The Lagos State Government, has vowed to to put and end to street begging, saying it has embarked on zero tolerance against the act in any part of the state, henceforth.
Commissioner for Youth and Social Development, Mr Mobolaji Ogunlende, disclosed this while leading ‘Special Rescue Operations’, launched by the ministry, in collaboration with the Lagos State Task Force, with a mission to sanitize the state of street begging in Lekki axis on Thursday.
At least 50 street beggars were said to have been taken off the road during a special operation.
Ogunlende said, “The act of begging or using babies to solicit alms is not part of our religion or culture. It doesn’t support the socio-economic growth of any state.
“It is counterproductive because some of the so-called beggars have been discovered to be involved in criminality.”
He added, “Before embarking on resuscitating the “Special Rescue Operations” primarily aimed at enforcing the relevant sections of the State Government Laws as well as the Child Rights Law banning begging, the Ministry had carried out massive advocacy and sensitisation to help Lagosians, especially the public-spirited ones, know what to do concerning helping the less privileged in the state.
“Street begging has been banned in Kano, Kaduna and other states in Nigeria.
“So why not Lagos State? We advise those who want to help the less privileged among us to take their gift items be it cash or materials to our Homes or Centres designated to help the needy.”
Commenting on the ‘Special Rescue Operations’, the Permanent Secretary, Pharm, Mrs Toyin Oke-Osanyintolu, explained that the ministry decided to embark on the exercise following a series of reports from residents to the ministry who complained of being incessantly harassed by street beggars.
“Series of reports reaching the Ministry from Lagosians bordering on being harassed by beggars on the street prompted us to embark on this exercise to sanitize the State.
“Every Lagosian irrespective of religion or tribe deserves a safe environment to live, work or do business without molestation. This we will achieve by showing zero tolerance for street begging,” Oke-Osanyintolu stated.
The Permanent Secretary, warned as many people as are in the habit of using babies to solicit alms to shun the act and engage in legitimate business because if caught would be made to face the full wrath of the law.
The Chairman of Lagos State Taskforce, Chief Superintendent of Police, CSP, Shola Jejeloye, who led the enforcement of the special rescue operation said, “The task of ridding Lagos State of street begging is non-negotiable. It is going to be a continuous exercise.
“We have decided to do it in broad daylight for Lagosians to get the message that there is no room for street begging in the state.
“It is part of our statutory responsibilities to support the enforcement of any law enacted by the State House of Assembly for the good of everyone.
“We are ready to collaborate with every Ministry, Department or Agency in this regard.
“During the Rescue Operations which took place in the Lekki axis of the State over 50 beggars were taken off the streets.”
Assembly sets to outlaw begging
Members of the Lagos State House of Assembly had begun the process to outlaw street begging across the state.
The law, if passed would also penalise the encouragement of street begging by residents. In this way, it would be an offence to give money to a street beggar.
Speaker of the House, Mudashiru Obasa at the plenary on Tuesday, who described street begging as a menace taking over the state agreed with the lawmakers that criminal elements have taken over the streets disguised as beggars.
While reacting to the motion brought by Abiodun Orekoya, and some of his colleagues, Obasa, stated how previous administrations in the state made attempts to curb street begging without success.
The speaker, then, pointed out the need for a law that would criminalise street begging and also penalise individuals who give money to beggars on the roads.
Obasa said, “When we address the source, then we can curb it. When you go on the road, you find children between the ages of five and six begging.
“It means there are established groups of people benefitting from this. They warehouse and provide for them.
“Beyond the child rights law, we should come up with another law that speaks to begging and giving. We must come up with genuine laws and institutions that handle begging.”
The speaker said the proposed law should aim to establish a centre where individuals who wish to give alms can do so, while the centre would ensure that the alms reach those in need.
“The law will create a fund to be managed by people with integrity so that if you are in need, you would go there,” he said.
Obasa added, “While this will help people fulfil their religious beliefs about almsgiving, it will also help curb street begging, reduce crime on the road and promote greater responsibility among residents.”
The speaker stressed that the smart city status of the state could be abused when beggars adorn the roads, inhibiting free movement and engaging in crime which include drug peddling and stealing from motorists.
He wondered how children as young as five or six manage to travel from other states to Lagos, suggesting that some individuals may be sponsoring and accommodating them.
Urging for a holistic approach to end the challenge, he said, “It is better to tackle it from the source which includes discouraging giving directly to the beggars on the road.”
Obasa also called on Local Government chairmen to devise better way to manage street trading rather than thinking of outrightly chasing traders off the streets.
He said, “Street trading happens across the world. It is for our council chairmen to come up with ideas to better manage the activities of traders in their domains.
“How do you build a shop and put it at N30 million? What will the traders be selling there? If you remove them all, where do you also want them to go.?”