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Menace of street kids’ begging in Lokoja

The menace of kid beggars on the streets and highways of Lokoja, the Kogi State capital have become source of concerns among residents and rights…

The menace of kid beggars on the streets and highways of Lokoja, the Kogi State capital have become source of concerns among residents and rights activists, Daily Trust Saturday reports

 

The surge in the number of kid beggars in the streets of Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, is raising concerns among residents and social crusaders.

The kid beggars, whose age bracket range from three to about nine years old, are seen   being led by older ones, roaming the streets of Lokoja, begging for alms from people.

Often times, they are seen moving or sitting in twos, threes or fours in strategic places. These kid beggars are always seen at fen junctions, Specialist hospital, Andakolo university junction, as well as a particular spot at the popular post office and Zone 8 roundabout, as well as major motor parks/ garages in Lokoja.

Keke Napep riders and pedestrians have had cause to express reservation over their menace at bus stops or walkways.

“It’s not funny seeing these kid beggars milling around us anytime we stop to offload passengers; you need to be very conscious all the time to avoid crushing them,” said Abdul Kadiri, a commercial tricycle rider.

According to the state Coordinator, Children on the Move, Care, Support & Protection Network in Nigeria, Kogi State Chapter, Henry Helen, most of these kid beggars are being sponsored by their vulnerable parents/ guardians to seek for alms to feed the families.

She said in most cases, majority of them are being ferried to the state from other states; and they have been increasing in numbers in major streets and busy areas of Lokoja.

“They have been migrating steadily from other states to the state capital. We have traced some of their guardians to where they are living in Lokoja and advised them to restrict their movements.

“Unfortunately, our advice to them is always short-lived as no sooner they were accosted and told to restrain their movements than you would find them back on the same spots, doing their things.

“We fear for their lives, and the society values their existence. We have been canvassing for a shelter for them so that good-spirited individuals can reach them and offer help, rather than exposing themselves to danger in the name of begging,” she said.

Mrs Henry, who is also the state Coordinator, Association for Orphan and Vulnerable Children NGOs in Nigeria (AONN), said her organisation noted that some of the kid beggars had parents/guardians who are also beggars in the town, stressing that they were the ones who always push their kids out to seek for alms.

Also, some women had been identified to be “hiring or borrowing kids” from some parents to move around to begs for alms; a situation she said is no longer tenable in this age.

“What usually surprises us is that some of these kids are not indigent in any form. They can be trained to be useful to themselves and family, even to become leaders of tomorrow rather than being allowed to roam the streets, begging.

“We traced a woman called Mama ibeji in Lokoja, who was always going around with ‘twins’, begging for alms. We discovered that she hires two kids, each from different parents to roam the streets, begging for alms, claiming that the twins are hers.

“After frantic efforts and painstaking investigation, we got the location of the woman, moved there and advised her to desist from her acts, which she did. We have met the head of beggars in the state and told him to restrict movement of kids to a particular spot where people can reach them to assist,” she said.

She therefore advised the state government to provide a shelter for these kids to avoid exposing them to danger. She also advocated for government’s help in directing them to acquire skills or learn trades in order to be able to fend for themselves instead of roaming the streets begging.

Kogi State government frowns at kid beggars and has taken certain measures to stem its tides in the state capital, Lokoja.

According to the Director of social welfare in the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Umar Suleiman, the state government has never relaxed on its oars over the menace of kid beggars.

He said often times, the ministry has had cause to raid them and ferry them back to their identified states of origin.

Suleiman added that unfortunately, after such exercise, the kids and their parents would be back in the state in increased number.

“The Ministry is fully aware of their menace in Lokoja recently, we have been raiding these kids from the streets of Lokoja, in collaboration with the head of the beggars in the state at old market, kabawa area in Lokoja.

“We are aware that many of these kids are back, and increasing in number weekly. The ministry is waiting for approval to carry out a fresh raid.

“These kids have even identified me and my team, and once they see us coming, they run away and hide. They are always on the look out for me and my team in the streets of Lokoja,” he said.

He added that it is frustrating to witness their surge, especially as the state carries out raiding exercises frequently, stressing, “the more we raid them and pick them out of the streets, they more they come back to take over the streets.”

However, an attempt to speak with the head of beggars in Lokoja was rebuffed, as one of the elderly beggars, Sirajo, said that he will not like to speak to the press over their issue.

A beggar at the cantonment bridge, Mamoud, who claimed to have been there for years, said the society should bear with them and assist them, because some of those kids are the bread winners of the family.

“It is what they bring from the day’s outing that is food for the family. Most of their guardians/parents are too old to go around looking for alms from people. Many are battling with one health challenge or the other and cannot come out again.

“Before, people used to assist us; either in kind or cash, but the economy is so bad now that people just pass by without extending any form of help to us,” said Mamoud.

Meanwhile, like Mrs Henry, many residents of Lokoja have decried the issue of street kid beggars, even as they bemoan their plight in a collapsed economy. They enjoined government to find a lasting solution to the problem.

Alhaji Osumonu Liman, a resident of Ali Close in Lokoja, said: “The government should stop chasing or raiding them, but empower these kids who are not challenged in any form via training for them to acquire skills to fend for themselves and families.

“Raiding them is not a permanent solution. Create a place for them, give them knowledge of any trade; it will stop them from roaming around. Besides, it will make them to be useful to the society and prevent them from becoming  a tool in the hands of evil ones in the society.”

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