I don’t enjoy making Nigerians seem bad to the outside world, neither do I want to reveal our weaknesses. But when a monster raises its head, and the only way to battle it is by shouting to call the attention of others, I’ll do so without looking back.
There’s something gradually eating deep into our society and people seemed not to be bothered about it. We may not really know how bad this is because we look at it as a way of helping others. But we may not actually be helping, but destroying.
On the 1st of October I happened to be in Awka. My brother was taking my boys and I to Eastern Mass Transit park in UNIZIK junction so we can board their bus back to Enugu. We were close to Eke Awka Market when suddenly someone thrust a bag through the car’s window and into my face. I was annoyed by such audacity and raised my head from my phone to see who this intruder could be. I was so shocked when I turned towards the offender only to see a sickly young lady with protruded shiny stretched vein-lined belly beside him. You can imagine the goose bumps that filled me up when I beheld this pathetic looking figure. The only thing I could say was “Oh my God.”
I then looked around and noticed that there were other people like this intruder holding sacks made of cloth, with rings around their tips to keep them ever open and handles used to extend them to passers-by. The lady that is their ‘decoy’ to attract ‘customers’ was half- naked, obviously a strategy devised to make people do exactly what was expected – to put money, a huge amount of money, into the extended sacks.
This system of ‘begging’ is not only seen in Awka. It is more here in Enugu. The one that pains me most is that people that use babies as a begging tool. I saw one of such persons in Abakpa Market (near Ukwu Aki), Enugu, some time last year. She was sitting under an old umbrella and displayed a set of three babies that were about two to four months in front of her. She was shouting, “Help me to feed my triplets,” and then something about God blessing people that help babies and stuff like that. Being a mother, I was touched by the sight of innocent babies kept under such condition, so I dropped money into the bucket she kept (do I need to tell you that the bucket looked appetising with the type of money inside?). But I couldn’t just go. I engaged the ‘mother’ in a short conversation, which made her so uncomfortable.
Now, I don’t need to say what I asked her and all, but I can bet you my one month salary that the ‘mother’ has not given birth to a child in the past two years, not to talk of nursing three-month olds; you can tell a nursing mother or a woman that just gave birth by her looks. Another thing I discovered is that those children don’t look like they came from the same mother – their features and ages were just different. Anyway, I told the woman I will return later to bring more things for her ‘babies’ but I didn’t see her again. Oh, one more thing, while talking to her, I noticed her eyes kept darting towards a middle aged man sitting down in one of the shops.
See, I know what charity is, and I know what charity isn’t. What these people that uses the very sick and the defenceless to do isn’t charity; it is another form of extortion. To be honest with you, they are callous.
When I was younger, back in my primary and secondary school days, I used to see ‘mad’ people tied together, beating musical instruments and singing. The persons at the beginning and the end of the line are always sane people and they are the ones that hold out bags for money. These people sing and perform so people could give them alms. No one knows who sends them to do this though the public didn’t complain much because they look at it as a way of housing and feeding the mentally deranged. Later on, accusing fingers began to point around because it was believed that they kidnap imbeciles from their homes to use them for this business. But it seems that method isn’t paying off again so they have resorted to using babies and sick people as a means of extorting from the public.
Now, before you judge me for not being human and not following what the Bible says, I’ll like to make it clear to you that even if those people want to help raise funds for those sick people (most of whom have cancerous growths and enlarged body parts), they can do that without bringing them to the public. I have seen some women carrying envelops about asking passers-by to make contributions for the sick and the motherless. In as much as I can’t say these people are genuine, I still give them the little I have. It is still better than bringing them out so people can see them and sneer or grimace.
One other thing I want to say is this – how do you even know that these people collecting huge sum of money in the name of paying medical bills of those sick people are genuine? How do you tell what that money you put into that bag is used for? How sure are you that they take care of those sick people? Why won’t they go to organisations to seek for help? I know that most churches help to raise funds for people like this, but they have to monitor how the funds are utilised. So for these people to avoid organisations that will monitor them makes me suspicious. So, don’t blame me, yet.
Please, I don’t want to discourage anyone from giving alms, but I want to discourage the use of babies and sick people as tools for begging. I don’t know what the concerned government agencies and departments are doing about this. These people need to be called to order and questioned thoroughly. No matter how we see it, it is wrong.
And as my brother rightfully said, the government needs to start taking care of the citizens. Sick people should stay in hospitals and sick beds. We have good government hospitals where they can be looked after, not on the road where they make money for some mean spirited individuals.
As for those that display babies to attract alms, they should be out rightly arrested (whether they are their true mothers of not). They have no excuse for their wicked acts.
May God bless and heal Nigeria.