By Ugochukwu Alaribe
ABA– Beggars have taken over the streets of Aba, the commercial city of Abia State, running after traffic and soliciting for alms.
The street beggars are now found at every major junction in the city where they stay under the sun harassing passersby for alms. From Bata junction to the popular Christ the King Catholic, CKC, Church along Asa Road, Aba main motor park, Asa by Asa Road junction, to Market Road, an army of street beggars have taken over every available space at major streets and roads of the city.
Some of them are nursing mothers who run after motorists begging for alms while the aged and the sick place themselves at a vantage position on the roadside. Some charity organisations and individuals regularly visit them to share foodstuff, clothing and medication.
South-East Voice observed that the beggars appear in different styles; age and sex, even as some of them cannot speak Igbo language. Most of the street beggars are dressed in dirty clothing while others engage sick children or the aged to attract sympathy.
In an interview with South-East Voice, a street beggar at the gate of CKC Church, Asa Road, who is a nursing mother and could not speak Igbo language, said she was brought to Aba from a neighbouring state to beg for alms and wants the government to help her start a business. It was discovered that some of these street beggars usually retire to the frontage of the government ministries located at the old Post office area and Ngwa Cultural Centre where they sleep at night.
South-East Voice observed that a new twist has been added to street begging in Aba as able-bodied men and women are now seen at motor parks, offices and business centres soliciting for alms. Others have developed the habit of scavenging for food and alms during public occasions like wedding, burial, house opening and child dedication.
Speaking on the situation, Chairman, Civil Liberties Organisation, Aba Unit, Prof. Charles Chinekezi, urged the Abia State Government to build a home for the aged and beggars to take them off the streets in the city. He attributed the problem of able-bodied men and women taking to street begging to unemployment and urged the government to introduce social welfare programmes to check the trend.
“The problem of street begging in Aba has taken a bad dimension. You can see them at any major road, public offices and motor parks. It is disturbing to see children who ought to be in school running after traffic to beg for alms; it is not in our interest because some of these homeless children may grow up to haunt the society tomorrow.
“Government can introduce skills acquisition programmes to train children and build social homes for the aged to take them off the streets. Now, some able- bodied men have taken to begging, it is high time government put up social security programmes to cater for the unemployed,” Chinekezi told South-East Voice.
When South-East Voice visited the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, the Permanent Secretary, Mrs Nnenna Chikezie, was not on seat. However, an official of the Ministry who pleaded anonymity said the state government is not resting on her oars to tackle the problem of street begging in Aba and added that some of the beggars are dumped in the city from neighbouring states.