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).
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