November 01, (THEWILL) – Amina Mohammed arrived in Abuja from Beji, Niger state, a few days before Sallah in May 2021. She had quite recently lost her husband and had no means of livelihood. Her landlord, sympathetic to her plight had given her a year’s grace to find the rent or alternative accommodation as the last rent ran out two months after her husband died. Both of her parents had passed on several years ago and her only two surviving siblings live far away from Beji. In fact, she has no relatives at all in Beji but she has 8 children to feed and support including a baby who was born shortly after her husband passed.
Her husband’s death was quite sudden; he was brought home one day from the farm where he was working writhing in pain; it was his stomach. He was taken to the hospital where he received treatment for three months by which time her savings were completely depleted. His condition was getting neither better nor worse as the doctors were unsure of the nature of his ailment and then suddenly one day, he closed his eyes and died. Amina was lost; she had given up her trade when she got married almost 20 years ago. Then she had reared chickens and goats. For a while during her marriage, she also sold food but she gave up her business when she became overwhelmed with raising her 7 children.
Amina had no formal education and got married quite young although she couldn’t say exactly how old she was when she got married because she didn’t know what year she was born. She had a happy marriage and her husband took very good care of her and her extended family. As 7 of her 8 children were boys, she and her husband longed for a daughter so they raised two of her young nieces as their daughters. Her husband spent considerable funds on their education and then also paid for them to learn tailoring. When her husband died and she could not see the way forward, she asked the two nieces to start a tailoring business to support her and the other children, since her husband had trained them. But both nieces had different ideas about what they wanted to do and they both wanted to get married. So, in addition to all her other challenges, Amina was under pressure to find funds to buy their wedding clothes and some other items for them. She also needed to find school fees for 6 of her children who are still in school.
As she pondered what to do next, someone (it is not clear who) suggested that her best bet would be to go to Abuja and find ‘Embelembe’ who would give her all the money she requires to solve her problems. This sounded like a good idea at the time and gave Amina renewed hope. Even though she did not have the money for the trip, she reckoned that it would be a good investment since many people before her who had found themselves in similar conditions had given testimony that they had been rescued by this renowned philanthropist, ‘Embelembe’; why would her case be different? Her friends did not hesitate to loan money to her for what they all considered a worthy venture and quite quickly she raised sufficient funds for her trip.
Finding ‘Embelembe’ (or Ordinary Ahmed, as he is actually known) was not difficult once she arrived in Abuja, and she spent a few days in his premises waiting for her turn to see him. Every day, there were long queues of people waiting and after four unsuccessful days, one of the soldiers guarding the premises advised her to seek help elsewhere as there were people there who had been waiting to see him for the past eight months and there was no guarantee that she would get an audience this year. And even if she did manage to get his attention, he may still be unable to help her as many with ‘worse cases’ had been turned away unaided. Crushed, Amina did not know what to do next. She certainly did not have enough funds to sustain her for eight months and she had pressing needs waiting for her back home including the friends who had lent her money for her trip. She was advised to go to the Central Mosque and find a ‘Mallam’ to assist her with the fare back to Niger state. Amina went to the Mosque but after hanging around for another couple of days, she met with a Mallam who told her he could not help her or any of the other numerous people who were there also seeking his help.
One of the women she met at Central Mosque told her that she could make a living from begging for alms in Maitama. By this time, she had run out of funds completely so she went with the woman and camped out in front of Arthur 1000’s residence where she has since been receiving funds to eat and feed her small child. She has also been able to send some money home for the children’s school fees and books.
However, Amina is not keen on returning to Beji without the funds for her nieces’ weddings, the funds she borrowed and N100,000 to pay the landlord for outstanding rent. She is very sad to be separated from her children but some of them were already living with relatives in other towns even before her husband died. She feels that she is of no use to the other children or her two nieces who are like daughters to her unless she returns with sufficient funds to address their needs. So now, she sleeps on the streets, hoping and waiting like several other women in the same position, for someone to come forth and rescue her.
Amina has not been on the streets for very long like many of the other women she now spends her days with. Since the death of her husband, her life has changed completely and she is still trying to come to terms with her new reality. She dreams of running a business again. She was quite successful when she sold boiled rice and ‘semo’ and if “God blesses her with a provider” she would pay her rent, children’s school fees, nieces’ trousseau and open a food business. If only she could meet someone who would help her, she said sadly as she tried to hold back the tears.
Victoria, Martha and Amina are just three of the teeming homeless women living on the streets of Abuja hoping for a messiah to rescue them because they have nowhere else to go and no one to help them. While I was interviewing them, many more appeared. They all have a story; similar sad stories. Teenage pregnancy, the death of a husband, lack of education, insurgency and many other societal ills have conspired to bring them to ruin and keep them on the streets. Most of them have children who are being raised on the streets imbibing the culture of begging for their daily bread. Some of the children were born on the streets and some even go to school from the streets in a bid to maintain some normalcy of family life.
Philanthropists and NGOs do their bit to ensure their daily survival but many of the women have spent several years on the streets and the end is not in sight. Some of them said they survived the pandemic through daily meals supplied by generous donors otherwise they would most definitely have died. Once in a while a few lucky ones get rescued and give hope to the many others who keep waiting whilst more women arrive in the capital city daily to join the ever-increasing numbers. It’s an endless cycle.
•If you wish to support any of these three women, you can make donations to THEWILL Communication Company Limited, UBA Account: 1023834067. Please donation should be specified to which of the persons it is for. Email: email@example.com; (+234) 7087086950