Child Beggars Flood Awka

By Gloria Ibesi

Children of different age categories, ranging from one to fourteen years, not less than twenty in number, have been seen occupying some spaces under the Flyover at Aroma Junction, Awka, waving at passers-by for alms.

These child-beggars who sit around, under the bridge, have been discovered to be natives of Enugu and Ebonyi States who have found a new home around the Aroma Junction Axis. Fides discovered that the children come out for begging on daily basis, as early as 9am, till very late in the evening and do not go to school. These children are occasionally sighted handling some amounts of money realized through their begging activities.

One of the children who gave her name as Chinwe Benedict during an interrogation, told Fides she was 13 years old and that she and her four siblings, including twins who are barely a year old, came out to beg with their mother every day. According to her, their father was late and there was no money for them to be enrolled in school.

Another child, Chibuzor Oku, 10 years old, said they begged for alms with their visually impaired father, who was not present during the interrogation. Just like the former, he said they did not go to school because of lack of money.

A woman with an infant and another child of about a year old, who also regularly sits under the flyover to beg for alms, told Fides that she needed help to start up a small business in order to train her children. She said: ‘My husband died last year and I need help to start up a small scale business.’

However, Fides discovered that some of the children just engage in the act of begging as business under the patronage of some unknown people who collect the monies realized from them at the end of each day and give them an agreed amount to keep; even as the number of the child beggars keep increasing daily; some with their parents, some others without their parents.

Again, for some of them who are neither physically challenged nor sick, they claimed that they took to begging because they needed help to start up  businesses of their own to cater for their children, Fides, however, gathered that they keep on with begging from weeks to months and never stop.

Speaking with Fides on the matter, the Ministry of Women’s and Social Welfare, through Mrs Blessing Nweke, the Special Adviser to the Commissioner for Women’s and Social Welfare, condemned the act, describing it as child abuse and child labour.

She said the ministry had been doing a lot to make sure that such menace and other cases involving children were curbed. Her words: ‘What you are seeing is just a little of what is happening in society. A lot of rapes here and there, children being taken for granted, especially those that live with people as their house helps. The ministry has been doing a lot in terms of giving support to children, repatriating them back to their states and uniting them with their people, giving psycho-social support to a lot of them. For some of them that come around, we take them to the hospital for treatment.’

She however described the Aroma Junction Flyover child-beggars as doing illegal business involving some mischievous people who go to different states gathering vulnerable children and using them for begging.

The ministry told Fides that they were aware of the child-beggars and had conducted an in-depth research which revealed that such cases were also existent in Onitsha and Nnewi, even as she said that some of them had been apprehended before now and legal action taken against them.

She said that a proposal had been made by the ministry on the matter and that it would be tackled as soon as possible.