A 15-year-old beggar, Mohammed Ismaila, is a regular face around Mile 12 area of Lagos State. Those who move between Mile 12 and Ikeja on daily basis, will, at one point or another, see him crawling on his stomach begging for alms.
He said that despite the fact that begging had been outlawed in the state, he took the risk of crawling on the streets pleading for alms because he wanted to send his younger ones to school.
Ismaila, who said he was the first of five children, added that he had been on the road for almost two years.
It was gathered that his family relocated from Arewa, Kaduna, to Lagos, in search of greener pasture. His mother, however, did not relocate with the rest of the family, for undisclosed reasons. It was also learnt that his father is a petty trader at Mile12 Market.
Ismaila said, “I am used to crawling from Mile12, where I live to Ikeja under-the-bridge every day. I want to train three of my siblings, who are in school. I want them to have the advantage of education that I did not have.
“Sometimes, some commercial bus drivers give me a ride in their buses to Ikeja, but many other days, I crawl.”
He said he did not regret his disability because he believed that it was the way God wanted it, adding that getting a wheelchair was not a bad idea.
He said, “I had been begging in Ikeja for almost two years now. I will not give up because I get money from this and the money is used to send my three younger ones to school. I am the first child but I prefer if my younger ones are trained, because by God’s grace when they become something in life tomorrow, they will help me too.”
The beggar said he was not born crippled. He said the circumstances surrounding his ailment was mysterious and could not be explained.
He said, “I was not born this way. I woke up one morning and I could not feel my legs; till today I still cannot feel my legs. I am the only person in my family who is disabled. That is the reason why I believe that it is the way God wanted it.”
A phone dealer, identified simply as Michael, said he had been noticing Ismaila crawling under the bridge for more than a year.
He said, “I opened a shop in computer village about a year ago, and I have been seeing this beggar.
“Motorists pass in their flashy cars and splash mud and water on him. It is only passersby and commercial motorists that give him money.”
Our correspondent learnt that Ismaila brings spare clothes everyday, which he keeps with an elderly woman, Mrs. Alice Johnson, who sells food under the bridge.
Speaking with our correspondent, she said, “I decided to help him keep his clothes out of compassion. It is not easy to see someone like that and just turn your back on such a person.
“I usually give him food every evening before he goes home.”
She said Ismaila usually gets to Ikeja by 7am and leaves by 6pm everyday.