by Chi Ibe
39 beggars in Lagos State were on Monday February 4, brought before the Special Offences Court in Alausa, Ikeja for soliciting alms.
The government said the beggars constituted public nuisance and the suit against the beggars was a renewed drive in the war against begging in the state, adding that any beggar found on the streets of Lagos would be prosecuted.
The 39 beggars who were the second set to appear in court in three days (another set of 13 beggars had been arraigned on Friday) pleaded guilty to the offences and were consequently remanded in Kirikiri and Badagry Prisons.
Three of the beggars were sentenced to 72 hours community service or fines of N5,000 each, while 10 others were sentenced to three months imprisonment or fines of N10,000 each.
The remaining ones were sentenced to 72 hours community service without the option of fine.
According to reports, their charge sheet claimed the beggars were parading themselves as disorderly persons without viable means of livelihood, thereby committing an offence under the criminal law of Lagos State.
They were also accused of conducting themselves in a manner likely to cause breach of peace as well as for receiving unauthorized levy from persons and thus committed offence punishable under the law on illegal collection of dues in public places.
Nine of the remanded beggars were then taken to the state Rehabilitation Home, Majidun, Ikorodu as a result of their disabilities.
Special Adviser to the Governor on Youth and Social Development, Dolapo Badru, said the government decided to commence the prosecution of beggars because it had exhausted all avenues to take them off the road.
Badru said, “We have rehabilitated a large number of them, but some of them do not want to be rehabilitated and they don’t want to work. They feel more comfortable preying on people with superstitious beliefs.
“Some people believe that if they are unlucky in certain cases, what they need to do is to give alms to beggars so that their fortune can change.
“A lot of beggars now prey on these people’s superstitious beliefs to get money from them. Many of them pretend to be blind or crippled. They make more money than many employed people.”
Badru added that the cosmopolitan nature of Lagos had made it possible for beggars to beg for alms and make much money in the process.
He said, “We tried to make some of them learn trade, but they don’t want to work. Some of them don’t want to use the skill we taught them to work. They prefer to be on the road because they make more money.
“Even at our rehabilitation homes, there is over-crowding, so we re-unite some of them with their families. For now, people rescued from the street more than once are prosecuted.”