A cross section of the protesters

Over 1,000 beggars on Tuesday blocked the entrance of the Lagos State House of Assembly and the Governor’s Office 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 addressed them, saying that they would sleep on the road if the governor did not come out.

Despite plea by government officials telling them that the governor was not around, they refused to bend and vowed to remain there until they were seen by the governor.

The protesters were armed with 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.”

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The beggars were chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ intermittently and dared the police to harass them.

A cross section of the protesters

Spokesperson of the beggars and Coordinator, Physically Challenged Empowerment Initiatives, PCEI, Mohammed Zanna, said in 2017, they protested in Alausa and refused to leave, but that many of them 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, government would make laws to arrest the beggars and dumped them at Majidun, as some of them had died in the hospital and in detention.

According to him, some of the beggars had been able to purchase tricycles to do their businesses, but that now that the government had banned them, their situation had been made difficult, saying that people were now trekking from bus stops to their destinations and that some of the physically challenged among them did not have means of transportation.

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He added that on 7th February, 2020, his organisation came with 500 beggars for a peaceful protest to draw the attention of the governor to the desperate situation facing members and persons living with disabilities across Lagos State whose livelihoods had been decimated and whose mobility seriously undermined by the shocking ban on tricycle riders.

“We cannot enter buses now because we cannot fight and struggle. We are seeking audience with the governor. 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 skilled,” Zanna said.

A cross section of the protesters

“We do not want to beg on the streets. We have used our own ingenuity and resources to provide alternative livelihoods for ourselves that are more dignified, safer and productive to society. Yet, in the blink of an eye, this government is willing to destroy all we have built for ourselves and push us back into poverty and life without basic human dignity.

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“We are ready to work with government to find workable alternatives through appropriate regulation of keke, special permits for People Living With Disabilities to use our keke for transportation of our members or real and immediate support for alternative livelihoods through skills training and support for PLWDs to start new businesses,” he said.