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1.1 Background to the Study
Begging on the streets, in the urban centers is one of the age-long activities and perhaps occupations of the highly vulnerable, poverty-ridden individuals in the society. This is particularly not limited to the developing countries alone. As revealed in the studies of different scholars, begging is not peculiar to developing countries; it is a universal phenomenon (Ado, 1997) and a global urban problem. While a considerable number of cities were identified in the US and Mexico as having a significant level of begging activity (Smith, 2005), cities in China, especially Shanghai, have been described as homes of different categories of beggars (including the poor, the disabled, the homeless and professional beggars), which are described as “liumin” (floating people) or “youmin”(wandering people) (Hanchao, Lu, 1999).
In India, begging is seen as a pride as beggars are seen posing as someone famous. The situation is not so different in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa, where beggars are seen at junctions all over the city. In cities of Britain and similar industrialized
countries in the recent years, begging has become highly visible (Jordan, 1999). Those of Mexico, as reported by Fabriga (1971) and cited in Adedibu (1989) are not left out in this negative scenario.
The situation in Nigerian cities as observed everyday is perhaps worse with different categories of beggars found at motor parks, religious centers, markets, road junctions, venues of ceremonies, among other public places begging for alms (Ojo, 2005). Cities across the world are confronted with diverse and complex problems which have socio-economic and physical implications for cities’ dwellers. These problems as experienced by cities of less developed countries are enormous and multidimensional in nature. One obvious manifestation of these problems, especially in Nigeria, is begging, that is the act of asking people for money, food, clothes, etc. (Jelili, 2006).
The problem of begging is a social menace which has a negative implication not only for cities’ economies, socio-physical environment but also for beggars themselves. The increasing population of beggars in Nigerian cities constitute an eyesore or environmental nuisance and health hazards, particularly those carrying infectious and contagious diseases (Egeonu, 1988).
Begging has serious implication for the city and national economy as beggars are not economically productive in any way since they contribute nothing to the economy. It leads not only to social relegation of the city but also to that of beggars as well as stigmatization of the class of people and their relatives. The problem has also arrested the attention of governments at various levels. For instance, the Lagos state government made efforts to tackle the problem of begging in Lagos by building rehabilitation centres to cater for beggars (Okoli, 1993). The media is not left out in this war against this menace as Newspapers occasionally report the problems associated with begging in lead articles (The Associated Press, 2008; Daily Triumph, 2010).
From the commercial city of Kano it was reported that the government was concluding arrangements to storm the streets in search of a particular set of individuals who are after all not elusive(The Associated Press, 2008; Daily Triumph, 2010). The government is fashioning out necessary legal backing to legitimize its audacious pursuit which will kick-start any moment from now. Thus, the government is doing, by sending and executive bill to the state legislative arm; initiating a process that will culminates in
probable enactment of a law criminalizing the said practice, (The Royal Times, 2014).
It is unfortunate, however, that despite the effort of scholars, governments, media and national and international organizations, the problem of begging continues unabated in Nigerian cities. Although, the problem of begging is a worldwide phenomenon, it is more pronounced in the third world countries. This is true of Nigeria where different categories of beggars are conspicuously found in motor parks, religious worship, markets, road junctions, venues of ceremonies among other public places begging for alms (Jelili, 2006).
These categories of beggars include the disabled, the poor, and the destitute and to a considerable extent the able-bodied, healthy and physically strong individuals who take the advantage of the sympathy of the society for them to remain jobless and at times perpetrate evils (like crime) in the name of begging in the street. The issue is that those who engage in begging have one reason or the other to support their stand. To the easily recognized beggars, however, the problem of socio-economic maladies and physical
disability are often the claim as articulated or implied in their approach to begging.
However, of all those identified factors, poverty and physical disability are most visible in Nigeria. For instance, an estimate by World Bank indicates that over 45% of the country’s population live below poverty level while about two-third (2/3) of this group are extremely poor. Therefore, in order to meet their basic needs, some of the poverty stricken people resort into begging as a major means of livelihood. Also from empirical evidences, physically disabled beggars constitute the bulk of identified beggars in Nigeria (Ogunkan, 2009).
However, it is imperative to state that the increasing incidence of beggars in Nigerian cities is not only due to poverty and physical disability but also to the fact that majority of the beggars are satisfied with the “job” (Jelili, 2006). Some have become very rich from begging, that they have acquired buses and houses, yet they always appear wretched so as to draw sympathy from the general public (KSRB, 1997). The presence of fake beggars and begging criminals has not helped the situation and may be dangerous to the society.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The attentions of Political Scientists, Sociologists, Geographers, Urban Economists, and other policy formulators have been drawn to the problem of begging in Nigeria. The population of beggars on Nigerian streets is growing exponentially. Beggars are highly visible in public places, commercial centers, residential neighbourhood (Osagbemi, 2001) and worse still on campuses and inside buses. The potential threat of begging to Nigerian societal fabric is obvious in its negative implications to social, environmental and economic survival of the country.
Beggars constitute social threat to Nigerian society especially in the cities. They portray a bad image to outsiders or strangers. Some criminals hide under the guise of begging to perpetrate their evil deeds. They are at times used as instruments by mischief makers, who use them to vandalise public properties and utilities built with nation’s resources (NCFWD, 2001). The nefarious activities of those fake beggars such as criminals, area boys and thugs constitute one of the sources of civil unrest to the city dwellers. Begging also constitutes economic threat to the society as
beggars are not economically productive in any way since they contribute nothing to national economy (Adedibu, 1989).
The city and national economy is retarded as considerable proportion of beggars population depend on the already overstretched workforce. The environmental implications of begging is made manifest not only in beggars’ tendency to obstruct free flow of human and vehicular traffic but also their high tendency to generate dirty materials either as waste or as part of their belongings to their regular routes and stations. Although, the negative implications of begging discussed above have generated research efforts of various scholars, much has not been done on the social aetiology of this social phenomenon.
1.3 Research Questions
i. What factors can be held responsible for begging in Sokoto North Local Government Area?
ii. To what extent does begging constitutes a social problem in Sokoto North Local Government Area?
iii. What categories of people mostly engage in the street begging?
iv. Are there any concrete efforts from the stakeholders in
addressing the menace of begging in the society?
v. What other effective means of solving street begging are there for the society to rid itself of the menace?
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