Hundreds of beggars in Lagos State, Southwest Nigeria, today stormed the Lagos State Government Secretariat and the House of Assembly to protest what they call undue harassment and plans to ban their activities by the state government.
The beggars carried placards and chanted Islamic songs and blocked the main entrance to the government secretariat while there was traffic gridlock as they prevented motorists from entering the secretariat.
The President of the Association of Physically Challenged, Alhaji Jubril Hassan, said the government was wrong to have asked beggars off the streets where they were enjoying their social rights.
Hassan also said it was illegal to deny them their fundamental freedom of movement.
“We adopted this medium to express our displeasure and unhappiness with the actions taken and the one to be taken by the Lagos State Government.
“Our movement within Lagos metropolis has been restricted such that anyone caught roaming the street is taken to Majidun prison (rehabilitation centre),” he said.
Hassan explained that in most cases, all their belongings had been seized, while they were also maltreated by the management of the camp.
“The condition of the camp is appalling and devastating, it causes more harm to our health.
“It has come to our notice that very soon anybody found giving us alms will be apprehended and imprisoned for two years,” he said.
He, therefore, appealed to the government to rescind its decision of denying the beggars the right to move freely within the state.
According to him, the policy will further aggravate their suffering, instead of alleviating it.
He called on the media, the NGOs and human rights activists to come to their aid.
The secretary of the association, Zakariwai Hassan, claimed that over 600 beggars had been arrested by the government without providing adequate alternative for them.
Hassan urged the state government to look into their plight and allow them to continue with their daily activities in the state.
The protesters were received by Mr Babatunde Panox, Special Adviser to Governor Babatunde Fashola on Security as the assemblymen were on recess.
He advised them not to take the law into their hands, promising that the government would find solutions to their problems.
“Your issue has been noted and I am assuring you that the government will find a solution to it urgently,” he said.