Leaders of different categories of destitute and street beggars in Sokoto State will soon make a grand declaration ending all street begging in the state, Governor Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko said in Abuja at the weekend. He said he held a meeting three weeks ago with the Sarkin Makafi [leader of the blind], Sarkin Kutare [leader of lepers] and Sarkin Guragu [leader of the lame] and they agreed to make a declaration soon ending street begging in the state. Wamakko spoke at Media Trust’s Corporate Head Office when he paid a courtesy visit.
The governor said he opted for the option of getting the street beggars’ leaders themselves to declare an end to begging because that will be more effective than having the state government to ban it. He however said the leaders made some demands on the government before they will make the declaration. Although he did not reveal what the demands were, he described them as “very easy to meet.” Governor Wamakko said bringing street begging to an end in Sokoto State will be the culmination of the policy he began five years ago to pay monthly stipends to registered destitute all over the state in order to stop them from street begging. Right now, he said, his government pays N6,500 each to 6,700 registered destitute. The amount was the national minimum wage at the time the program was started, he said.
Alhaji Aliyu Wamakko said street begging is not a problem that can be ended overnight because it is a very old tradition in the North which was somehow tied to religion. He said the Sokoto State government began implementing its almajirai program long before the Federal Government came along, and it has got many schools where child beggars are taken off the streets and sent there to learn both Western and Islamic education. They are well fed, clothed and catered for in the schools, he said.
Wamakko frowned at the suggestion that almajirai are the source of the current insecurity bedeviling the North. He said as far as he knows, an almajiri is a pupil who is seeking knowledge in an informal way, and the state government could help them to acquire such education without having to walk the streets in tattered clothes begging for alms. He said the state’s Zakat Committee also gives support to clerics to stay in their communities and teach the children, so that they don’t take them out to the cities and make them to roam around begging for food.
He also spoke about his government’s program for unemployed youth in the state. He rejected the term “area boys” which he said was an unfair connotation of unemployed youth. He said the Sokoto State government has provided skills to tens of thousands of such youth in carpentry, masonry, farming, animal husbandry, fisheries, shoe making, soap making, GSM repair etc. After the training, he said they were assisted with funds to start their own businesses.