Plastic bowls in hand, often chanting diverse shades of
songs, growing number of kid beggars are roaming the streets of Port Harcourt
in a manner that bothers residents of the Garden City. The number of child
beggars has increased over the years with the bulk of them found at various
locations in Port Harcourt.
At the inception of his administration on October 25, 2007,
the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, was seen arresting beggars on our
roads and streets, sending them to rehabilitation camps. But observers say the
project has failed because the government has not taken it seriously after
then, hence beggars and their children have re-flooded the streets.
Fearing that the activities of the beggars might pose
serious social menace if it is left unattended, some Port Harcourt residents
recall a media report that a disabled adult beggar allegedly caused the
disappearance of the reproductive organs of four men at Rumuola, in the Garden
City. They are jittery that some of the adult beggars whose children are in the
business, might be tutored in the act of obtaining money from their victims
through diabolical means, thus becoming social nuisance.
The residents observe further that, the kid beggars, who mainly hail from the
northern part of the country and neighbouring countries, are attired in filthy,
tattered clothes. They move from one location to the other and sometimes hang
around around traffic light junctions.
“The presence of these children is causing nuisance and
eyesore. They know nothing about parental care, love and affection and
therefore see everyone as an enemy responsible for their deprivation”, says a
Port Harcourt resident, Mrs Patience Abam.
Mrs Abam referred to her visit to a mall where a group of
children lined up and stretched out their bowls towards shoppers, begging for
alms. She says the religion the parents of these children belong must encourage
begging as a way of fending for themselves and in some cases menial jobs.
“These children do not think about education because that
has no meaning to them. For them nothing matters apart from the daily struggle
for survival for themselves and their parents. The street is their home, school
and office’ they live and die by the street. Such is the unfortunate situation
this problem has turned into,” Mrs Abam quips.
A retired principal, Mr. Robert Lawson-Jack, sees child
beggars as potential danger to society. According to him, children who go this
way grow into irresponsible adults and engage in drugs and prostitution. Some
of them, he says, indulge in physical and sexual abuse.
“These children pose serious danger to society. They
necessarily grow into irresponsible adults who grow into drugs and
prostitution. For me, it does not matter whether they are indigenes of the
state or not. What is important is that they are in Rivers State and whatever
negative activities they indulge in will affect those who are resident in the
state. Therefore the government has to fashion out a rehabilitation programme
for them the details of which should be worked out”, Mr. Lawson-Jack suggests.
To Mr. Owuje Harry, a journalist and publisher, child
begging is a pervasive problem that happens all over but is predominant in the
north. According to Harry, they are called “Almajiri” in the north, “area boys”
in the south and west and “abandoned children” in the east.
“I feel very bad about it. The development amounts to
wasting large number of children. I don’t see the difference between child
begging and child trafficking for labour. Some children are sent to beg while
others are forced to labour, and in most cases the labour they provide is not
paid for. It is sheer exploitation” Harry declares.
The publisher attributes the hazard to the inability of
parents with many children to take care of them. Harry says these parents turn
the children into beggars in order to rid themselves of the extra burden of
catering for them. He observes that there has been an influx of the children
into Port Harcourt recently. He describes the situation as a hopeless one,
since the constitution guarantees freedom of movement to any part of the
“What I am telling you is real. Go to “Yam Zone” along Creek
Road. You will observe massive influx of these little ones into the state, some
of whom are not older than babies. It is unfortunate that the state government
cannot check the trend. The reason is that the constitution provides for free
movement to any part of the country. All the government should do is to work
out a programme to contain the trend. I am particularly concerned about the
security implication of the mass influx of the children, especially in the face
of current happenings in the country,”
Investigations by The Tide reveal that some child beggars
are accommodated in crammed rooms provided by their mentors and are made to
sleep on bare floor with poor sanitary condition. The situation is pathetic.
A Moslem cleric, Jubril Musa, admitted to The Tide that he
harbours some of these children for Koranic training. He says many of the
children are dumped with him by their mentors who would not return to take them
after their training.
“Some are dumped with me by their parents who never show up
again”, says Musa.
A legal practitioner, Barrister Soye Brown, warned of the
danger in harbouring this trend in any part of the country, and said that with
the current security situation in the country, child beggars could provide
ready foot soldiers.
“Hungry and angry, these children could easily be mobilised
to engage in killings and looting during crises as an avenue to pay back
society because they see everybody as
the source of their frustration,” Brown declares.
The legal practitioner sees kid beggars as a threat to the
elites and law abiding citizens of the country. He calls for every hand to be
on deck to tackle the menace.
“We have to provide for these child beggars for our safety
and our children’s safety. The pathetic life they live breeds heartless criminals”,