About five babies used for street begging have been rescued by officers of the Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development (LSMYSD) in Iyana Ipaja, Lagos State, while four women, who claimed to be their mothers, have been arrested and presently undergoing questioning by the LSMYSD rescue team.
The women, Abosede, Shakirat, Fatimah and Hadizah (surnames withheld) were apprehended with two sets of identical twins and a child at the Iyana Ipaja Roundabout on Wednesday, while one of the women, Hadizah Nokali, from Kano State, was said to have encouraged her children to escape on sighting the rescue team.
Though the culprits told Metro that they were the biological mothers of the babies, they cited the death of their husbands, poverty and unemployment as reason they had to resort to using their children for begging.
The women were arrested following the state government’s recent prohibition of street begging in response to the rise in the use of babies, especially rented babies, for street begging.
Speaking about the state government’s zero tolerance for street begging, the Permanent Secretary, LSMYSD, Mr Hakeem Muri-Okunola, said the state would continue to protect the dignity of the child as a signatory of the Child Rights Act, even as it strives to rid streets of beggars.
Speaking, he said “it is sad that most of the beggars are not the biological parents of the children they use for alms begging and it is our responsibility as government to protect the dignity of children being used as a tool for begging, which is a punishable offence under the law of the land.”
The Permanent Secretary also warned that “anyone caught begging on the streets with children or giving alms to beggars on the streets would be handed over to the legislative arm of the government, while children used as a tool would be taken up by the state’s Child Protection Unit for proper care.”
Muri-Okunola enjoined residents to cooperate with the state government to stamp out street begging by offering their charity through known channels, such as religious homes, resettlement centres or orphanages instead of to beggars, who are known to act as ancillaries to criminals such as kidnappers and robbers.