Before now, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT was a beauty to behold, as there was nothing like beggars, hawkers, urchins, sex workers, kidnappers, armed robbers amongst others, but today, these sets of people are operating everywhere unchallenged.
Linda Okoro resides in Lagos and during a documentary on a national television on the Federal Capital Territory, FCT; she fell in love with the city and decided to pay a visit. She actually saw all that were displayed on television but was disappointed to see beggars, hawkers, urchins, and at night, he was surprised to experience the disturbance of armed robbers in the city.
Abuja is considered to be one of the most beautiful modern cities in the world but it has been battling with the challenge of beggars, destitute, sex workers, urchins and street traders due to the influx of people from different parts of the world.
The FCT Administration has been faced with the challenges of maintaining the city as it was originally conceived but the activities of beggars, hawkers and others whose presence in all the nooks and crannies of the city constitute an eyesore.
Efforts to get rid of the menace by past administration have proved abortive as they keep increasing by the day. The FCTA once assembled beggars in the territory at a centre where they were taken care of but lack of continuity forced them to return to the streets.
The FCT Administration also warned sex workers to relocate to other states or face the law while those who were willing to quit the trade were taken to rehabilitation centre where they were taught a trade but more are still littered on the streets of Abuja.
An official of the Abuja Environmental Protection Board, AEPB, Samuel Musa once told our correspondent that the little fine paid by the hawkers, beggars and others are the reasons why they are always back on the street.
He claimed that when they are arrested and charged to court, they are sent free with a fine of between N500 and N1,000. He noted that some of the beggars and hawkers have been arrested on several occasions.
Research shows that a minimum of 34 beggars and 67 hawkers are arrested on weekly basis. An official of the AEPB who confided in our correspondent disclosed that a bill was before the National Assembly to review the fine for defaulters but its delay is the reason why the beggars and others seems to be increasing on daily basis. “Once the bill is passed, the beggars and hawkers won’t be on the road again.”
This statement was made in 2014 but six years after, AEPB is still battling with beggars, hawkers and sex workers, now urchins and kidnappers especially operators of one-chance have joined the trade.
Nowadays, beggars, hawkers and urchins are found around Julius Berger junction, Wuse, Area One bus-stop, AYA Asokoro, Federal Secretariat areas, and anywhere where there are traffic build-ups.
However, the beggars, hawkers are prominent in the satellite towns, like Kubwa, Lugbe-Airport road, Karu Site, Nyanya-Mararaba on Abuja-Keffi Road while sex workers operate in the night along the highway and major streets.
On assumption of office, the current minister of FCT, Bello Mohammed attempted to rid the city of beggars and hawkers but his efforts seems to be in futility as they continue to increase on daily basis.
Our investigation revealed that some of the staff of the AEPB extort money, food and others from the victims and set them free. While some of them were seen consuming some of the seized goods like banana, oranges and others. This act has given the beggars, hawkers and others confidence to return in great numbers.
A staff in the FCTA confided in our correspondent that it is difficult to rid the city of beggars, destitute, hawkers including sex workers because most of them are relatives of politicians in Abuja.
He claimed that whenever they are arrested, they send their aides to bail them before they are charged to court. He gave instance where they arrested sex workers at Garki II, the ladies put a call to their “customer”, and before getting to AEPB office, a government official sent his aide, who came in a government vehicle, to bail the ladies.
Research shows that urchins found themselves into the city of Abuja through the invitation by politicians and they decided to stay back after they were abandoned by their clients hence some of them indulged in one-chance, kidnapping, robbery just to survive.
Investigation has also revealed that some beggars find their way into the territory when they came for Jumaat service prayer (Muslim) and decided to stay back. An Islamic cleric, who spoke on anonymity, once condemned the activities of the beggars who come in their numbers to beg every Friday.
An Environmental expert, David Ajuda disclosed that the only way beggars and others can be get rid off the streets of Abuja is to introduce what is obtainable in Kaduna and Lagos where Special Offences Court are set up and beggars and others sentence to prison.
Some however argued that government should include these set of people in its programme. Camps should be re-opened and attention given to them while a place can be set up for traders/hawkers where they can stay to market or hawk their goods just like it is done in Turkey, England and other parts of the world.