JOE EFFIONG, UYO
Residents of Uyo metropolis and other towns in Akwa Ibom state have expressed serious concern over the alarming increase in the number of mentally challenged, stressing that if the situation is not urgently checked it would constitute dangerous social menace in the state
In recent times, Uyo and other urban local government areas like Eket, Ikot Ekpene, Oron, Abak and Etinan have have become hosts to many mentally deranged persons who throng the major streets and prefer to hang around crowded areas, especially where there are traffic congestions.
While a majority of them are peaceful, others are however very aggressive, harassing unsuspecting passers-by and attacking
drivers, especially those with exotic vehicles by throwing stones at car windscreens, and at shops with glass doors.
Investigation revealed that most of them are non-natives but probably brought from neighbouring states.
Speaking on the growing number of these mentally deranged persons, Chairman of Civil Liberties Organisation, Mr Franklyn Isong said the situation was unpalatable, adding that if allowed unchecked, it could constitute a security threat to the state.
Isong, who lamented that some of the supposedly ‘mad’ people were homeless, said the increase in the number of beggars and scavengers in the streets was also a problem and called on the government to look into the situation.
“It is appalling to see not just mad people on the streets but people who are homeless; some of them are not mad but homeless. Some of them are illegal immigrants, like Nigeriens, you would see them carrying children who ought to be in school on the streets begging. It has become an eye sore and a nuisance.
“As the state government is trying to clear the streets of illegal trading at Ibom Plaza and other adjourning streets, there is a need for the government to also look into cases of people who are begging in the streets; people who are homeless and illegal immigrants.
“It exposes the state to insecurity. Let me also add that scavengers (people who go around with trucks picking metals from the streets and dust bins) also constitute a very big threat to security,” he stated.
The influx of mentally deranged persons into Uyo and its environs is not however a new thing. The administration of former Governor, Godswill Akpabio witnessed a similar challenge but such persons frequently were evacuated from the streets to the hospitals; the destitute were taken to the Family Life Enhancement Center, the place for the less privileged, while others were reunited with their families.
The state Commissioner of Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Dr Ini Adiakpan could not be reached to explain what the government was doing about the menace as she could neither answer our call nor replied to messages sent to her on the issue. ENDs