Hawkers and Beggars
Ibrahim Shuaibu writes that in Kano State, hawkers and beggars fight for attention and survival
Kano was once famous for its groundnut pyramids, but all that is gone. Today, Kano is regaining its prominence, only for different reasons. Passing through many roads in Kano city gives a sight of young and old people either as street hawkers or beggars, but much more is the scramble for attention by the groups not to go back home empty handed, thereby making lives difficult for road users.
THISDAY investigation shows that hawking and begging are a growing menace in Kano State. For instance, it is now a common sight on every Kano road including the major roads of Murtala Mohammed, Airport, Gidan Murtala, Ibrahim Taiwo Road, Zaria Road, Kabuga/ BUK Road and other roads in Kano metropolis to see hawkers and beggars of various kinds and sometimes magicians or marabouts.
The hawkers and beggars constantly harass motorists and sometimes do it in a very aggressive manner, while sometimes they cause traffic jam on the roads during the day.
They oftentime make driving impossible on some major roads where there are heavy vehicular activities during the day time. The notorious points are the Gidan Murtala road, Ibrahim Taiwo road and Zaria road roundabout. All these places are almost impassable points when there is heavy traffic due to activities of hawkers and beggars who often stand in front of the cars to prevent movement.
In Kano, most of the beggars are being assisted by either their relations or children who take them round the streets and roads soliciting for alms from motorists, while some hire people to carry them around the city for the day’s business. After the day’s work, the money is shared according to agreed percentage.
There are also beggars on wheelbarrows in strategic junctions accosting passersby to appeal for alms.
The alarming rate of this growing menace has become a concern among Kano residents who feel that the government has failed in its responsibility of keeping the beggars and destitute off the major streets of Kano.
A resident who pleaded anonymity said: “There is something fundamentally wrong somewhere. The upsurge in the number of hawkers and beggars shows this government has inadequacies that have a potential snowballing effect on crime wave in the state. We have not witnessed this before and I think governor Rabiu Kwankwaso needs to apply a workable strategy in this direction before it is too late.
A commercial cab driver, Adamu Inuwa told THISDAY that “most of the times when I see this hawkers and beggars on our roads, I am afraid and taken aback about their increase, because they are now nuisance not only to the motorists but to every one in the state. They always intimidate people with different kind of products being displayed through the windows of the cars, while others force motorists to buy their products for the fear of unknown as they appear always in bad attire which is suspicious.”
He adds: “Sometime during the fasting period, passengers inside the cars were forced to buy date which is popularly called in Hausa as “Dabino” because the hawkers in their attitude forced people to buy or they will be intimidated”. The beggars, who are widely unknown and who do not have any identity, often flood traffic jams in the city carrying bags with unknown items. They even peep into people’s cars while begging for alms.”
Shehu Kadiri, a director of a non-governmental organisation said that the government is failing the people. “What you see on the roads in terms of beggars and hawkers increasing in large numbers on Kano metropolis is a showcase of government’s negligence in social support. The danger of this is that there will be pressure on the society and it could cost the society so dearly. The Kano State government needs to do something urgently to reverse the trend,” he said.
THISDAY also learnt that hawkers and beggars contribute to the waves of crime in the state.
Reports also indicates that in many instances, they provide cover to criminals who disguise as hawkers. Areas around motorpark and densely populated areas like Bata roundabout, Dan’Agundi juction and Kofar Nassarawa are hot spots.
While hawking may appear a general phenomenon in Nigerian cities and towns, a distinguishing characteristic of hawking in Kano is the fact that it involves to a great extent children who are using school time to hawk their trades.
In Kano, a majority of street hawkers who hawks kola nuts and groundnut are young girls below 16 years of age. Also good proportions of pure-water hawkers are young boys below the age of 14 years.
In parts of Kano that includes such place as Sabon Gari, family substantial income is raised through begging for alms and hawking to the extent that a number of families of the immigrant population of Kano state leaving predominantly in Sabon Gari, survive on the incomes.
It was learnt that the state government under the leadership of Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso is not given attention to resolving the problem of alms begging and hawking in the state as he focus his effort on the beautification of Kano streets with fully functional streets light, flowers and traders shade, while the government ignored the potentially dangerous activities of beggars and hawkers that now give residents sleepless night.
An official of the state who spoke under anonymity told THISDAY that the government will not allow this ugly trend of the hawkers to continue as efforts is under way to ensure that they are chase away from the road, while the government will provide them an enabling environment to trade their goods without disturbing anybody.
The official also explained that the activities of the street hawkers in the state is something worrisome because of their nuisance to the state and the visitors to the commercial city who are on daily basis coming for commercial activities at the popular Kwari textile market, Abubakar Rimi market (Sabon Gari) and Kurmi market.
But, hawkers and beggars in Kano say they are part of the society and chasing them away will be difficult. One of the hawkers, Abdulkarim Yusuf, popularly known as Babba said “we hawk because it’s the only solution left to us not to be redundant in the society”.
He said, “Virtually, all of us were educated, but because there is lack of job opportunities in this country, we resolved to help ourselves through this hawking arrangement. We believe it will make us to be self reliance instead of being jobless”.
Since 2011, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) administration and the Lagos State Government have been repatriating a large number of beggars back to their states. Kano is one of the states with a large number of the repatriated beggars.
The repatriated beggars were taken in groups in different buses to states including Kaduna, Kano, Bauchi, Jigawa, Nasarawa, Kogi, Kwara, Plateau and Gombe. Others were Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Cross River and Abia.
The FCT administration also warned any of the beggars nursing plans to return to the FCT to drop such plans, as they would be prosecuted if found.
While the FCT adminsitration cited security challenges being the chief reasons for the repatriation, Lagos State government wants to keep its streets clean.