The number of beggars from the Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS) domiciled in the country although cannot be determined in figures is nearing an overwhelming dimension and it is worrying.
They have outnumbered their local counterparts who mostly come from the northern parts of the country to Accra and other parts of the south by, consecutively, one to ten.
We can bet the local beggars are not too enthused about the invasion and would have asked government to intervene to protect their industry, were it possible to do so.
Most of the beggars in the streets of Accra where the concentration of the alms-seeking individuals converge on, originate from Niger especially Boko Haram endemic parts of the landlocked country. While this class of beggars was driven to Ghana because of the Boko Haram insurgency and to some extent, poverty, because they regard Ghana as a relatively wealthy country and whose citizens are generous when it comes to giving alms; their Nigerian counterparts are here because in the oil-rich country, the southern states in particular, are being chased away from the streets by local authorities.
From the foregone, therefore, many more beggars would head for Ghana, especially Accra, because conditions are more favourable for them. The Zongo communities, whose culture these beggars share and are amenable to doling out alms to them, are particularly attractive to these beggars.
If Nigeria, for good reasons, is doing all it can to stop street begging and we have not really come out with pragmatic ways of stopping the practice, it would not be long before we are choked with an unusual number of beggars; the nuisance they may create too much to bear. Perhaps at that stage, citizens would call for government intervention.
Motorists would attest to the fact of the nuisance created by these beggars as they sometimes aggressively demand money from them at, especially, traffic intersections.
We have observed in the past few days that a team of Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) staffers are rounding up the beggars from some streets of the nation’s capital. We do not find the approach effective enough to provide the antidote to the unwanted feature.
An integrated approach involving security agents from the Ghana Immigration Service and the Police would be a better way of managing the menace. The occasional arrest of some of these beggars only for them to be released after a few hours for want of what to do with them would not register the desired result.
We do not think that the ECOWAS protocol on free movement of citizens of the bloc is about migration for the sake of begging for alms and constituting an avoidable nuisance in member countries. Were it to be so, the heads of state who appended their signatures to the protocol would not have done so. Begging for alms cannot be equated with doing business in member countries.
Much as we appreciate the challenges faced by immigration officers at our frontiers in determining who are really coming to Ghana to beg for alms, we nonetheless ask that they find a means of identifying those who enter our country to constitute a nuisance.