These child-hawkers do not operate in isolation. They have agents who monitor their activities in case they are picked up by the police or harassed by touts.Children are seen as innocent folks who should be pampered, nurtured for a promising future. In fact, children are perceived ignorant believing that they do not know how to plot evil, talkless of executing it. The voice of a crying child evokes sympathy and compassion. As it is, people seldom think twice when assisting a distressed child.
But this belief is steadily going out of extinction in some parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) given the tricks now being churned out on a daily basis by some children who use tears to fleece people of their money. These children hawk groundnuts and fruits on the streets of Abuja.
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They feign to have either lost some money or give impression that someone have taken the money they made from their sales. They would cry inconsolably until money was given to them by unsuspecting Good Samaritans.
These child-hawkers do not operate in isolation. They have agents who monitor their activities in case they are picked up by the police or harassed by touts.
Femi Idowu, a commercial driver narrated his encounter: “The trend did not start today. In fact, it has been in existence for more than 10 years or even more. I met a child who was crying and when I approached him to find out what the problem was and because it was getting late, he complained how he misplaced N1,100, which was the day’s sales of boiled groundnuts. Out of pity, I gave him the money and warned him to be careful next time.”
That was not all he narrated another incident when he dropped commuters at Banex Junction: “On my way back to Area, close to Berger junction, I saw another boy of about 11 years old crying. I felt pity for him, pulled over to inquire, what was wrong lo and behold it was a similar story.
“The difference is the amount. He told me it was N850. And since it was getting late, I gave him the money and offered to take him home but he refused. So I had to watch him cross the road towards Wuse Market and I left.” When he stopped giving them was when his friend told him almost the same encounter he had and concluded that the children were not genuine.
Idowu’s experience is not far from that of Mrs. Maryjoe Agba, a civil servant who revealed she almost lost her life while trying to assist a child she met at the Federal Secretariat who claimed to come from her state:
“I was waiting for our staff bus close to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when I heard a girl sobbing in the scorching sun close to where I stood. As a mother, I could not stay and watch. I probed why she was crying, she claimed she had misplaced N1,250 due to her torn pocket where she allegedly tucked the money.
“She told me she was staying at Mararaba and that her mum will kill her if she does not return with the sales. I insisted on following her home to enquire why she would be hawking while her mates are in school. She was fluent in English language.
“Grudgingly, she obliged me. But as we progressed I noticed she was not herself. When we alighted at a place called sharp corner, she said we needed to board a motorcycle to go inside because of the bumpy road. As we where going I discovered that the area had no houses and the motorcyclist was feigning ignorance of the place.
“I immediately asked a passerby who advised me to return to where I was coming if I do not want to hurt myself. Even when I asked the girl to give a proper description, she kept mum and that was when it done on me that she was not sincere. I left her there and looked for my way.”
Romanus Idah also shared his experience: “I parked my car at Eagles Square and was walking towards the Secretariat. Immediately I passed one boy who had a tray of boiled groundnuts by his side exploded in tears. I had to turn, I saw the boy crying and looking on the ground. Some people around fixed a gaze at me as if I was responsible for his situation.
“As a woman, I asked what the problem was. He told her that her money had been stolen. He said her aunty gave her N10,000 to keep. He was inconsolable. Somebody asked pointedly if I was sure I did not touch the boy. I was angry with the person who asked the stupid question. After a long debate, I gave N3000 out of the N10,000 to him. He thanked me and cleaned his tears.
“On my way back to the park to drive off, I saw the same boy crying and falling over one elderly man that his money was stolen. I walked up to him but on sighting me, he recognised me and ran away. He left his tray of groundnuts there. It was after that I realised that the boy was a fraudster.
“I see them in Wuse 11 in the night, Federal secretariat, Area 1, e.t.c. It is unfortunate that children of that age could be engaging in such criminal activity.”
Poverty may be the reason children indulge in such dirty game.
But a child psychologist, Akung Ransom, debunked it blaming parents for total negligence. He advised parents and guardians to monitor their children and ensure that they do not engage in any fraudulent act.