FOR the second time within the last one month, thousands of beggars yesterday laid siege to the entrance of the Lagos State House of Assembly and the Governor’s Office at Alausa to protest “undue harassment and arrest by officials of the state government.”
The beggars, who came in over 10 buses and seven tricycles, barricaded the entrance to the Assembly and demanded that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu should address them.
They said that they would sleep on the road if the governor did not come out.
Despite pleas by the government officials telling them that the governor was not around, the beggars refused to leave, vowing to remain there until they were addressed by the governor.
The protesters carried placards, some of which read: ‘Enough is enough, stop the persecution of people with disabilities,’ ‘Save the waterfront, enforced conviction, we demand justice,’ ‘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 chanted ‘Allahu Akbar’ intermittently and dared the police to touch them.
Spokesman for the beggars and Coordinator, Physically Challenged Empowerment Initiatives (PCEI), Mohammed Zanna, said in 2017, they protested at Alausa and refused to leave, “but many of us were arrested and taken to Majidun”, which he described as a prison where they were ill-treated and manhandled by government officials.
He said without making provision, the government would make laws to arrest the beggars and dump them at
Majidun, adding that some of them had died in hospital and detention.
Zanna said that some of the beggars had bought tricycles to do business, “but now that the government has banned them, their situation has worsened.”
He said that on February 7, his organisation came with 500 beggars for a peaceful protest to draw the attention of the governor to their plight.
“Our situation has been worsened by the ban on tricycles (Keke Marwa).
We cannot enter buses because we cannot struggle with able- bodied people to gain access to the buses. We are seeking audience with Governor Sanwo-Olu. 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 empowered,” Zanna said.
He added: “We do not want to beg on the streets. We have used our own ingenuity and resources to provide alternative means of livelihood for ourselves that are more dignified, safer and productive to the society. Yet, this government is willing to destroy all we have built for ourselves and push us back into poverty.
“We are ready to work with the government to find workable alternatives through appropriate regulation of Keke, special permits for People Living with Disabilities (PLWD) to use our Keke for transportation of our members or real and immediate support for alternative livelihood through skill training and support for PLWD to start new businesses.”
At press time, no lawmaker or government official had attended to the protesters.