Beggars in Arepo, in the Obafemi Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State, have lamented the quit notice served on them by the state government to vacate the community.
PUNCH Metro gathered that the notice was sequel to a decision of the state government to beautify the underbridge area occupied by the mendicants.
A leader of the beggars, Ibrahim Abubarka, who said he came from Sokoto State, denied that the presence of the beggars constituted environmental and security threats.
He said, “Last week, some people came from the state government to tell us that we should leave this place where we have been staying for many years. They said we were dirty and also criminal elements might join us here.
“We are not criminals, neither have we constituted a nuisance to the Arepo community and its environs. Most of us are here due to the security issues in the northern part of the country.”
Another beggar, Abu Musa, said he and his colleagues were told to vacate the community without any alternative, adding that the situation would make life harder for them.
He said, “Where do they want us to go? I came to this place from Katsina State two years ago because of banditry. Since when we came here, we have always made sure that the environment is clean. It is not good that the government wants us to leave. Where do they want us to go? Life is already hard for us.”
The leader of the Hausa in Ibafo, a neighbouring community, Shehu Usman, urged the state government to allow the beggars stay in another location.
He said, “Most of the Hausa community in that place are beggars. Many of them before the issue of insecurity in the north owned farmlands. They also had businesses. Insecurity in the north made many of them beggars.
“We use this opportunity to beg the Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, to wade into this matter because these people don’t have anywhere else to go.”
He claimed that the government after beautifying the space, planned to allocate it to some persons for business purposes.
The Special Adviser to the Ogun State Governor on the Environment, Ola Oresanya, said it was a government policy to ensure that underbridge spots were well lit and attractive for relaxation.
Oresanya said, “Indeed, we told them to move away from that place before they turn it into a colony of beggars. It is sad, but we have to follow the policy of the Ogun State government on the issue of the environment.
“One, we want to beautify that place and many others like that into a recreational centre. It is painful, but we have to do the right thing. We have told their leaders and they agreed with us that this is the right thing to do.
Yes, many of them are displaced people from the north, but they need to follow the rules and regulations here. This government will not encourage people to live under bridges.”
Criminals have turned the Arepo underbridge area to a hideout, as many commuters are attacked and dispossessed of their valuables.