The scenery that greets a visitor to the ancient city of Kano is that of street beggars that have taken over strategic locations ‘plying their trade’ unhindered.
This phenomenon has turned some beautiful places in the commercial city into an eyesore and has left the tongues of many residents and visitors wagging.
PlatinumPost correspondent in the state observed that these beggers comprises mostly of school-age children, middle age and aged persons take strategic positions at markets, shopping malls, filling stations, traffic, ATM points at banks.
Sadly, these beggers are looking unkempt, untidy and dirty, the almajirai among them go round every nook and crannies of the city to beg for food, money or clothes.
As early as 6:am, the voices of these almajirai boys, going from house to house begging for food is like a chorus in the ears of residents of the city.
Another group of beggars who are male and female adults, some physically challenged, using different tricks to persuade people to offer alms to them at markets, streets, ATM points, filling stations and even hospitals.
These adult street beggars have converted some places, such as under bridges, GRA areas as their shelter, aiding criminal activities within the city, according to some security agents.
This scenario, according to some commentators, has distorted the beautiful look of Kano city and seems to defeat the efforts of the state government to achieve a megacity dream.
This is coming at a time when the state government, in 2013, enacted the anti-street begging law, in a bid to clear the city of the presence of beggars.
The aim of the law, according to the then governor of the state, Rabi’u Kwankwaso, was to send the street boys back to their homes in order to be enrolled into school, while the adult beggars become self-reliant.
However, the question that remains on the lips of every discerning individual in the state is where is the anti-begging law? in view of the fact that the problem still persists even after eight years of enacting the law.
It was observed that despite the law, and some level of enforcement, which involved the arrest and eventual repatriation, the beggars are still holding sway in the second most populous city in Nigeria as the town is witnessing a surge of beggars in recent times.
In April last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Kano, thousands of beggars, especially those in tsangaya, local Quranic schools, were repatriated to their respective hometowns by the state government as part of its response to mitigate the spread of the virus in the state.
However, a few months later, the beggars began to resurface, as they returned to the commercial city in much larger number than they were before the repatriation.
Also, the renewed pronouncement on banning street begging and a stern warning by the incumbent governor, Abdullahi Ganduje to punish any beggar that flouts the anti-street begging law went into the deaf ears of the beggars as they kept surging into the city in droves like a swarm of bees.
Discovering the rising number of street beggars in the state, in February, the Commissioner for Women Affairs, Dr Zahra’u Muhammad, launched an operation to evacuate all street beggars from the state in February 2021.
PlatinumPost observes that the problem of street begging has become a source of worry to the government and residents of Kano state.
Alhaji Umar Nuhu, a resident, has described street begging as a menace capable of destroying the socio-economic well-being of northern Nigeria, especially northwest and northeastern parts of the region.
According to him, the issue of almajiri in northern Nigeria has taken a toll as a result of the failure of parents to take responsibilities for raising their children.
“The problem of street begging is that the children have been left at the mercy of people to feed them. Their parents have failed to take responsibilities for raising them. They just send them away, without even visiting to see their situation.
“This issue is posing a threat to the peaceful coexistence of this country, which, if care is not taken, would be a very big problem if not already.
These small boys could easily be recruited by criminals to destabilize this region. I, therefore, called on the government to do the needful, He also advised the government to be up and doing to rid the state of ” he said.
On her part, Aisha Aliyu, a married woman narrated that last week, she couldn’t hold back tears when a teenage almajiri came to beg for food at her house.
She said when she opened the door to collect his bowl to put the food for him, to her surprise, she saw a small boy younger than her eight-year-old son.
According to her, when she asked him, he told her that he is a newcomer as he was brought from Dambatta Local Government area of Kano state about two weeks ago.
“It was pathetic. How could a mother afford to part with her son at this young age? Why should parents be subjecting their children to hardship under the guise of Quranic education? This is not how Almighty Allah has ordered us to raise our children,” she lamented.
A university don, who spoke on condition of anonymity, blamed the state government for being what he described as “soft and lackadaisical” in enforcing the anti-begging law.
According to him, there is no reason why the government would allow such young boys to be roaming the streets without any purpose, especially looking at the rising security challenges in the country.
“Allowing these children to grow in this kind of life, I tell you that these security challenges would not be over. The government should be up and doing to make sure that it fully enforce the anti-begging law in a bid to rid the street of the activities and presence of the beggars for peace to reign.
” In my opinion, these beggars are posing threat to the peaceful coexistence of this state and the nation as a whole. Therefore, I call on the government to enforce the law fully and evacuate all these streets, boys, to their respective homes. The adult ones should also go back to their towns. The government should continue empowering them in order to be self-reliant,” he advised.
PlatinumPost effort to contact the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Zahra’u Muhammad was not successful.
However, Director Welfare in the ministry, Hajiya Saude Ahmed blamed parents for shying away from taking responsibilities for their children, adding that the government, through the ministry, is making a robust plan that would see the end of the menace in the state soon.
According to her, the Commissioner, after making a pilot operation, where about 1,000 beggars were arrested, empowered and repatriated to their respective hometowns about four months ago, is now planning to stage mass operations.
Mrs Ahmed pointed out that the operation is a difficult task that requires huge resources, but with the determination and commitment of governor Ganduje, who is supporting the commissioner in all her requests, the campaign would be successful.
She said, “a stronger task force, including all security agencies, is being constituted in preparation for the mass operations. You know, it is a difficult task. The commissioner is up and doing to achieve success in this regard. The governor is also highly supportive of her.
” The operation would soon be launched and it would be successful, I assure you, ” she said.
The Director noted that apart from the government, individuals and groups should also support the ministry to end the menace of street begging, which has become a source of concern to the general public.
She also attributed the menace to the failure of husbands to support wives and children after divorce, adding that “the existing social protection policy of the ministry will check the problem.”
“The commissioner is highly worried about this situation. She is always in support of the less privileged. She is not tired. May Allah reward her.”
She however lamented that the majority of the beggars, including those that were empowered with money, items, among others, had returned to begging, warning that whenever the ministry arrest them, they would be punished accordingly.