Revealed: New tricks beggars use to milk Lagos residents
Eric Dumo and Toluwalope Kareem
Mrs Yemi Akindele was driving home from work at about 10:20pm last Wednesday evening when she ran into an unusual sight around Irawo bus stop along Ikorodu Road, Lagos. The sight of a young man looking distressed and holding a white jerrycan forced her to pull over to the side of the busy road. The instinct to help a man in need overwhelmed her tendency to fear for her own safety. Boldly and damning the consequences, the mother of three got out of her car and walked towards the middle-aged man. Upon interrogation, the man claimed his vehicle ran out of petrol and that he had no cash on him to buy some fuel. According to him, he left his wallet and mobile phone at a friend’s house where he claimed to have been that evening, thereby compounding his predicament. Without wasting too much time, Akindele ordered the young man to follow her to her car. She reached for her handbag and handed him N2,000 – enough to buy him about 14 litres of premium motor spirit to fuel his car and get him home. The ‘good Samaritan’ went away fulfilled.
But four days later, while driving home after a hectic day’s job, a rude shock greeted Akindele as she negotiated the bend around Ajegunle bus stop enroute Agric, where she lives with her husband and children. Parked at a corner of the busy road and waving to car users with a jerrycan in his hand was the same man Akindele had recently given N2,000 to buy fuel for his car. He was using the same trick on others. Now enraged at having been fooled by the guy, the public relations consultant pulled over, got out of her car and approached the man, who apparently didn’t recognise her.
“Immediately I approached and asked him what the problem was, he told me he ran out of fuel and that he left his wallet and mobile phone at a friend’s place,” Akindele said. “I was furious, I felt like punching him in the face. He forgot that I was the same woman who had given him N2,000 four days earlier when he made the same claim.
“I had to ask him if it was every day he ran out of fuel. As soon as he realised he had been exposed, he entered the same car he claimed had no fuel and drove off. I never would have imagined that the man was just a trickster who had devised a way to beg for money.”
Like Akindele, Mr Francis Okoli, a businessman, is another person, who had come across a similar scene while driving home at night. A resident of Ijeshatedo, a sprawling suburb of Nigeria’s commercial capital – Lagos, the Abia State-born dealer of fashion accessories at Mandilas, Lagos Island, was a victim of this trick. On December 20, 2018, he ran into a young man some few metres away from the Isolo Bridge. The man looked distressed. He was not going to zoom past such a person at such period of the day. His conscience as a Christian, according to him, would not allow him to do that. He felt he had to help.
“I thought I had helped someone until about one week later when I saw the same guy at Cele bus stop tricking another person. It was then I knew that I had been duped into giving the guy N2,500 when I earlier came across him at Isolo,” Okoli said while sharing his experience with our correspondent during a recent encounter.
“I initially wanted to park and confront him but decided to go my way after realising that he could become violent and harm me.
“Since that night, I have resolved not to give such persons money again because I have just found out that it is a new form of begging,” he added.
Alarming as it sounds, this new tactic by tricksters is not the only form of begging that have been devised in Lagos now; in recent times, many Lagos residents have fallen victim to such tricks.
For example, a private taxi operator, Hakeem Oladesu, told our correspondent of how he had encountered an unusual form of begging at an Automated Teller Machine point along Iju-Ishaga Road recently. While getting some cash from the machine, the 34-year-old noticed a woman trying about three different debit cards without getting any money. As soon as he was about to leave the place, the woman, who had a baby strapped to her back, politely approached him for help. Seeing how she had been unable to withdraw from the machine, he handed her N1,000 to transport herself home after she claimed she was stranded.
“I didn’t feel comfortable giving her the money. I knew inside me that something wasn’t right about the woman.
“I decided to walk away from the ATM point and stay somewhere she wouldn’t see me to observe her next move.
“Immediately two other users approached the machine, the woman went back to try all her cards before also turning to them to ask for transport fare. She tricked them into giving her money the same way I fell for her trick. The idea of inserting those cards into the machine was a trick. She was just another beggar,” he said angrily.
In another part of Lagos, Kingsley Ebi, a secondary school teacher based in Gbagada, also had a taste of this new begging trick recently when he went to collect some money from an ATM point. According to the father of two, a young man, pretending to be in a similar predicament, asked him for money to help him pay transport fare home since he couldn’t get his cards to work when they were inserted into the machine.
“I had gone to use the ATM one evening when a young man approached me and asked me to give him any amount of money I could afford so that he could get home from there.
“I obliged and gave him N1,000 from the N15, 000 I had withdrawn. While I walked straight back and headed home, the guy crossed to the other side of the road as if he was trying to get a bus.
“As soon as I walked some distance, he crossed the road again and went back to the bank’s premises. He started using the same trick on others.
“In anger, I drove back to the place and confronted him. I embarrassed him and made sure I collected my money from him. The other people around were shocked to hear what I was saying. The guy left in shame that night,” he said.
That is not all. The tactics adopted by those in this ‘business’ appears to be growing in sophistication by the day. For instance, around popular bus stops and roads within the metropolis, it is not unusual to see young men of various ages approaching car users and asking them to buy their music compact discs to support their careers as budding entertainers. While you’ll never suspect foul play, it is until you decide to enjoy the content of such CDs that you would realise you have been scammed.
“I bought one of such CDs from a woman I met at Ikeja City Mall recently. She had a little girl with her and claimed that the CD contained the girl’s songs and that I should pick a copy for any amount to support her career.
“I gave them N500 in the hope that I was impacting the little girl’s life positively. But by the time I got home and slotted the CD into the DVD player, I realised the CD had nothing on it. There was no song on it. I was shocked.
“A colleague shared his own experience with me. While he was in traffic, a young man approached him, pleading that he should buy his music CD. Reluctantly, he bought one for N200. When he got home and tried to play it, it was an old Indian movie that he found on the CD.
“This appears to be a form of begging that is now becoming rampant in many parts of Lagos. I don’t know where these guys get these ideas from,” Mrs. Florence Banjoko, an accountant, told Saturday PUNCH.
While the art of begging has taken different forms on the streets, on the Internet, the practice is also assuming new and troubling dimensions. In a post that went viral recently, a young man lambasted his wife for going on the Instagram pages of popular celebrities to beg for money despite earning N150, 000 every month.
Expressing his anger on the page of blogger, Joro Olumofin, the man said, “First of all, to find a good woman is a good thing. I don’t have a good thing. I will soon leave her alone to do and beg as she wants.
“My wife earns N150, 000 a month and I earn N250, 000 a month and I am a landlord too. I give her money as best as I can but she stills begs and participates on Instagram giveaway.
“She begs on E-Money’s page, she begs on Don Jazzy’s page and also begs on your own page too. I tell her these things are for students and corps members and should not be done always.
“Some of my classmates see her comments and it embarrasses me. I am sending this and I don’t even care what she will say if she sees this because I am tired. I won’t accept this.”
Findings by Saturday PUNCH reveal that the level of begging online by some Nigerians has in fact forced a number of celebrities to come out and condemn such requests for financial assistance on the social media. In June 2018, Big Brother Africa winner, Uti Nwachukwu, slammed Nigerians, who came on the Internet to beg for money and other items. According to him, Instagram wasn’t created for begging; hence those involved in the act should stop the practice.
“Instead of begging, I will work or meet a need. The same Bible that most people quote to beg also says ‘talent makes him to stand before kings’.
“Always remember this…everyone is different and we all have personal needs. #InstagramBegging #scam #Respect #SelfPride #Earn,” he wrote on his Instagram page.
Musician, Morachi, while adding his voice to the issue, said that only Nigerians beg online. According to him, the rate at which the act is gaining popularity in the country is alarming.
“The rate of online begging in Nigeria is alarming. People with phones and data come online to beg.
“It is not kindness to give such people money. We are unconsciously creating a lucrative business for people who now survive by emotionally blackmailing people who are desperate for Instagram and social media likes, views and comments,” he wrote on his page.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria’s unemployment rate currently stands at 23.1 per cent. The data, which was released at the end of the third quarter of 2018, indicated job losses of around 3.3 million between December 2017 and September 2018.
Decrying the situation, associate professor of sociology, Franca Attoh, said that people must be encouraged to put their time and energies into good use rather than begging for money under various guises.
“Begging has become a profession in Nigeria now; people have elevated it to a profession. When you see most people who beg, they are usually able-bodied people with no form of disability.
“They all come up with cock and bull stories. I understand the unemployment situation in the country but also there is a dimension to it.
“If you are working in a company and the place folds up, you can always live within a standard that you can afford.
“Let’s learn not to oblige people who are doing something wrong, let’s not encourage begging because there is poverty and lack of opportunities in the country.
“The only way we can reduce this act is to stop obliging them. The moment people stop obliging them, then those who take begging as a career will know that they have to find a decent means of earning a living,” she said.