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*Why we relocated beggars, others, by Oyo govt

*Our freedom has been restricted—Beggars

By Ola Ajayi

STREET begging is a common phenomenon that cuts across almost all the ethnic groups in Nigeria.

It is such a profitable business in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, hence, there is a daily influx of people particularly from the northern zone of the country.

These beggars are in different categories. Some are physically challenged, while greater percentage are able-bodied. In some places like Sango and Dugbe, they have formed groups. They have become more of a nuisance at Sango, Beere and Elizabeth Road as they besiege motorists displaying disabled parts of their bodies.

At Mokola roundabout, they hibernate under the long flyover. All the barricades that the state government erected were either broken or bent to allow them access into the fenced spaces. Until recently, they littered the whole place with faeces wrapped in black polythene bags and dirt of all kinds. Yet, they retire there to sleep after the day’s job.

So, it was a great relief when Governor Seyi Makinde braced all odds to withdraw them from major streets within the metropolis. Though the process of their evacuation had begun several months ago, it was not carried out until the government carried all their leaders along.

Despite the early notice, some of the beggars showed stiff resistance when the government brought in vehicles that would convey them to their new location at Akinyele Resettlement Centre.

The destitute were picked from the shanties on Jemibewon Road, Sabo area of Ibadan.

Before their evacuation, residents in the state had complained about the influx of these destitute from the Northern part of the country.

Vanguard observed that when the state government began the evacuation, some of the destitute ran to the Gbaremu area close to the Army barracks. They were seen in their hundreds sitting by the fence of the barracks.

The evacuation formally commenced at 7 a.m. last Tuesday following a tour of the new site by Arewa community leaders and representatives of the beggars last Saturday.

The Commissioner for Environment, Mr. Idowu Oyeleke, who led the first set of evacuees to Akinyele, said that the new site is fitted with social amenities including schools, hospitals, and recreation centres.

According to the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Makinde, Mr. Taiwo Adisa, other ministries involved in the exercise were Women Affairs and Social Inclusion, Information, Culture and Tourism, Local and Chieftaincy Matters as well as the Office of the Executive Secretary, Oyo State Security Trust Fund, headed by a former Commissioner of Police, CP Fatai Owoseni, retd, who is equally the Special Adviser on Security Matters to the governor.

At 8 a.m. last Tuesday, three fully loaded Pacessetter buses had left Jemibewon Road for Akinyele, while others were being loaded.

When Vanguard monitored the places especially Sango on Tuesday morning, most of the destitute were not there and motorists were moving unhindered.

Why we relocated beggars, street urchins, destitute—Oyo govt

While justifying the reasons for evacuating the destitute to the new facility, the Oyo State Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Inclusion, Alhaja Faosat Sanni, stated that the relocation was to ensure their well-being.

She said that the ministry, before now, had been sensitising those involved on the activities of the government concerning the relocation and that it did not just take a sudden decision to move them away.

Assuring that adequate care would be given to the evacuees at the new facility, which, according to her, is more habitable and conducive; she added that the government would not just dump them at the centre and make them suffer.

She explained that kitchens, cooks, foodstuffs, mattresses, mats, toilets, washing places and other household materials available in average Nigerian homes are at the centre to make life comfortable for them.

Sanni said: “This effort, as you can see, has been going on for some time. It is not just as if we went to where you saw us this morning at Sabo and bumped into the people.

We have met several times with the Hausa community. Our last meeting was last Friday and we were with them up till about 8 p.m., to sensitize them on the activities of the government concerning the relocation of the destitute, beggars and street urchins in Oyo State.

“This is because whether we like it or not, we know that some of the people that are being relocated are headstrong people. Even as you can see during the exercise, there was resistance showing that they don’t want to leave the premises. And as you can see in this new place, a lot of efforts have been put into it. So, we tried to talk to them before they agreed to come in.

“Quite frankly, many of them have packed their things, especially the women. They wanted to come out voluntarily but it took us some time to convince some people among them, especially the leaders of the beggars there, who were proving adamant.

Four commissioners and several government functionaries were there but we had to talk to them to convince them that the government is planning for their well-being.

“We are not just going to dump these people somewhere and make them suffer. As you all can see, the facility provided here is far better than where they are. So, that is what the government is doing.

“Again, you can see the officials of the Ministry of Women Affairs and Ministry of Environment are here. We have started taking their profiles – that is their bio-data: names, age, and where they came from because some of them are not Nigerians. And what we intend to do is to accommodate them as best as we can, take care of them, do the best of the profiling we can do, to ascertain where they are from. And if they are ready, we are going to assist them to go back to their states of origin.

“There are husbands and wives there. I never thought of people like that being beggars. We have provided a space for women and children that are street urchins.

“But I am just hearing for the first time that there are couples among them. We have kitchens and cooks, we have bought foodstuffs, mattresses, mats. We have all the household things you can think of, which are in an average Nigerian home. The toilets too are there; six for the women, six for men. And at the back of the toilets, we have a washing place. So, those are some of the facilities provided.

“This is like a halfway home. It is not as if the government will take care of the responsibilities for their livelihood forever. No. But what we want to do is a sort of rehabilitation before they are finally settled. As much as possible, we want to take all of them away.

“Not only that, there are other places under the bridge which are on the radar of the government.”

Similarly, the Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, Dr. Wasiu Olatunbosun, said that the evacuation exercise was not meant to dislodge the destitute but to provide a better living condition for them at the new location.

“Today’s exercise was successful and it has also helped to lend credence to the fact that the people love Governor Seyi Makinde, as there was little resistance from the people involved.

“Getting to the resettlement center, they were full of praises and prayers for Governor Makinde. I am happy that the exercise, which we started a few months ago, ended in praises and prayers for Governor Makinde,” he said.

Olatubosun acknowledged the support of the Hausa community leaders, who were on ground to give the task force tactical support before, during and after the exercise, imploring the philanthropic residents to continue to patronise the beggars in their new abode at the Akinyele Resettlement Centre.

Similarly, the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters, Chief Bayo Lawal said: “We see this as a dream come true because past governments have been making several promises to move them to another site but could not fulfil the promises. But we promised and fulfilled. So, it is an achievement as far as our government is concerned.”

Beggars now returning to former abode

Just a week after the evacuation, Vanguard monitored the compliance with the government’s directive; it was observed that some of the beggars have returned to their former places.

At Mokola roundabout, many of them were seen sitting down while some of their children were playing within the fence.

Further findings revealed that some churches visit Mokola every week to give food to these beggars apart from alms they get from the people. The beggars are saying by the time the state government stops providing food, where do they go to?

Besides, most of these beggars have dependants back in their states.

Our freedom has been restricted—Beggars

When Vanguard asked their leader, the spokesperson, who identified himself as Sagire Yusuf, he said though his people are not rejecting the offer of going to the new place created for them, they are complaining that their freedom has been restricted.

Yusuf said: “My people are complaining that their freedom is restricted. Why some people have not gone is because they are blind and they need assistance before they can go there. But, they promised to go there tomorrow.

“As for those people you saw at Mokola, that’s where they live. People know them there. That’s where they get money. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to go. The state government has done well for us by providing necessary facilities.”

As commendable as the kind gesture of the state government appears, many people feel uncomfortable with it, expressing fear that it could lead to another problem in the future.

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