Since the decision of the Kano State government to ban street begging, otherwise known as Almajiranci, following the COVID-19 pandemic, begging in Kano metropolis has taken a new dimension, Daily Trust Saturday has learned.
Traditionally, Almajirai are known to carry bowls, roaming virtually all the nooks and crannies of the city, begging for food or other daily needs.
However, now that hundreds of them have been evacuated to their states of origin as part of the measures to mitigate the spread of the disease, the few Almajirai left are seen without the bowls asking for money in form of what could be termed as corporate begging.
“One of them once approached me as I slowed down around a traffic light junction, asking for money to buy food. After giving him, I had barely moved away when another one stopped me again asking for some amount of money to complete his transport fare home. I never knew that was the new begging trend in town,” said Malam Shehu Yahaya, a Kano resident once stopped by the beggars.
Most of them usually disguise by asking for money to buy food, a capital to start a new business or transport fare to get home.
For commuters in the city however, there are familiar faces who always roam the streets, markets, major roads and some strategic places, hiding under some covers and turning the advanced form of begging into a full-time business.
“We meet these people virtually every day on our way to places of work or markets. If they say, for instance, that they are looking for a little capital to start something, I think it is obtainable because one can start selling sachet water or any other petty trade with a little amount.
“But, when it is done on a daily basis, then it has advanced to full-time corporate begging. If an ordinary beggar asks for something, you give him a little amount. When done in a corporate way however, the amount given usually tends to be higher.
“It is really annoying to see someone lying to you that they need money to do something, only for you to later discover that they lied to collect something from you and then it becomes habitual,” said Yahaya.
Daily Trust Saturday however observed that the new begging trend is not limited to Almajirai children alone, as women and other aged people are not left out.
While the children use the tactics discussed above, the elderly, mostly women who use their children to beg/elicit empathy from the public, usually claim to be either widows or that their husbands cannot provide enough to cater for the family.
“I have five children and my husband is dead. I cannot feed them without asking for assistance so I’m begging out of necessity. If I can get enough to take care of them, nothing will make me beg,” said a mother of five begging along Dan-Agundi Junction, who preferred not to be named.
She however accepted that there are people among them who have turned begging into a full-time enterprise, adding that most people think they are all the same.
On their part, the children said they have resorted to the new practice because they could be arrested if they beg with their bowls.
Sahabi Inuwa, a 14-year-old Almajiri begging on Kofar Mazugal Road in the metropolis, told Daily Trust Saturday that most of them have either been evacuated to their respective states or have been recalled by their parents as the state shut down all schools amidst COVID-19.
“The few of us left here beg within our areas or on major roads. Some even alternatively engage in some petty trades. They ask prospective buyers to either buy or assist them with money,” Inuwa added.
Daily Trust Saturday however discovered that most of these beggars are not even the conventional Almajirai, they are mostly children living with their parents sent to beg on their behalf.
A child-beggar at Tal’udu Junction, who simply identified himself as Babangida, said he was not an Almajiri but had to beg alongside his siblings to survive owing to their father’s death.
He said they usually beg when there is no school, though two of his older siblings hawk sachet water in markets and do not beg.
The 10-year-old Babangida added that he is willing to do the same when he raises a reasonable amount of money.
Also, there are other categories of beggars who only carry out their business near ATMs or shopping malls, begging any person who withdraws cash from the machine to give them something.
“They constantly stay around the machines or malls without going anywhere, that’s how they earn a living,” said Habibu Musa of Kofar Ruwa Quarters.
Another category of beggars is women, mostly married, who go about mostly in the evening and night, asking for money to buy food.
Findings have shown that most of these women usually leave their areas to places where they are not known, mostly in the night as a way of concealing their identity, to beg.
There are also those who carry about hospital cards, prescribing medications supposedly for their relatives, to markets and mosques asking for assistance. After gathering a reasonable amount from a place, they usually change location and continue the business.