Despite the Kano State ban on street begging and subsequent measures imposed by the state government to rid streets in the state of out-school-children, beggars are exploring new means to stay in business.
Parent beggars in the state are now initiating their children, including females, into pecuniary vehicle cleaning, a development Kano residents frown at.
An army of rag-bearing children, as little as five-year-old, storm strategic locations in the state every morning to clean vehicles of commuters and earn a token in return.
Zainab Gallery along Murtala Muhammed Way, France Road/Igbo Road, France Road/Galadima, Kofar Famfo along BUK Road, Kofar Kabuga along Gwarzo Road, Ibrahim Taiwo Road, Hajj Camp along Katsina Road are some of the streets witnessing the influx of child vehicle cleaners.
Daily Trust gathered that orphans and children from families sacked by insurgents in the north and victims of banditry in the North West form a significant percentage of the practitioners.
The new invention “is a refined way of begging and that is the source of their bread,” said a vendor.
He said, “They play, eat, have their nap and even fight there. It’s terrifying to see children as little as these catering for themselves in such a busy road.”
In 2020, the Kano State Government placed a ban on street begging, saying stringent measures would follow to enforce the policy; but since then, beggars in the state have resorted to clever means to bypass the order.
The Ganduje administration said the ban was part of its effort to fully actualize the free and compulsory basic and secondary education it had declared and to integrate the Almajiris system of education into the policy.
‘We’re responding to hunger’
Some of the practitioners told Daily Trust that they were responding to hunger, as they do not have anyone to provide for them.
Thirteen-year-old Khadijat, who was glancing off from one lane to another at Zainab Gallery along Murtala Muhammed Way with a three-year-old boy strapped to her back, said she was on the street based on the orders of her mother.
“I haven’t taken my breakfast (it was 10am) as I have nothing to eat. I, my sisters and my mother eat from what I earn from the street.
A 14-year-old Maryam, 9-year-old Zainab and 5-year-old Auwal are all from the same family. Every morning they march onto a street in search of food.
According to Khadijat, three of them and their mother leave Dantamashe in Ungogo Local Government Area of the state at the dust for Ahmadu Belle Way and roam the street until it is dead dark.
“While our mother hides somewhere around the street to avoid people’s rebuke, we go to the street to partly beg and partly clean motorcycles, tricycles and car windshields and the owners give us money and sometimes food in return.
Khadijat said her family is ready to let go of the act if they can get a start-up capital to start a business.
She said, “I hardly raise N150 a day and we have to eat, wash and bathe every day. It’s very difficult for us.”
Recipe for disaster – sociologist
A lecturer at the Department of Sociology, Bayero University Kano, Aminu Sabo Danbazau, who described the practice as a professional way of begging, said the presence of the children in the street is pointing to the possibility of an increase in deviant activities that will “consequently increase the rate of criminality in the society.”
Dambazau said, “The presence of these children in the street in the name of vehicle cleaning is pointing to a great security challenge in the future as many of the children will graduate as mobile phone snatchers, drug abusers or highway robbers.”
Danbazau blamed bad leadership and poor child socialization as both parents and government have failed in their responsibilities.
The don said due to artificial poverty imposed on Nigerians, some parents do not have time for their children anymore.
A security analyst and the Director Care for Solution Consultancy Security Services, Detective Auwal Bala Durumin-Iya, said research they conducted has shown that some of the children roaming the streets of Kano are criminal informants.
Durumin-Iya said, “Based on research we conducted, some of the children are working for thieves, kidnappers and other criminal elements.
“Of course, you will not see them with cell phones, but they are hired by criminals, who sit by the road, to spy and inform them about people’s movements.”
He added, “Our findings also show that there are houses in Kano where the children pay N50 a day to sleep, while some of them sleep in motor parks and on the streets.
“They are potential recruits for criminal since they directly or indirectly relate with criminal elements in the society.”
‘Traffic accident on the rise’
A Kano Road and Traffic Agency (KAROTA), Personnel, who sought anonymity, said the act increases risks of road accident as the children repeatedly cross the roads recklessly.
He said, “These children are becoming an eyesore for road users. You can see how they play on the road and cross it recklessly. And if we dare speak against it, their mothers will curse us.
Parent beggars go into hiding
When Daily Trust visited Race Course and the Kano Railway Station, the two popular havens for beggars in the state, beggars could not be found.
A source told this reporter that the beggars, who had adopted the railway station as a permanent abode, were dislodged by the Kano State Hisbah corps.
He said, “After a hot chase by Hisbah, they moved to Kano Club and as the operation intensified, they returned to their villages.
“They now converge at night at a junction along Sabo Bakinzuwo Road. This is where they spend the night.”
Gov’t opted for mobile courts
In a recent interview with journalists in Kano, the director Kano State Agency for Evacuation and Repatriation of Beggars, Muhammad Albakari Mikail, said the agency has set up a taskforce to tame the menace of street begging in the state.
Albakari said the taskforce mostly operates at night and had toured various streets in the state and arrested many beggars.
“At Tarauni junction we met more than 100 women and their children sleeping by the road. They told us they were they to beat time as an expatriate visited the camp at 4am every day to offer N200 to each beggar.”
Albakari added that most of the beggars they arrested were begging for no concrete reasons.
He disclosed that the state ministry of justice has provided the agency with mobile courts to trial beggars upon arrest.
However, Albakari urged parents to take up responsibility, saying the agency has reeled out tough measures to sanitize streets in the state.