Hundreds of physically-challenged persons under the aegis of the Northern Blind Forum on Saturday stormed the secretariat of the Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ) in Kaduna to protest the state government’s ban on street begging and hawking.
The beggars, comprising the blind, deaf, dumb, lepers, and people with sundry disabilities, said they came out to express their displeasure with the law banning them from plying their trade. They said they were ready to lay down their lives to have it reversed.
Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-rufai, had on Tuesday banned street begging after a suicide bomber killed 26 people in Zaria.
He also ordered arrest of any of them found on the streets.
Spokesperson of the group, Muntari Saleh, said they were angry with the state government for failing to address the social issues that forced them into begging in the first place.
He said the government move was an indirect way of calling them terrorists, vowing that they will take legal action against the governor for defamation of character.
They dared the governor saying they will remain on the streets, until the government gets them gainful employment while insisting that they have the constitutional right to stay wherever they wished until their demands were met.
They said the government should prepare their graves adding that they would fight the battle to the finish.
The beggars, some of whom had fled in droves from Kaduna days after the ban expressed regret for voting for el-Rufai in the last general elections.
But addressing a press conference in Kaduna, spokesman of the governor Samuel Aruwan, explained that the ban of hawking and begging was necessitated by the security situation in the state and to ensure maximum protection of lives and properties.
According to him: “Kaduna State Government’s decision to ban hawking and begging in the state was following last week bomb attack that killed 26 innocent citizens and injured 32 persons at the secretariat of Sabon Gari Local Government area of the state.
“The ban of hawking and begging in the state was necessitated by security situation in the state and to ensure maximum protection of lives and properties. The Kaduna State Government under Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai will never unleash pains on beggars and hawkers in the state.
“The government decision was not aimed or targeted at the vulnerable group but to protect citizens. The government is a responsible government and conscious of its constitutional role to protect citizens and to ensure law and order for common good.”