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When Lagos moved against beggars, lunatics

Posted by Vanguard on 2005/07/13 | Views: 503 |

When Lagos moved against beggars, lunatics

The Lagos State Government's drive to rid the metropolis of destitutes and lunatics has led to shocking revelations, reports Olasunkonmi Akoni.

The Lagos State Government's drive to rid the metropolis of destitutes and lunatics has led to shocking revelations, reports Olasunkonmi Akoni.

Remember Clifford Orji’s case in Lagos? In case you don’t know, Orji was the man who pretended to be a lunatic, but was later discovered to be on the payroll of some influential Nigerians for the purpose of obtaining human parts for rituals. That case, however, seems to have been swept under the carpet as nothing more has since then been heard about it.

Therefore, efforts geared towards ridding the state of lunatics, destitutes as well as minimising the high rate of child labour in the former federal capital territory received a boost recently when the state Ministry of Youth, Sports and Social Development on Monday, July 4, 2005, launched an evacuation exercise targetted at the above categories of people. And these include: street beggars, street children, kid conductors and miscreants. The state government plans to take them away from the metropolis with a view to rehabilitating them.

The state Commissioner for Youths, Sports and Social Development Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele stated during a recent press briefing on the development: “While grappling with these immense responsibilities of managing over 4,000 destitutes, we are shocked to see the increasing influx of able-bodied men and women as well as young children who have thronged the metropolis in search of alms.”

He continued: “Coupled with these are cases of wandering and homeless children who sleep under the bridges, car parks as well as bus stops and take to the streets at daybreak for their daily source of livelihood”. He noted that more disheartening was the increasing use of babies, toddlers and children by their parents and some unscrupulous people to seduce passers-by into giving them alms. “These beggars are obviously working on the psyche of kind-hearted Lagos residents by attracting their sympathy on these categories of infants. This we have found very strange and one of the highest forms of child abuse," he said.

The state government, Mr. Bamidele, stressed has been inundated with security reports of beggars, destitute and street children who serve as informants and heavy arms carriers for armed robbers in the state, adding that the same set of people dispossess innocent citizens of their handsets, wristwatches, jewelries and hard earned cash in traffic jams. Hence, the need for immediate clampdown on destitutes in order to curb the menace.

In the light of the above, the ministry in collaboration with state government departments like the Ministries of Health; Physical Planning; Urban Develop-ment; Environmental and Special Offences Enforce-ment Unit; Rapid Response Squad and para-military outfits are jointly carrying out the exercise. As at last weekend the total number of destitutes evacuated from different parts of the metropolis stood at 195, comprising mostly of women with children.

In the first round of the exercise about 50 destitutes including 10 lunatics were picked up around Ikeja, Ogba, Ojota and environs.
In one of the raids at Victoria Island, led by Opeyemi, 49 destitutes, which included children, beggars and mentally deranged people were picked up.

At Ikeja and Maryland, no fewer than 32 destitutes were arrested. All the 81 destitutes arrested have been taken to the rehabilitation centre at Majidun, Ikorodu,

Addressing newsmen at the end of the exercise, Mr. Bamidele expressed satisfac-tion with the progress made so far and called for assistance from the private sector to make the programme an overall success.

The commissioner stressed that the battle was not against the less privileged in the society but against barons, who sent the beggars into the streets to beg for alms in expectation of the returns they deliver to the syndicates on daily basis.

Mr. Bamidele explained that at the rehabilitation centres the children, beggars and lunatics would be sorted and screened before the rehabilitation proper would commence.

He said while the children would be taken to day care centres to be educated, the lunatics would be taken to the asylum and the beggars trained in vocational jobs to acquire the necessary skills that would help them in the nearest future. Some of the parents and relations of those arrested who showed up to press for the release of their people, though full of praises for the action, however called on the government to provide more work to the people as most of them are willing to work.

Mr. Onyeaka Asuquo a military personnel attached to Dodan Barracks, whose daughter was picked up at Falomo said his daughter was never sent to hawk but was arrested on her way home from school. Mr. Mattew Amole of Ojo, a Police Constable also came to effect the release of his 10 year old daughter. Another parent who came calling was Memunant Ibrahim of Orile Agege for the release of her 12 year old daughter. She admitted that her daughter was sent to hawk because of the poor condition of the home.

Most shocking and revealing aspect of the exercise is the discovery of fake lunatics and disabled persons who made confession of faking their predicament, saying they were forced into the act due to poverty.

One of such incidents is the confession made by one of the evacuees who simply identified herself as Adijat, a blind person, claiming she came into Lagos State two years ago from Ibadan in Oyo State but immediately she was arrested, she started pleading to be released, confessing she was not blind afterall.

Another revelation was the discovery of a man who claimed to be a mad man but in reality was not as he said he feigned madness to be able to make ends meet and nothing more.

Some of the kids who also made statements confessed that a certain unidentified cabal brought them to Lagos and at the end of each day they make returns between N1,500 and N2,000, they refused to name the people behind it because of the fear of being dealt with later by the syndicate.

In another dramatic twist last Monday, a woman who simply identified herself as Mrs. Chioma Uwakwe showed up at Ministry's Department of Welfare, seeking to obtain the release of some of the arrested kids who she confessed as using to beg for money from members of the public. The officials told her to produce other kids in her custody before the arrested children would be released to her.

Most of the people arrested during the exercise had already been taken to various rehabilitation centres. Though there was hope that they would be released eventually but not without meeting certain conditions.

The conditions among others are, submission of a personal photograph of the person making the claim who must also be identified as a relation as well as signing an undertaking. Expectedly, the exercise has drawn and it is still generating all kinds of comments from the public.

However, in view of negative insinuation from members of the public Mr. Bamidele was quick to explain that the exercise is not targeted towards ridding Lagos of any particular ethnic group as being rumoured in some quarters. According to him: “our desire as a visionary government is borne out of the need to give our children succour beyond the ones obtainable on the streets.”

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Comments (3)

Okfold(Sobe, Edo, Nigeria)says...

I want the meaning of female owan name Ekeke (Edo state)

Toluwalase Samuel Olufemi(Ijebu, Ogun, Nigeria)says...

Authority belongs to God, once He decrees it is final and binding

Ikponmwosa Osamede(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Your meaning of Osamede is wrong. Osamede means God has given me a crown