Thousands of beggars, on Tuesday, barricaded the entrance of Lagos state House of Assembly and Governor’s Office, protesting against undue harassment and arrest by officials of the state government.
The beggars, who came in over 10 buses and seven tricycles, demanded that the governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu addressed them.
They said that they would sleep on the road if the governor did not come out.
The protesters were armed with placards, some of which read: “Enough is enough, stop the persecution of people with disabilities,” “Save the waterfront, enforced conviction, and we demand justice.”
Others were: “If you don’t want to see us begging on the streets, give us skills and empowerment,” “Seeing beggars all over our streets and roads is the failure of the system” and “We are tired of running without legs or eyes, give us skills and empowerment.”
The beggars were chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ intermittently and dared the police to harass them.
Spokesperson of the beggars and Coordinator, Physically Challenged Empowerment Initiatives (PCEI), Mohammed Zanna, said that in 2017, they protested in Alausa and refused to leave, but many of them were arrested and taken to Majidun, which he described as a prison where they were ill-treated and manhandled by government officials.
Mohammed said without making provision, the government would make laws to arrest the beggars and dumped them at Majidun, as some of them had died in the hospital and in detention.
He added that some of the beggars had been able to purchase tricycles to do their businesses, but that now that the government had banned them, their situation had been made difficult, saying that people were now trekking from bus stops to their destinations and that some of the physically challenged among them do not have a means of transportation.
“We cannot enter buses now because we cannot fight and struggle. We are seeking audience with the governor. Let them come and tell us what they want to do with us. We need skills and empowerment. We are tired of sitting at home. We are demanding to be skilled.
“We do not want to beg on the streets. We have used our own ingenuity and resources to provide alternative livelihoods for ourselves that are more dignified, safer and productive to society.
“Yet, in the blink of an eye, this government is willing to destroy all we have built for ourselves and push us back into poverty and life without basic human dignity.
“We are ready to work with government to find workable alternatives through appropriate regulation of Keke, special permits for People Living With Disabilities to use our Keke for transportation of our members or real and immediate support for alternative livelihoods through skills training and support for PLWDs to start new businesses,” he said.