There should be a form of control to this issue in order to safeguard well meaning citizens against unnecessary harassment, the country’s image and beggars on her roads.
Written by Oluoma Udemezue