By Ikechukwu Okaforadi
Disturbed by the menace of street begging in the country, the Senate has called on the federal government to formulate a policy that would integrate almajiris into the educational system so that they could be discouraged from being used for begging.
The upper legislative chamber also want the government at federal and state levels to establish vocational training centres to provide beggars with alternative means of livelihood thereby making them useful to the society.
These followed a motion to that effect by Senator Abdullahi Sankara, APC Jigawa North-West and co-sponsored by 26 others.
Presenting the motion, Sankara noted with concern “the exponential increase in the scourge of street begging and the nuisance it constitutes on the streets of many cities across the country.”
He said “though street begging is a global urban problem, the situation in Nigeria appears intractable and overwhelming as beggars are now found everywhere, especially at motor parks, religious centres, road junctions, venues of ceremonies and other public places.”
“Beggars in the past are people with physical and mental challenges. In recent times, there appears to be a new trend of beggars in town, popularly known as corporate beggars who take advantage of the sympathy of the public for the less privileged to remain jobless and at times perpetrate crimes in the name of street begging,” he further stressed.
Sankara regretted that while “the system that produced the almajiris is still very much in existence, its economic support tools have largely been discarded with the neglect of the government.”
According to him, street begging did not only affects the geographical and social structure of urban areas, it also portrays the country in a bad image to tourists and foreign visitors.
The lawmaker added that it has become a worrisome socio-economic challenge beside being a serious menace and liability on the populace “as it takes a heavy toll on the lives of teenagers who either act as guides to beggars or even engage in the act themselves and therefore are out of school.”
Contributing, the Deputy Chief Whip, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abullahi, APC Niger North, described street and ‘corporate’ begging as a serious issue which needed urgent attention of all, noting that the almajiris system has been bastardized by some individuals and groups for selfish reasons.
Also, Senators Emmanuel Bwacha, PDP Taraba South and Rochas Okorocha, APC Imo West, stressed the need to address the menace “since it is assuming a dangerous dimension in Nigeria.”