The Babatunde Fashola administration has warned against the operation of beggars in several parts of Lagos state. The warning was taken to an elevated level yesterday when it arraigned 39 beggars at the Special Offences Court in Alausa, Ikeja for soliciting alms.
According to Punch, the government said the beggars constituted public nuisance, adding that it would no longer be business as usual as any beggar found on the streets of Lagos would be prosecuted.
Their charge sheet stated that the beggars were parading themselves as disorderly persons without viable means of livelihood, thereby committing an offence under the criminal law of Lagos State.
The report further stated that they were also accused of conducting themselves in a manner likely to cause breach of peace as well as for receiving unauthorised levy from persons and thus committed offence punishable under the law on illegal collection of dues in public places.
The 39 beggars pleaded guilty to the offences and were consequently remanded in Kirikiri and Badagry Prisons. However, nine of them were then taken to the state Rehabilitation Home, Majidun, Ikorodu as a result of their disabilities. They were sentenced to several hours of community service, some with the option of N5,000 and N10,000 fines, and some without the option of fine.
The statement made by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Youth and Social Development Dolapo Badru defending the state government raises new grounds for a debate.
He said the state government decided to commence the prosecution of beggars because it had exhausted all avenues to take them off the road adding that they have tried to make some of them learn a trade but they don’t want to work.
“Some people believe that if they are unlucky in certain cases, what they need to do is to give alms to beggars so that their fortune can change. A lot of beggars now prey on these people’s superstitious beliefs to get money from them. Many of them pretend to be blind or crippled. They make more money than many employed people.”