In this Exclusive Interview with the Quest Times’ Matthew Tabe, the Director of Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB), Engr. Osilama Braimah insisted that the laws banning street beggars, hawkers, scavenging and Okada riders’ activities within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are still in force.
Question: Sir, it has become an eyesore on the influx of street beggars, hawkers among others in the FCT. What is your agency doing curb their activities?
We have said many times that street begging, hawking, scavenging popularly called ‘ Baba-bola’, those riding Okada as means of public transportation are totally prohibited in the FCT by law. So, whoever engages in these activities is doing that at his peril.
There are reasons for this. First of all, when people live in the streets for example, they cause security challenge because we don’t know their identity whether it’s someone that is genuinely deprived or struggling. You don’t know whether the person is not deprived or a criminal just pretending to be among these people who are beggars. Armed robbers today are using begging to survey locations to attack.
The second part of it is that it also their activities present public health challenge because if you’re living rough like that on the street it means you don’t have access to sanitary facilities, toilet and so on. So, you sleep in the street that is why we have the problem of open defecation which is hazardous to human health.
Another aspect is that living rough like that you’re also impinging on the right of other Nigerians to live in peace whereas the man has the right to live and work wherever he wants. These set of people hawking will be forcing their words on you even when you don’t want to buy their items but also interfering with your life to live in peace in your destination. If you want to buy something you go to the shop. It’s not really proper to come and stick goods like this at traffic light or stick for bread asking people to buy. I want to have my life to live quietly. This why there are laws very specific against these kinds of activities in the Federal capital.
Remember that FCT is a creation of law. Everything and every aspect of life is regulated by laws. You’re building structures, shanties, pyramids but residency are marked in some specific area also plaza, shops, schools and markets are coordinated by laws. When you now do things against this kind of social order there’s a problem and we normally arrest violators and take them to court for trials and they are punished in most cases. Of course, we have economic challenges in the country we’re all aware and some of economic challenges will present themselves as environmental factors. People are looking for work that’s true but it has to be done by law. We have markets and plazas where you can find somewhere to fit in and continue your daily life without breaking the law. You’re not allow to do your businesses on the street of FCT.
Question: Investigations have revealed that some of these beggars are relocating from the highbrows’ areas of Abuja into the satellite towns and villages due to pressure from your agency. What are your plans to track them in those suburbs, villages?
We have tried as much as we can to sanitize the city and to make it livable and comfortable for everybody. Like I told you the reasons for all of these we don’t exactly know who is who among these beggars and hawkers, so their activities have to be stopped as we’re already stopping it. We’re expanding to the satellites areas already. We have received complained from people at Karu, Gwagwalada complaining about the ‘Baba-bola’ for example erecting shops behind their houses, all these kinds of reports we just go there and evacuate them. FCT is one Government and the law also is for FCT not FCC, so we’re going to extend our operations to those places. Remember, Abuja is an expensive city and it’s a part of life even Lagos is cheaper in life than Abuja we are living. Abuja is designed to be a government town and Lagos also is a commercial area and business town they have more opportunities. Living in Abuja is quite expensive so if really you have no business with Abuja you will live with a kind of struggle to stay in the city. Lagos also has this kind of problem not just in Nigeria but all-over the world, even at United States you don’t go to America now and then move over to New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco because they are very expensive. That’s why Nigerians are living in cheaper towns there where they can afford properties. So, the cost of living differs from town to town and it’s all over the world not a Nigerian problem. You cannot compare the cost of houses in Abuja to Kaduna or Jos. If you have no business, it will be difficult to survive in Abuja. Even living in the street does not make it any better that’s why this problem keep occurring the way you’re seeing it.
Question: What is your appeal to Abuja Residents?
For those who are living in Abuja here working or doing business are already here. They should stay off the street and the residents should collaborate with the law enforcement agencies by paying our waste bills and get waste bills. They should also understand that this a city designed and built upon existing laws.