Lagos, Police Set Up Special Team To Clamp Down Beggars, Street Hawkers

By Benjamin Omoike 

The Lagos State Government in conjunction with the police, have set up a special team to curb street begging in the state.

Commissioner for Youth and Social Development in the state, Mr. Olusegun Dawodu, stated this on Wednesday while briefing newsmen at the Bagauda Kaltho Press Centre, in Alausa, Ikeja.

He stressed that beggars on Lagos roads constitute considerable nuisance to law-abiding citizens, who are entitled to go about their businesses without any fear or hindrance.

“I welcome you all to this briefing on the Special Team set up by the Ministry of Youth and Social Development in conjunction with the police command to curb street begging in Lagos State.

“Beggars on our streets and roads constitute considerable nuisance to law abiding citizens, who are entitled to go about their businesses without any fear or hindrance. This is what the administration of Governor Babajide Olusola Sanwo-Olu promised Lagosians upon assumption of office. This is what it is delivering; this is what it will continue to deliver.”

He stated that Lagos, with a population over 20 million people, is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. He added that representatives of all the ethnic groups in the nation, with thousands coming into the state daily in search of a better life, had put tremendous pressure on Lagos. “The results of this influx of people are among others, pressure on infrastructure and societal ills.”

“The road to our desired destination of ‘A Greater Lagos’ has, among other man –  made obstacle – ‘street begging’. This is the whole essence of today’s briefing. It is to acquaint everyone, especially the fourth estate of the realm, with the concerted efforts that the Lagos State Government, through the Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development, which is saddled with the responsibility of tackling this issue, has made.

“As a responsible and responsive government, the Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu’s administration will not fold its arms and watch the State become a haven for beggars, it will take action to curb this menace. Street begging is a social vice that we cannot afford to watch attain uncontrollable level before we act. Otherwise, all the good plans and programmes to transform our state would be adversely affected. The same goes for street hawking.”

The Commissioner added that street begging had become big business from which some group of people were benefiting from. “This has become big business to some groups of people. Our investigation revealed that Beggars and Hawkers (Children and Adults) are transported regularly from other parts of the country to Lagos with the sole aim of doing this odious “business” that demeans humanity and abuses innocence in the case of children, who are being pushed into this degrading trade. 

“These groups of people have turned alms begging and hawking into a huge business, by collecting returns from beggars and hawkers, who incidentally, sleep under the bridges, motor parks, uncompleted or abandoned buildings and other places not conducive for human habitation.

“If there is ever a time for us to roll up our sleeves and toil day and night for this menace to be confined to the dustbin of history in Lagos State, it is now. Of course, the reasons for this are not far-fetched. The activities of these people on our streets impede human movement and vehicular traffic, constitute environmental nuisance and worst still, constitutes security threats,” he said.

He stressed that intelligence reports have revealed that some of the so-called beggars go about with dangerous weapons, they assault and rob innocent Lagosians. “Therefore, as a Government, we cannot afford to let this continue.”

“Thus, a Special Team has been set up to tackle this menace frontally. The operation of this Special Team will commence in the next few days. The task we are undertaking is not only to sanitise our society, but also to restore the dignity of these set of people who have been sent on to the streets for alms begging and hawking.

“Therefore, to tackle this menace, the Lagos State Government through the Rehabilitation and Child Development Departments of the Ministry of Youth and Social Development has maintained a Rescue Unit saddled with the responsibility of rescuing and protecting the destitute and the vulnerable. This we do by combing the nooks and crannies of Lagos State to rescue and protect the destitute, mentally – challenged, street children and beggars off the streets; and after being rescued, Our Rehabilitation Centres and Child friendly Homes usually provide them with treatment, psychosocial therapy and vocational training with the aim of making them useful to themselves and the society.”

“In embarking on this enforcement, we will also deploy a lot of human and material resources towards enlightenment and sensitisation via different media platforms. As they say, “enlightenment becomes entertainment without enforcement”. That is why the way to go now is to enforce compliance with the laws of our state for sanity to reign in our society.”

“For the purpose of clarity on this issue, Section 157{1(b) and(e) of the Criminal Law 2015 States that nuisance is any person who prevents the public from having access to any part of a highway by an excessive and unreasonable use of it or does any unlawful act which causes inconveniences or damage to the public This is also well corroborated by Section 168 {1(b), (e)and (f)} as well as Section 276 which apart from prohibiting begging goes further to prescribe a penalty of Fifteen Thousand Naira (#15,000) for the first offence and for every subsequent offence to a time of Forty Five Thousand Naira (#45,000) or imprisonment for three months or both, An offender under this Section may be arrested without warrant.

“In the case of Children, Section 26 of the Childs Right Laws also makes this an offence. And Section 210 (7) prescribes a penalty of ten (10) years imprisonment.

“I would like to also use this medium to inform Lagosians to know that Lagosians are that for us to succeed in this task, alms should be taken to recognised registered homes, orphanages, rehabilitation and faith based organizations where they will be judiciously utilized for the right purpose of ameliorating the condition of the vulnerable. By so doing, we will be able to discourage street begging,” he said.

On his part, state Commissioner of Police, Akeem Odumosu said: “Now the mission is very simple. The honourable commissioner has enumerated everything. Our mission is to ensure that all that has been talked about here is effected. We have discovered that some miscreants now take refuge in uncompleted buildings to perpetrate crime. We have arrested some people on wheelchairs with dangerous weapons, such as cutlasses and other dangerous weapons used to commit crime.

“It is a collaboration between the state government and the police, and we are here to appeal to those concerned to stay of the roads in Lagos, and those who are or maybe their sponsors, to desist from this unwholesome act. Aside the fact that these beggars and hawkers constitute a traffic challenge, especially around traffic lights, where they come close to vehicles and attack motorists, mostly women, they have also proved to be a menace in terms of security in the state.”

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