The recent pronouncement by the Kaduna State government that it had placed a ban on street begging is as much a welcome development as it is one that raises questions and demands answers. Reactions from the public range from the ridiculous to the absurd, while others are fair, objective and dispassionate. However, they all have a common denominator: that government must address the socio-economic situation that gave rise to the phenomenon in the first place.
Nigeria, the fabled giant of Africa, is believed to have the largest number of school age children out of school. Poverty is estimated at about 50 per cent with a very disproportionate downward curve towards the northern part of the country. Unemployment is in the range of 24 per cent – which means that about 45 million of the country’s 183 million people are unemployed. Worse still, the education system is nearly in a shambles.
Nevertheless, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank declared her the largest economy in Africa on the premise that the economy had been on a high; between six and seven per cent growth rate.
Street begging, or ‘almajiranci’, has not always been the embarrassing menace it is today. The almajiri system did produce some of the best among the leaders the country has ever had. This piece is not a case for street begging. The issue is that almajiranci is one of the most graphic illustrations of systemic failure in our quest for nationhood. The system of education that produces the almajiris is still in existence while its support tools have been discarded. When the colonialists found an established system of governance in Northern Nigeria, they adopted it because it provided an organised line of communication and governance. But the tragedy of it was that the colonialists, in an effort to discard that which did not fit in with their objectives, tried to dismantle the almajiri system when they failed to integrate it with the western education system. They should have allowed the two to grow symbiotically. With the neglect of the zakat collection system and other forms of tax by the emirates and sultanate, the almajiranci system lost its main source of survival.
The situation was compounded by the inability of the northern elite to provide a comprehensive home-grown policy that would have re-integrated victims of the foreign system of education, which is generally perceived by the lower class, or ‘talakawas,’ as a tool for the elite to further subjugate them.
Beyond banning street begging, we demand that Governor Nasir el Rufai tell the people how he intends to handle the fallout of the otherwise laudable policy. We urge him to design a policy response that will not only take the beggars off the street but also make the tendency to beg unattractive. It is not going to be easy as it requires enormous resources, but with the right political will, it can be done.
Culled from http://leadership.ng/opinions/446836/ban-on-street-begging