Last week, 48-year-old female beggar, Hadiza Ibrahim, was arrested with N500,000 cash and $100 note at the popular Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja.
The arrest was made by the Evacuation Squad of the Social Welfare Department in the Federal Capital Territory Administration during a routine raid of black spots in the city.
The incident was an eye opener, as much as it was a bubble burst for many supposed less-privileged and physically challenged people who are found on the streets of the nation’s capital asking for alms from the public.
It is a common sight in FCT, seeing men, women and even underaged children roaming about the streets, clustering strategic bus stops, to beg for alms. While some have visible disabilities, others wear gloomy faces and behave in manners that attract sympathy and empathy to them.
Over the years, street begging has been one social menace and nuisance that government has fought hard to end in Abuja. However, it seems to have defied all wisdom and strategies deployed to end it. The more street beggars are being evacuated from Abuja, the more new ones are being shipped from different parts of the country.
Inside Abuja gathered that these beggars were often hidden in cargo trucks and smuggled from far north into the FCT during the night hours, and distributed to various locations by their ‘ procurement officers ‘, who also gets return from the alms. Hadiza Ibrahim, said to be an in
digene of Kaduna State, is not new in the begging ‘ business ‘ in Abuja, as she was confirmed to have been arrested several times. Apparently, she could be one of the beggars who allegedly bribed their ways out of the Rehabilitation Centre. Inside Abuja learnt that the FCT Rehabilitation Centre, where the beggars and other people living with disabilities are supposed to be kept, are always empty, while the streets are full, because they bribe officials to get released.
According to some reports, the arrested beggar has been begging on the streets of Abuja for the past 10 years. Ibrahim allegedly confirmed that she used to come out daily from 4.00pm to 11pm to beg for money around Wuse II and Maitama. “Sometimes rich people around the area give me N5,000 or N10,000 and even dollars.
If I get huge amount of money, I will travel to my hometown, Kwanan Danja in Zaria, Kaduna State, and when the money is finished, I will come back. “The day I was apprehended with the money, I came out with it to buy kitchen utensils for my daughter who will be getting married very soon,” she said.
This revelations from the arrested beggar have got some residents of Abuja talking. While some said the woman is an economic saboteur, others said she is a prudent beggar.
The beggar, herself confirmed that she had been into clothing business, but had to quit it to join begging of alms. She further revealed that she accumulated the huge sum, from her savings through N2,000,00 daily contribution, facilitated with whatever she realises from her begging on the streets.
Director, Social Welfare Services, Sani Amar who confirmed that the woman had been arrested and repatriated to Kaduna many times, also noted that she is one of the ” die-hard beggars”. Amar described the woman as “economic saboteur”, noting that she is even richer than some of the people who give her alms.
“What we normally do whenever we apprehend people, we search them thoroughly to ensure that they do not carry any object that can harm them or our staff.
“Then, we profile them to know where they come from and what they are doing apart from begging. “From our assessment within a decade that we have been apprehending Ibrahim, she seems to be socially deformed not mentally.
She knows what she is doing, she can differentiate between right and wrong. “There are many people looking for 10 per cent of what she has as capital to do a business that would sustain them without resorting to begging.
“But she is here with N500,000 plus $100 notes, which is N57,000, equivalent yet not investing it and still pretending to be a poor beggar who has nothing to eat. FCTA returns the money to her…
Inside Abuja learnt that after interrogation and the women was found not to have any link with terrorists group, as the huge amount of money portrayed her, the money was returned to her. It was also gathered that the Department of Social Welfare Ser- vices have perfected plans to repatriate her and offer advice on how she could invest the money.
Amar said as social counsellors, the Social Welfare Department will subject her to psychosocial therapy because of her perceived social deformity. “Within our little knowledge and experience in discharging our duty, with the assistance of security personnel attached to us, we understand that Hadiza was not into any criminal activities.
“And if you look at the money found in possession, it was accumulated overtime. And the profiling we did on her, and we gave the Police in our team, time to play their role, and they did what they can, and it was clearly established that she is not into such nefarious acts. “She was so wise to have selected the areas of her own begging business, where she realises huge money daily.
“You can imagine somebody dishing out one hundred dollars as alms to a beggar, not knowing that such person have more than that amount with him or her. Won’t the beggar return to the same location?
“We have established colonies and settlements of real people who are in dire need of such support either cash or kind. So, I want to solicit that anybody who wish to give such alms or support, should please carry out such do such people in dire need or you can go directly and give them.
“Civil servants, private business operators and what have you, if you want to give alms or assistance of any kind, look around you, there are people in dire need of help, reach out to them, you will be blessed,” he stressed