Several Akwa Ibom State residents have expressed worry over the resurgence of mentally deranged persons on the streets of Uyo, the state capital. They expressed anxiety that if the rising number of mentally deranged persons on the streets were not checked, it could constitute a menace in the society.
The mentally deranged persons who throng the major streets in Uyo are often found hanging around crowded areas, especially where there are traffic congestions. While some of them are peaceful, it was gathered that others are trouble makers, who aggressively harass unsuspecting passers-by and attack drivers, especially those with exotic vehicles by throwing stones at their windscreen and wrecking shops with glass doors.
Investigation reveal that most of the mentally challenged persons are from neighbouring states, brought to the state at night with the belief that since Akwa Ibom people are hospitable, they would be accommodated.
Speaking on the growing number of these mentally deranged persons, the Chairman of Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Mr. Franklyn Isong, said the situation was unpalatable, adding that if allowed unchecked, it could constitute a security threat to the people of the state. Isong, who lamented that some of the supposedly ‘mad’ people were homeless, said the increase in the number of beggars and scavengers on the streets was also a problem and called on the government to look into the situation.
He said: “It is appalling to see not only mad people on the streets, but also people who are homeless; some of them are not mad but homeless. Some of them are illegal immigrants, like Nigeriens, you would see them carry children who ought to be in school on the streets begging. It has become an eye sore and nuisance. “In as such as the state government is trying to clear the streets of illegal trading at Ibom Plaza and other streets, there is the need for the government to also look into cases of people who are begging on 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.” However, efforts to get the Commissioner of Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Dr Ini Adiahakpan to speak on the matter was unsuccessful as she neither picked her calls nor responded to the text message sent to her phone. The influx of mentally deranged persons in Uyo is however not a new thing. The administration of former Governor, Godswill Akpabio witnessed the influx which the then Commissioner of Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Mrs. Eunice Thomas tackled. To check the menace, the mentally deranged persons were evacuated from the streets to the hospitals, while the destitute were taken to the Family Life Enhancement Centre, a place for the less privileged, and others were reunited with their families.