On Wednesday, some 70 beggars and other people described as homeless were reported to have been dumped at the Upper Iweka Bridge, Onitsha, Anambra State, by agents of the Lagos State Government.
By Samuel Awoyinfa and Emmanuel Obe
The destitute told journalists that they were dumped about 3.00am at this location after being detained in Ikorodu, Lagos, for over six months for alleged wandering and other minor offences by the officials of Lagos State Kick Against Indiscipline.
While the action has drawn the ire of some humanitarian organisations, individuals and Anambra State Government, the LSG has not issued any official statement on the matter, either denying or confirming it.
But the victims said they were brought to Onitsha in four buses, escorted by riot policemen. What is, however, not clear is the definition of who a destitute is, especially in the context of the government’s action.
Besides, observers want to know how the state of origins of the people involved were established. Indeed, one of the victims of what can be described as ‘internal deportation’, Mr. Osondu Mbuto, who hails from Ohaozara in Ebonyi State, told one of our correspondents that he was a petty trader in Lagos. According to him, he was arrested by the LSG officials, in company with some policemen, while going to his shop on December 18, 2012.
This is not the first time the Babatunde Fashola administration would be sending the destitute to their states of origin. Not long ago, several beggars from the northern part of the country were ‘repatriated’.
Perhaps to show that the state is not discriminatory about this, the South-West too has tasted the pill of such deportation. Some of the destitute were, in the past, dumped in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, sometimes last year.
Yet, the deported may have to count themselves lucky. After all, some were, not long ago, arrested, arraigned and sentenced to different jail terms while some others have been given the community service option.
On February 4, 2013, 20 beggars were convicted by the Special Offences Court in Alausa for begging alms on the streets of Lagos. Among them was a cripple, Sunday Udoyo, who had hernia. He was brought to Lagos by a relation to raise money for the surgical operation of the ailing Udoyo.
Because of his predicament, Udoyo was remanded at the Lagos State Rehabilitation Centre, Majidun, where he will spend two years.
In 2012, a report had it that the state government jailed over 120 beggars. The beggars were accused of conducting themselves as disorderly people, without visible means of livelihood. They were said to have committed an offence contrary to section 166 (1) (a) Criminal law of Lagos State 2011 and punishable under section 166 (2) of the same law.
All the beggars were arrested and arraigned by officials of the Lagos State Office of Youth and Social Department.
Between May and early July 2013, 13 other beggars were jailed, while 12 others were sentenced to community service – plus payment of fines, ranging from N5,000 to N30,000.
Based on one of the sentences, eight of the beggars will serve one month imprisonment with the option of N5,000 fine each, while two others were sentenced to three months imprisonment or pay a fine of N25,000 each.