11 Dec Nigeria: Economic Struggles: Street beggars in Lagos shift to hawking due to a decline in almsgiving
By Ahmad Hadizat Omayoza, Mamos Nigeria
In Lagos State, the prevalence of street begging has grown over time, with beggars occupying pedestrian walkways and bridges throughout the metropolis, even as early as 7 am. Despite the sometimes repulsive appearance of beggars, the generous spirit of Nigerians has led to increased alms begging, turning it into a trade for both the physically challenged and those feigning disability.
At times, the state government has taken actions to address the issue, but public sympathy often portrays the government as insensitive to the less privileged. The current state of the economy, marked by reduced purchasing power, has resulted in a drop in almsgiving. Consequently, many beggars find themselves in a state of hunger.
In an attempt to find alternative means of survival, some resourceful beggars have transitioned to street trading, primarily hawking essential everyday goods. Speaking to Economy & Lifestyle, some beggars revealed using their savings from the more prosperous times of alms begging to start small-scale trades.
Ahmed Babangida, a former beggar, shared his story of turning to street trading in Yaba, selling polythene bags, sweets, and bitter kola. Despite facing the challenges of physical disability, he ingeniously attached a small kiosk to his wheelchair for easier mobility.
Another beggar, Ms. Sadiatu Mohamed, who begs with her two children, expressed her frustration as the sight of her malnourished children no longer garners the sympathy it once did. Considering hawking food or fruits as a means of survival, she reflects the changing dynamics of almsgiving.
The decline in almsgiving is attributed to the poor state of the economy, leading many to hold onto what little they have. Mrs. Adewunmi Olagboye, a businesswoman, highlighted the reluctance to part with money, especially given the economic hardships faced.
Cleric Mr. Abiodun Adesanya pointed out a shift in people’s attitudes, citing concerns about beggars potentially using money for nefarious purposes. He emphasized that some people simply cannot afford to give due to the challenging economic conditions, leading beggars to explore alternative ways of sustaining themselves through selling small items.
This transformation reflects a complex interplay of economic challenges, public attitudes, and the resourcefulness of those facing adversity in Lagos. As the landscape of almsgiving changes, beggars adapt to new strategies for survival, navigating the economic intricacies of contemporary Nigerian society.