The Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL) has censured the National Assembly as it passed jail term for physically-challenged beggars.
The two chambers prescribed a six-month term jail, among other punishments for anyone using a person living with disability to solicit for harms in public. This is contained in the harmonized bill jointly passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives last week.
Reacting to the development on behalf of the Coalition, its Executive Chairman, Debo Adeniran described the jail term as a step in wrong direction.
Adeniran said “It is preposterous that while many pro-masses bills are gathering dust on the shelves of our lawmakers, they could pass a bill to jail beggars who are pushed into the trade because government at all levels have failed them. Begging to earn a living is a sign of administrative failure and an indictment on every arm of government. Government, by its various anti-masses policies, wants people to beg because every Nigerian is in one form or the other, a beggar. For instance, many of our law enforcement agents fall into one category of beggar or the other because their take home pay hardly takes them home. It is so unfortunate that our lawmakers are not talking about why people are begging, because someone that is disabled and also jobless is a victim of double jeopardy. Who would be gainfully employed and go into begging? The jail term is like cutting the head because you have headache.”
Speaking further, Adeniran, who described the jail term as misplacement of priority and oppressive, queried why it is only the physically challenged beggars that would be jailed.
“The questions begging for answers are: why must it be only physically challenged beggars that would be jailed? Why not able-bodied people who are beggars? Why focus mainly on the physically-challenged, leaving out the myriads of area boys and girls and corporate beggars who have no other thing than to beg for living? Why are we not addressing those issues that brought them into destitution? If they are physically challenged, it means they require care and if the care is not coming from the official quarters, they help themselves by seeking it from the sympathetic public.
It is a misplacement of priority and oppressive to jail beggars. Even when the government says it will rehabilitate them, what kind of rehabilitation are they talking about? Is that which will make them perpetually poor and incapable or that which will make them to be able to fulfill their social obligations that the society expects of them? The jail term aspect of the bill is unreasonable, oppressive, exploitative and lopsided. Sincerely speaking, the government should admit systemic failure in governance rather than look out for an oppressive way out.
The human rights activist however called on government to address the problem of unemployment, if it is really serious about ridding our streets of beggars.
“Basically, if we are trying to enact laws that will rid our society of unnecessary presence of beggars, caution and restraints must also be exercised to the right direction for the law to be effective. The overall interest should gear towards making life better for these physically challenged individuals rather than the eagerness to have them thrown in jail. Thus, adequate provision and planning should be a pre-requisite. The government should address the root of begging, which is unemployment before implementing the law.”
Media Officer, CACOL
07 November, 2014