Influx of Destitute in Ondo
THE potential threat of begging to the Nigerian societal fabric is obvious in its negative implications to security, social, environmental, and economic survival. Despite sustained efforts by the current administration in Ondo State to discourage and rid the state of the increasing number of beggars on our streets, the situation appears irredeemable. When sometimes out of frustration, the state government goes tough on them, the mendicants disappear for a while, only to return in even larger number, as soon as they notice that the heat has been relaxed.
APPARENTLY dissatisfied with the development, Ondo State government has assured that it would evacuate the panhandlers before the end of the year. The Acting Permanent Secretary, State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Mr. Tope Lebile, while reacting to the influx of destitute across major roads in the state and the implications, said that the Ministry was aware and had a plan to address it.
“THEY are constituting security risks, not only in Akure but also other major towns, and it is the Ministry’s duty to ensure they are evacuated. The evacuation also have some implications, if we are going to do so by keeping them off the streets, it means that we must house them by putting them in a place, do the profiling to know which State they came from and then repatriate them back to their states.”
ASIDE the fact that destitute seem to operate in every nook and cranny of the metropolis, many of them also harass residents in the process of begging for alms, which some residents are not finding funny. Some of the popular spots, where the beggars, who some sources say are mostly from the Northern part of the county, usually assemble include
Post Office, Oja-Oba, pedestrian bridge along Adesida Road, Old Garage, and S.O, among others, all in Akure, the Ondo State capital.
AS early as 6a.m, the male and female beggars, alongside their children, are already gathered to beg for alms from commuters rushing to their various places of work. While some of the beggars are nursing mothers, others have adolescent children whom they usually force to run after passersby to solicit for alms. Some of them, from how they operate, look like professional beggars that have been in the business for decades. Frequently, the younger ones among them meander between vehicles whenever there is traffic jam, knocking on car windscreen or stretching their hands inside commercial vehicles to beg for money.
WITH the level of insecurity in the country, the presence of these beggars poses security threat to us as a people and we believe they should not be ignored. They have no definite or permanent homes and cannot be traced to any address in case there is a need to do so. They sleep at any available space including shops on Oba Adesida Road, in the heart of Akure.
FOR a fact, panhandling is alien to our culture in Ondo State as an average citizen pride himself on his success through hard work, The Hope urges the Permanent Secretary to make real his words of ridding the state of destitute. We feel it is dangerous to continue to harbor them because we believe these people could be recruited by criminals even with a token and used for criminal activities in the state.
THE Hope also calls on security agents to do more on border surveillance to prevent these panhandlers who they say are being dropped by trailers from the North at night or early in the morning from entering the state. Destitute also pose environmental dangers. They reside in, cook and erect illegal structures on the streets, defecate and generate all kinds of waste. Their social conducts are dangerous and capable of promoting infectious diseases like cholera since they defecate anywhere. Nigeria, embarrassingly among countries with highest open defecation statistics, lost 3,598 persons to cholera in 2021.
THE Hope urges the state government to adopt the Lagos state model by returning them to where they came from without delay to serve as deterrent to others. We also suggest appropriate data for citizens for proper documentation while calling on NGOs and faith based organisations to help rehabilitate those who are mentally deranged so that our state could be free of destitute. We equally task the state government to establish rehabilitation centres and revive the programme of permanently clearing public spaces of the destitute. This can be achieved by putting in place a special task force to curtail this ugly menace.
IN view of the negative implications and activities of these so-called beggars, coupled with the current security challenges in the country, we strongly canvass that beggars and other miscreants on the streets of Ondo masquerading as alms seekers be removed without further delay.