Different faces of corporate begging
| credits: Chukky Nwakky
As the economic recession bites harder, some residents daily devise new means of begging, SAMUEL AWOYINFA reports
Apart from the familiar physically-challenged people that are traditionally known to beg alms in the city, other shades of beggars are beginning to emerge. Call them corporate beggars, if you like.
This class of beggars operates on an individual basis and they seem to pick their targets by some traits they see in them.
It could be the kind of cars they drive, the neighbourhood where they live or the kind of clothes they wear.
These corporate beggars operate in and around offices, churches, shopping malls, road sides and familiar neighbourhoods.
Investigations by our correspondent reveal that they come in two categories: those that are not ready to work but are looking for an easy way to earn a living; and those who lost their jobs and have relatives to take care of.
It is also common to see women, normally backing their babies, often well dressed, also asking for financial assistance at bus stops, especially in the morning and evening, to either buy baby food or as transport fare.
From CMS, Victoria Island, Lekki to Obalende, Ikeja and Yaba, these beggars operate without scruples.
With the presence of the first category, it becomes difficult for kind-hearted Lagosians who might want to help those in the second category to do so. The reason for this is that the potential Good Samaritans may think the beggars are all the same.
However, those who are moved by the stories of woe of either of the classes demonstrate kind gestures by giving them money.
Some of the beggars complain of being stranded and not having enough money for transportation to their homes after visiting imaginary relations in far away locations.
Others wave medical reports or drug prescription lists at their ‘victims’, begging profusely that they need money to purchase drugs for their ailing relations. In most cases, it is for their children. And those children would have just undergone one form of surgery or the other.
For those who normally beg for transport fares, part of the trick is to exaggerate the distance in order to draw sympathy from the public.
A Yaba-based resident, Mr. ThankGod Ijeh, narrating his experience with a beggar at Yaba, says he was approached by a well -dressed young man who spoke flawless English, begging for transport fare.
He states, “He told me that he came all the way from Ikorodu to Yaba, to visit a relation but missed him narrowly, and that he did not have enough money to go back to Ikorodu.
“I asked him the exact amount he needed and he said N500. I calculated it and I discovered he needed between N350 and N400. Though I never believed his tale, I gave him only N200.”
While Ijeh was kind enough to part with N200, Mr. Fatai Olusayo had a different experience.
Olusayo, who lives at New Oko Oba area of Lagos, recalls an encounter he had with a female corporate beggar recently. The woman’s deceitful streak was unveiled by him.
He says, “I was busy in my workshop when I noticed a middle-aged woman who clutched a polythene bag, dressed in Ankara, advance toward me. I had thought she was about to ask for directions to where she was headed.
“But I was surprised when she said she was on her way to Agbado and she had no money on her, that I should assist her with money.
“Since I believe in alms giving as a Muslim, I gave N150, knowing that the amount would take her from that point to Agbado. She thanked me and left.”
But Olusayo was surprised to see the same woman the next day, still relating the same story to another would-be ‘victim.’ He raised the alarm, which removed the scale of deceit from the woman’s eyes.
Olusayo explains that he and others who had gathered warned her never to ply ‘her trade’ in their territory any longer.
A young man, who could probably be in his late 20s, had approached our correspondent on Monday at the bus stop in front of the Alausa Secretariat, Ikeja, and begged him for fare.
From his looks, he did not betray any sign of someone in distress. He looked calm and calculated. But when asked where he was headed, he paused for a while, before he muttered, “Oshodi”. The correspondent was torn between two thoughts, the first being that he was about to be fleeced second and that he had an opportunity to help a ‘brother’ in need.
These are what many Lagosians experience almost on daily basis.
However, psychologists and psychiatrists have given reasons why there are such faces of corporate beggars in the society.
A senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology, University of Lagos, Dr. Bamikole Fagbohungbe, says there are two types of corporate beggars that are easily identifiable in the society – those forced into begging either due to the economic downturn or those who have been sacked from paid employment; and those who do not want to work but looking for easy ways out.
He says, “Those who are in the first category are those who took to corporate begging due to hopelessness of their situation. They had tried all other means but there is no succour. Those in the second category are those who want to cut corners, they do not want to work. Rather, they prefer the easy way out.”
A psychiatrist and a former head of the Department of Psychiatry, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Osogbo campus, Dr. Adeoye Oyewole, notes that since the military had exterminated the middle class, it is either one is at the upper crust or lower class.
He states that the non-existence of the social security system for the unemployed and the aged does not augur well for the society. “When there is economic dislocation either through loss of job or lack of employment, some people resort to corporate begging. First, they may begin by going to their friends and asking for assistance. it is when the friends begin to treat them with disdain that they look elsewhere.
“There is even a type of corporate begging among those political office holders who left office some years back. They use all sorts of gimmicks to raise money from some of their colleagues currently in office.
“It is high time the state and federal governments instituted social security system as we have in the United Kingdom, which we even tagged capitalist economy. They tax the rich heavily to take care of the poor.”