Photo Credit: (AP)
About 8:00 am on a Monday morning, Tayo, as he simply identified himself, tried to meander his way through a thick line of people along a pedestrian bridge at Ojodu-Berger area of Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub.
Clad in a well-ironed long-sleeved shirt, a black trouser and a neatly polished black shoe, his look suggests that of someone on an official assignment racing against time.
As he sauntered through the crowd of residents rushing to their various destinations, he looked very observant, trying to sift his potential ‘client’.
“Oga, can you help me with any amount? I work in Ibadan but I visit my people in Lagos on weekends. I was robbed this morning on my way to the park and was dispossessed of the money of what I had on me,” he told this reporter, wearing a defeated look.
Out of pity, this reporter handed him a N100 note. However, a week later, the same person was seen in another part of the State, trying to evoke pity of passers-by with the same story.
Like Tayo, many have resorted to begging in Lagos State using a different approach known as “Corporate Begging”- an act which involves people dressing officially and responsibly to swindle unsuspecting members of the public with pathetic stories.
Some residents of Lagos State who spoke with CRISPNG recounted their experiences with some of these ‘Corporate Beggars’ in the State.
According to Mr Afuye Kehinde, “I was in a bus moving from Iyana Ipaja to Oshodi when I met a young man in a bus properly dressed on suit. This young man whispered to me saying; ‘Brother I don’t have transport fare. So, I paid for his transport fare. Within few minutes, the man changed his sitting position. But unknown to him, I was watching him through the driver’s mirror as he was whispering to another passengers for money with the same story. Before we got to Oshodi, he had successfully asked about four passengers including me. I was surprised, wondering why a young man like him should be engaging in such act.
“A month later, I met this same man in another route in Lagos, saying the same thing. When he whispered to me this time around, I countered his plea, saying “Why is it that you don’t have transport fare everytime?’ Immediately he kept quiet, realising he had met me before, and changed his sitting position.”
Also speaking, Eze Uchenna said: “I had an encounter with them the day I went out to get something. While at the bus stop, I met this young, beautiful lady. She was gorgeously dressed with a nice hair. As I was waiting for a bus heading towards my destination, she approached me and said, ‘Sister please, can you help me with N300 for my transport fare?’ I was shocked to hear that from such a ‘classy’ lady because all she wore on her body can actually start up a boutique business. I simply told her I don’t have and left. She followed me, narrating how she ran out of cash, but I never listened to her.
“When I got to my destination, I decided to just sit somewhere (inside the Shoprite) and wait for my friend. Boom, another guy came out, this one dressed to kill. He was better dressed when compared to the lady. He greeted me while sitting close to my table, immediately I sensed he was just looking at me.
“He finally opened up and said, ‘Sister please, I never wanted to disturb you but I have a problem. I came here for an interview from Ikeja but I can’t go back because I have exhausted all my money. Can you please help me with N500?’ I looked at the guy, his wrist watch, his shoes and dress (quite expensive). I simply told him I don’t have. He now asked, ‘how can a pretty lady like you not have 500?’ So, because I am pretty in his words, I should go about giving people that are richer than me money? My question now is, are these people real beggars? Are they in need of help? Is this a new tactics of defrauding people?”
Not left out of this encounter was Mr. Okoye Chidi. He narrated his experiences with: “My first encounter with this set of beggars was in Ajah. One guy walked up to me, well dressed. He told me that he works with a construction company that he was robbed of his wallet and he needed about N3,000 to travel back to Delta State. I had just N2,000 with me then. But out of pity, I gave him N1,000 to support him and then took a cab to where I was going.
“To my surprise, after a week, I was in Okoko with my cousin when I met the same guy well-dressed with the same story of him being robbed. I just told my cousin that I have seen him before and as well given him money. In annoyance, my cousin got up and slapped him, but he didn’t say anything. He just walked away quietly.”
Condemning those who engage in such act, Raymond Bose, a resident of Lagos State, stated that it was unfortunate people would cook up emotion-riddled stories just to defraud unsuspecting members of the public of their hard-earned money.
She told CRISPNG: “These ‘Corporate Beggars’ are everywhere in Lagos. They dress responsibly, no tattered look and no shabby hair. But their purpose for coming out for the day is to beg for money. I call them thieves because they are using their emotion laden stories to rob people of their hard-earned monies. There was a guy I met in Iyanapaja last year. He was dressed corporately with a back pack. He approached me and begged me to help him with any amount to Yaba that he’s a student. I didn’t bother to ask which school. I told him I don’t have money to give him. He kept trailing me reminding me that I’m a student like him and I might find myself in that situation that I should just help. I asked him who told him I am a student. He begged and begged till he could follow me no further.”