EXPOSED: Lagos street sweepers turn street beggars •We’re not owing them – Employers


There is an allegation of street begging involving street sweepers in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.

The first time our correspondent encountered them several months ago, they were four middle-aged women in the familiar lemon-colour jumpsuit of street sweepers in Lagos, commonly known as street managers, reports Saturday Tribune.

As this reporter was alighting from his car at the mini tricycle park, a few steps away from the main gate of Magodo Estate Phase 2, GRA, bordering Shangisha community, from their makeshift relaxation point, they chorused in Yoruba, “Daddy, e jowo ebi npa wa. E fun wa l’owo ka fi jeun (Daddy, we are hungry. Please, give us money to eat).

Obviously, they were done with their morning work, which was tidying up the stretch of road from CMD to Shangisha, terminating at Magodo gate.

They were still in the jumpsuit and it was easy identifying them as Lagos State Government workers, or at least, those being indirectly paid by the state government.

The first encounter was at the beginning of the year and the current inflation, which has now driven up prices of food items and other household items, was not as noticeable as it is today.

This reporter, after greeting them, appeared to ignore them and they pulled back when they noticed his somewhat unfriendly visage though they were still mumbling their plea.

After concluding his “assignment” in the area, the reporter returned to his car and fetched some Naira notes which he handed to one of them for all of them. Excited by the gesture, they chorused their appreciation.

Since then, these women, assigned to nearly all parts of the state, have been encountered several times by our correspondent begging for alms in the uniform linking them to the state government.

The reason behind their street begging is the alleged non-payment of their salary by those who recruited them. These recruiters are said to be contractors to the state government and allegedly mostly politicians of a particular political party in the state.

Some of the women have gone on live radio programmes monitored by this paper to claim that they were being owed seven months’ salary by their recruiters who are paid by the state government to pay them.

Others have phoned in on live radio programmes to register their displeasure at the non-payment of their salary. With their identities protected during the live programmes, those who claimed they were deployed to Lagos Island alleged poor treatment by their employers.

A couple of anchors of the radio programmes monitored by our correspondent, including state-owned Traffic Radio, promised to engage with relevant authorities on behalf of the women. However, the street begging has not abated.

Beggars’ colony

The presence of touts, popularly known as ‘agbero’ or ‘area boys’, has been one of the marked features of Lagos in recent years. It is now common in Lagos streets to see street sweepers begging for alms. As observed, the rate of street begging is becoming alarming in the metropolis.

Leading the pack in this direction are the Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA’s) street sweepers who are gradually turning to street beggars to the ridicule of the state.

Many observers are quick to blame the latest trend of begging for alms by street sweepers on the nation’s harsh economic realities, leading to general rise in the prices of goods and services. Some of these sweepers are also often seen trekking long distances back home after the close of work.

For those daily sweeping the Third Mainland Bridge, they are always at the mercy of motorists as they beg for free ride to their abodes after work.

Others on the Lagos Mainland have turned completely to begging as they approach practically all passers-by who look comfortable enough to give them money.

Drawing the attention of the public to their plight, a concerned citizen told Saturday Tribune that “these sweepers now beg for money to eat. I have encountered them on occasions as they move around their posting axis, begging for money after the completion of their daily work. At times, they approach you twice same day if they run into you more than once, since they are just doing this thing randomly, especially in areas where people they think are well-to-do live. If you are trekking and you look like someone who can give them money, they accost you.

“Now, they move in pairs and I think they use a common purse for this side hustle. It is an open thing. The commissioner for environment can disguise someday without protocol and security and try to mingle with these women. It is a big shame for Lagos.”

Different strokes and folks

Our investigation revealed that the street sweepers are in three categories. Some are directly employed by LAWMA while others work with companies engaged by LAWMA for the same purpose.

When our correspondent approached some street sweepers under LAWMA, they were not ready to divulge any information about their organisation. In an attempt to ward off our correspondent, one of the women who refused to identify herself said the agency had paid them all arrears of salary.

“The agency owed us before, but it has paid us. It’s a lie that we are begging in the streets for money from motorists or people passing by. The truth is that at times, people that appreciate what we are doing give us money,” she said.

A male supervisor under LAWMA, who also refused to mention his name, said that although there were issues about salary, LAWMA was trying to sort them out.

He said unlike five months ago, recent issues were being resolved by the agency. He said their jobs were outsourced to politicians, who in turn, engaged the street sweepers.

“As you can see, none of them can talk to you. They were employed by the politicians. If they talk openly, they may sack them. You have to know one strong politician or the other before you get this job,” the supervisor said.

LAWMA speaks

Responding to enquiry sent to her through Short Message System (SMS), the spokesperson for LAWMA, Mrs Sade Kadiri, said the agency was not owing any sweepers, urging the medium to investigate further.

She said that though some sweepers had issues with their details, the authorities were already looking into them.

She said: “You can investigate from others. LAWMA is not owing. Those affected are those with issues with their details. This is being looked into.”

Employed by NURTW

One of the sweepers who identified herself but begged for anonymity for fear of being sacked said street sweepers were employed by a combination of the Lagos Metropolitan Transport Agency (LAMATA), National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and LAWMA. She claimed to have been employed by the NURTW.

According to her, those employed by LAWMA are responsible for sweeping the highways and streets.

“There are those employed by the Lagos Metropolitan Transport Agency (LAMATA). This category of sweepers is cleaning all the public parks and garages. Then we have those that are employed by the National Union Road Transport Workers (NURTW),” she said.

She stated that the sweepers’ closing times are different. LAWMA’s sweepers close work by 12 noon while LAMATA’s sweepers close by 4pm, she said.

The sweeper denied the report of many of her colleagues begging for alms. She also said that her employers did not owe her any salary.

“Nobody among those of us employed by the NURTW is being owed salary,” she emphasised.

The woman, who claimed that the salary is N30,000 monthly, said, “they have paid our salary up to date.”

Women engaged by LAMATA also said the agency did not owe them salary. They also denied begging motorists and passers-by for alms.

“Our salary is meager, but it is duly paid,” one of the women said and referred our correspondent to one of their supervisors.

The supervisor under LAMATA (name withheld) confirmed that the agency did not owe any outstanding salary while pointing fingers at sweepers engaged by LAWMA, who gathered at a close distance, as those with issues.

Some of the street sweepers who claimed to be widows and single mothers told our correspondent that their N30,000 salary only covered their transportation fare to work. Some claimed they trekked long distances home.

In view of the current economic realities, they appealed to their employers to increase their salary to, at least, N50,000.

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