Background of the Study
Begging on the streets, in the urban centers is one of the age long activities and perhaps occupations of the highly vulnerable, poverty-ridden individuals in the society. This is particularly not limited to thedeveloping countriesalone. As revealed in the studies of different scholars, begging is not peculiar to developing countries; it is a universal phenomenon (Ado, 1997) and a global urban problem. While a considerable number of cities were identified in the US and Mexico as having a significant level of begging activity (Smith, 2005), cities in China, especially Shanghai, have been described as homes of different categories of beggars (including the poor, the disabled, the homeless and professional beggars), which are described as “liumin” (floating people) or “youmin”(wandering people) (Hanchao, Lu, 1999).
In India, begging is seen as a pride as beggars are seen posing as someone famous. The situation is not so different in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa, where beggars are seen at junctions all over the city. In cities of Britain and similar industrialized countries in the recent years, begging has become highly visible (Jordan, 1999). Those of Mexico, as reported by Fabriga (1971) and cited in Adedibu (1989) are not left out in this negative scenario.
The situation in Nigerian cities as observed everyday is perhaps worse with different categories of beggars found at motor parks, religious centers, markets, road junctions, venues of ceremonies, among other public places begging for alms (Ojo, 2005). Cities across the world are confronted with diverse and complex problems which have socio-economic and physical implications for cities’ dwellers. These problems as experienced by cities of less developed countries are enormous and multidimensional in nature. One obvious manifestation of these problems, especially in Nigeria, is begging, that is the act of asking people for money, food, clothes, etc. (Jelili, 2006).
The problem of begging is a social menace which has a
negative implication not only for cities’ economies,socio-physical environmentbut also for beggars themselves. The increasing population of beggars in Nigerian cities constitute an eyesore or environmental nuisance and health hazards, particularly those carrying infectious and contagious diseases (Egeonu, 1988).
Begging has serious implication for the city and national economy as beggars are not economically productive in any way since they contribute nothing to the economy. It leads not only to social relegation of the city but also to that of beggars as well as stigmatization of the class of people and their relatives. The problem has also arrested the attention of governments at various levels. For instance, the Lagos state government made efforts to tackle the problem of begging in Lagos by building rehabilitation centres to cater for beggars (Okoli, 1993). The media is not left out in this war against this menace as Newspapers occasionally report the problems associated with begging in lead articles (The Associated Press, 2008; Daily Triumph, 2010).
From the commercial city of Kano it was reported that the government was concluding arrangements to storm the streets in search of a particular set of individuals who are after all not elusive(The Associated Press, 2008; Daily Triumph, 2010). The government is fashioning out necessary legal backing to legitimize its audacious pursuit which will kick-start any moment from now. Thus, the government is doing, by sending and executive bill to the state legislative arm; initiating a process that will culminates in probable enactment of a law criminalizing the said practice, (The Royal Times, 2014).
It is unfortunate, however, that despite the effort of scholars, governments, media and national and international organizations, the problem of begging continues unabated in Nigerian cities. Although, the problem of begging is a worldwide phenomenon, it is more pronounced in the third world countries. This is true of Nigeria where different categories of beggars are conspicuously found in motor parks, religious worship, markets, road junctions, venues of ceremonies among other public places begging for alms
These categories of beggars include the disabled, the poor, and the destitute and to a considerable extent the able-bodied, healthy and physically strong individuals who take the advantage of the sympathy of the society for them to remain jobless and at times perpetrate evils (like crime) in the name of begging in the street. The issue is that those who engage in begging have one reason or the other to support their stand. To the easily recognized beggars, however, the problem of socio-economic maladies and physical disability are often the claim as articulated or implied in their approach to begging.
However, of all those identified factors, poverty and physical disability are most visible in Nigeria. For instance, an estimate by World Bank indicates that over 45% of the country’s population live below poverty level while about two-third (2/3) of this group are extremely poor. Therefore, in order to meet their basic needs, some of the poverty stricken people resort into begging as a major means of livelihood. Also from empirical evidences, physically disabled beggars constitute the bulk of identified beggars in Nigeria (Ogunkan, 2009).
However, it is imperative to state that the increasing incidence of beggars in Nigerian cities is not only due to poverty and physical disability but also to the fact that majority of the beggars are satisfied with the “job” (Jelili, 2006). Some have become very rich from begging, that they have acquired buses and houses, yet they always appear wretched so as to draw sympathy from the general public (KSRB, 1997). The presence of fake beggars and begging criminals has not helped the situation and may be dangerous to the society.
Statement of the Problem
The attentions of Political Scientists, Sociologists, Geographers, Urban Economists, and other policy formulators have been drawn to the problem of begging in Nigeria. The population of beggars on Nigerian streets is growing exponentially. Beggars are highly visible in public places, commercial centers, residential neighbourhood (Osagbemi, 2001) and worse still on campuses and inside buses. The potential threat of begging to Nigerian societal fabric is obvious in its negative implications to social, environmental and economic survival of the country.
Beggars constitute social threat to Nigerian society especially in the cities. They portray a bad image to outsiders or strangers. Some criminals hide under the guise of begging to perpetrate their evil deeds. They are at times used as instruments by mischief makers, who use them to vandalise public properties and utilities built with nation’s resources (NCFWD, 2001). The nefarious activities of those fake beggars such as criminals, area boys and thugs constitute one of the sources of civil unrest to the city dwellers. Begging also constitutes economic threat to the society as beggars are not economically productive in any way since they contribute nothing to national economy (Adedibu, 1989).
The city and national economy is retarded as considerable proportion of beggars population depend on the already
overstretched workforce. The environmental implications of begging is made manifest not only in beggars’ tendency to obstruct free flow of human and vehicular traffic but also their high tendency to generate dirty materials either as waste or as part of their belongings to their regular routes and stations. Although, the negative implications of begging discussed above have generated research efforts of various scholars, much has not been done on the social aetiology of this social phenomenon.
i. What factors can be held responsible for begging in Sokoto
North Local Government Area?
ii. To what extent does begging constitutes a social problem in
Sokoto North Local Government Area?
iii. What categories of people mostly engage in the street begging?
iv. Are there any concrete efforts from the stakeholders in addressing the menace of begging in the society?
v. What other effective means of solving street begging are there for the society to rid itself of the menace?
Aims and Objectives of the Study
The major aim of this study is to explore the nature of begging as it constitutes a social problem in Nigeria as a whole and Sokoto North Local Government Area in particular. Other objectives of the study are identified as follows;
i. To find out the main factors responsible for street begging in Sokoto North Local Government Area.
ii. To identify the extent to which street begging constitutes a social problem in Sokoto North Local Government Area.
iii. To know the categories of people mostly engaged in street begging.
iv. To find out efforts by stakeholders in addressing the menace of street begging in the society.
v. To suggest effective means of solving street begging and beggars problem in the society as a whole.
Significance of the Study
The study on street begging and how it constitutes a social problem is of great importance to the society as a whole. This study will dig deep into the menace of begging and its attendant problems with the aim of developing alternative solutions to reform the structure of the society. But more precisely, the study is significant to policy makers at all level as it will provides them with sound insight into the socio-economic political implication of the street begging in the society. It will also significant to the academic cycles as some research gaps are covered. The study will equally be beneficial to the researcher as will widen his understanding of the nature, category, dimension as well as the attendant problems do arises from street begging.
Literature review focuses on the review relevant works of studies conducted in the area by different scholars with the sole aim of begging of generating rich information on the social problem associated with street begging in general. Other relevant concepts associated with street begging are also captured and discussed.
A convenient starting point for discussing issues on begging is to attempt, define and clarify the ambiguity associated with the definitions of begging. Generally speaking, “To beg” is to approach somebody for help. Though, this definition provides a foundation meaning of begging, it cannot be passed for a working definition begging.
Kennedy and Fitzpatrick (2001) define begging simply as “asking passersby for money in a public place”. This definition is not comprehensive enough to reflect all activities of the beggars. For instance, beggars may approach people not necessarily for money alone but also for food, clothes etc and this activity may not necessarily take place in public places, it may take place anywhere. Jelili (2006) presents begging as the act of asking people for money, food, and clothes etc as gifts or charity. He conceptualizes begging to involve not only individual but also organizations or countries which he tags “corporate begging”. For the purpose of this study, we shall rely on this definition, however, the conceptualized here as street and house to house begging. This will assist in reflecting the image of begging and its implication for the social, economic and environmental survival of the country.
The existing literature on poverty has it that a universally acceptable definition of poverty remains elusive, because it is more easily recognized than defined (Mafimisebi, 2002).
This is why a wide variety of definitions have been put forward to reflect different dimensions or contexts within which it is defined. In general, however, two approaches of defining the concept are observed in the literature. First, poverty is observed in either absolute sense or relative sense. In absolute sense, poverty is seen, according to Akinbola (2002), as a state of not having or not being able to get the necessities of life; it is the situation of lack of access to resources needed to obtain the minimum necessities required to maintain physical efficiency (Okunmadewa, 2001).
Second, from its multidimensional perspectives, poverty is seen as a physiological deprivation, a social deprivation refers to poverty of income and basic human needs. Social deprivation, on the other hand, refers to the lack of basic capabilities to live along and healthy life with freedom or lack of resources required for participation in social activities. Human deprivation, on the other hand, is denial of right and freedom or lack of dignity, self-respect, security and justice (Mafimisebi, 2002).
Due to the interrelationships among these various dimensions and approaches to defining poverty and for comparison purpose, the global community has adopted income as a measure; and by this measure, an income of one US dollar per day per person is observed to indicate poverty. Begging has been variously
conceptualized by scholars to reflect different ways and reasons for begging.
In the words of Jelili (2006) “to beg” is to simply ask people – for money, food, clothes etc as a gift or charity. He conceptualizes begging to involve not only individuals but organizations or countries. In Wikipedia (2009), begging is presented as requesting something in a supplicating manner with the implication that person who is begging will suffer emotional or physical harm. Like Jelili (2006), Wikipedia (2009) also agrees that the term is applicable not only to individuals but to groups. Some scholars use the term mendicancy, vagrancy, panhandling, sponging to reflect means and for begging. While panhandling and sponging are synonymous with street begging, mendicancy and vagrancy connote more than street begging. Mendicancy refers to an act of begging usually associated with religious belief; vagrancy is used to describe the begging activities of jobless, homeless, and wanderers or vagabond (Hanchao, 1999).
Whatever term used: street begging, panhandling, sponging, mendicancy or vagrancy, it has its root in the general idea of asking 0people for money, food, clothes etc. the problem of begging is a universal phenomenon which has generated issues both in developed and developing countries but it is prevalent and least attended to in developing countries (Adedibu, 1989). The situation in Nigeria is appreciated with different categories of beggars found at motor parts, religious worship centers, markets, road junctions, venue of ceremonies and worst still on the campuses (Jelili, 2006).
The problems of begging in the third worlds are similar and a thorough knowledge of one may lead to understanding of the situation in another. For example, the situation in Nigeria and
Mexico reveal similarities in problems and reasons for begging (Adedibu, 1989).
A considerable number of factors have been identified by different schools of thoughts in begging as influencing begging in cities. These factors identified at different times and in different localities are closely related to one another (Jelili, 2006).
In China, a Chinese Shanghai based Christian organization identified five major factors influencing begging as: national disaster; civil war; handicaps and diseases; bad habits, and family heritage (Hanchao Lu, 1999), while Jiang and Wu (1933) observe such factors as uncontrolled rural-urban migration; national disaster; war banditry; bankruptcy; unemployment; disabilities; dysfunctional family and so on may lead to begging.
In Mexico, begging is seen as a result of economic necessity and as a traditional activity associated with the city’s religion and political life (Adedibu, 1989). Fabregas (1971) in his research identified reasons for begging as physical deformities or
incapacitation, medical illness, laziness, psychiatric disabilities and old age.
In Nigeria, Adedibu (1989) identifies thirteen closely related factors influencing begging in Nigerian cities. These include: physical disability, unemployment, religious belief, old age, lack of caring relatives, and lack of rehabilitation centre. Others are poverty, uncontrolled migration, lack of education, place of origin, lack of adequate residence, accident, and acceptability of begging in society. Jelili (2006) identifies physical disability, unemployment, and old age as factors influencing begging. NCFWD (2001) also identifies six reasons for begging. These are lack of parental/guardian support, lack of parental/guardian neglect, poverty, disability, socio-cultural misconception, and lack of parental education.
A close examination of these factors reveals that they appear similar and one or more of them may be reason(s) for taking to begging. However, these vary among beggars to reflect different categories of beggars. Scholars have made suggestions in combating the menace of begging in cities of Nigeria in particular and third world countries in general.
While Okediji and Sofolu (1972) suggests rehabilitation, Adedibu makes case for anti begging regulations, shelter and productive employment in the cities. Oladepo (2006) canvasses for the involvement of government and non-government agencies in tackling the problem of begging. Jelili (2006) makes an all embracing suggestions as he calls on government, corporate organizations, individuals, religious groups and community associations to rise together and tackle the menace of begging.
Ogunkan (2009) emphasizes the roles of individuals and mass media in educating and sensitizing the public on the negative consequences of begging. While, those suggestions are laudable, the achievements recorded in implementing them are minimal. This is because begging has taken a new dimension. Rather than seeing begging as a product of chronic poverty or physical handicap, some people take begging as a profession-a means of earning livelihood. Begging has gone beyond seeing pitiable wretched, poverty ridden and physically handicapped street person begging for alms to survive. It has also involved a well-dressed, able bodied men and women in street and at public places using different styles to beg for alms. Jelili (2006) observes that these people have relatively stable and family ties but see begging as a profitable business or profession. Some have even gone to the extent of creating a personal websites to beg for alms (Ogunkan, 2009).
1.7 Theoretical Framework
For the purpose of this study, Marxian theory will be adopted as the theoretical framework upon which the whole work will be based. This theory is founded by Karl Marx and Engels in their attempt to study the social relation among men from a class perspective. They identified the class of the haves and that is the have not. From this perspective, poverty in capitalist society like
Nigeria is a manifestation of system of inequality – an inherent feature of capitalism. Karl Marx’s works provide a philosophy upon which conflict theory rests.
According to Marx, in a capitalist society, wealth is concentrated in the hands of a minority class while the laboring classes are forced to sell their power in return for wages in the open market. It is through the expansion of Marx’s work that sociologists now apply conflict theory to all aspects of society. Marx’s analysis of capitalism society was modified to apply to modern capitalism by Dahrendorf (1959).
In modern capitalism, he classifies nnot only the bourgeoisie, legislators, the judiciary and heads of government bureaucracies and other as the most powerful groups in the society thereby merging Marx’s emphasis on class conflict with Weber recognition of power as an important element of stratification (Cuff et al., 1990).
Marxist approach to the study of class is useful in stressing the important of stratification as a determinant of social behavior and as observed by Gerth and Mills (1958), the existence of social problems, like begging, is a product of unequal access to life chances that is, people’s opportunities to provide themselves with material goods, positive living. By implication, the existence of beggars in Nigeria reflects inequality generated by capitalism. Then, the question is, what are the governments doing to address the problem of begging in Nigeria? Adedibu (1989) answers this question when he affirms that government has not made any meaningful provision to address the problem of begging in Nigeria. He observes that instead of government to rehabilitate beggars by offering them shelter and productive employment, they are cleared off the streets during international meetings which brings nationals from developed countries to Nigeria. But after such meetings, beggars return to streets.
It is unfortunate that government could not take care of the socio-economic, health and mental rehabilitations of beggars while expending huge amount of funds to programmes that benefit the rich and political class. This treatment of the beggars by the government gives credence to the belief of the Marxists that the existence of social problem is the reflection of exploitation and oppression of the p
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