Owerri the capital Ocity of Imo State was once reputed as the cleanest city in Nigeria. During that era the sight of refuse was an anathema while the sight of beggars was near absent. When it rained no ﬂood was seen parked on the road. Owerri was a nice city to behold and won a cash award from the Buhari/Idiagbon regime. What is prevalent today is a reverse of the picture painted above. As it is in Owerri, so it is in some other parts of South East, particularly, Aba, Umuahia, Onitsha, Awka and Enugu. In fact, the situation in Aba and Onitsha calls for urgent concern.
Today in Owerri everywhere you go the sight of beggars; beggars of all sorts confront you. This may not paint a good picture on the aesthetics of Owerri. Visitors to Owerri will have this impression on their mind. Some parts of Owerri have become well known because of the beggars that line the streets. The beggars’ zone includes the road leading oﬀ the Cherubim junction to Ikenegbu/Aladinmm a roads, the Douglas road around St. Paul’s Catholic Church, the Control round about etc.
All over South East, the presence of beggars is really disturbing. There may be nothing wrong being a beggar but there may be something wrong in the way we the able bodied relate with them. The destitute that dot the streets sometimes are able bodied men and women and some partially deformed people who can fend for themselves with little support. Some of the people seen in these categories have many of their counterparts in the larger society working and fending for themselves.
At times one is left to wonder why they should be found in the streets in the ﬁrst place. It would not be out of place to describe them as very lazy people who felt comfortable feasting on the generosity of other kind hearted human beings who feel it is a pious act to give alms not minding ignorantly though that they maybe promoting laziness. The government is encouraged to look into these classes of beggars and pull them out of the street. They deliberately chose to constitute themselves social nuisance.
It is recognized that nature may not have dispensed its bounties equally to everybody. We also acknowledge the deformities and health challenges that may confront people and seemingly overwhelming them as a result. We do acknowledge the numerous other challenges which may constrain people to beg. Begging on the street we believe should come as a last resort for any one so challenged.
We believe the reason begging thrives in our society is that it is viewed as a cultural and religious issue. Some religions teaches that alms giving is a pious acts which people are encouraged to do because it remains one of the credentials they need to imbibe so as to qualify to go to heaven or be seen as good persons. People have leveraged on this as solution to their various needs.
No man is an island unto himself who can meet every of his need. Even the so called developed nations are still dependent on others for the things they lack. Developing nations have had to seek support from other nations in terms of what they lack. Much as individuals also come short of their needs we do not think that they should deliberately constitute a problem to others especially when they can comfortably seek out other surviving strategies.
News Echo hereby calls on the government to take positive steps to rehabilitate these destitutes. It is never in the character of a typical Igbo person to beg. Igbos are very hardworking people and take pride in their labour. The economic crunch may have broken the backbone of some, especially those whose benefactors are equally challenged economically. The social welfare unit of the government should take the destitute out of the street and provide them some skills to survive on. It is more dignifying to eke out a living through self-struggle than begging.
By so doing they free the beggars from the risk of exposure to accidents, ritualists, diseases, and other hazards. The public is also protected from any communicable diseases that the beggars may transmit to the public. In the spirit of being our brothers keeper which many of our religious groups espouse, we should individually or as a group provide lasting support to these less privileged ones.
There are some of these beggars who have genuine needs and some of who may need medical attentions.
The government should take the initiative to cater for them as part of its social welfare programs.
Charitable organizations, churches, philanthropic groups, politicians are called upon to give attention in this humanitarian eﬀorts. This is one way we can be our brothers keeper.