UCH beggars: We lie to get money from people
I had just exited the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan’s Accident and Emergency department (popularly known as A&E). I had hoped to still find some there but they had all been chased away a long time ago, probably because beggars constitute a lot of nuisance generally in the hospital. I walked past the GOPD, behind the Chief Tony Anenih Geriatric centre and I had just crossed the car park when a man approached me. He was dressed corporately so it came as a shock to me when he started begging me for alms. He kept fidgeting as he talked, looking around suspiciously. He was wearing a slightly rumpled pink shirt (that looked like he had worn it once) on oversized brown trousers and with a pair of worn out shoes. He also conversed with me in Yoruba. I gave him #70 after he opened up to me. He claimed to be 36 but he looked older than his age.
How old are you?
I am 36 years of age.
How long have you been begging here?
It has been for about five years now.
Why do you beg here?
The economy is bad. There is no money to take care of the children, would I now steal?
Have you tried to get a job?
I have tried but they do not pay our salaries regularly
Are you authorized to beg here?
Long silence… It hasn’t been long since they chased us away. They don’t allow us to beg for alms anymore. They said they don’t want us anymore.
I can see you are well dressed.
Long silence… Like I said earlier they have chased us away from here. The reason why I am dressed like this and look good is because they must not know that I have returned. This is how I occasionally beg for alms.
How do you convince people to give you alms?
Looks around nervously for some seconds… We usually use the drug prescription… The prescription card to beg for money. People rarely give us money but if we lie to them, they won’t know that it is the old prescription we show them. We deceive them and they think we don’t have enough money to buy the drugs that the doctors prescribed for us, without knowing that we are deceiving them.
Are the rumors true that you used to live here.
We don’t live here anymore but sometimes we used to sleep here before. Occasionally, we would urinate and defecate in the bush there, but they have long chased us away.