The rising number of mentally challenged persons in the major roads and streets in Akwa Ibom is not only degrading but also worrisome to the people in a state once prided as the cleanest in Nigeria.
Of deep concern are the havocs perpetrated by them and the nuisance value posed to the residents and visitors alike in Uyo, the state capital and other communities. The persons hang around public places, soil public infrastructure, beg passersby, steal and become a nightmare to many coming or passing through their ‘area of influence.’
From Uyo Plaza, Ikot Ekpene Plaza, Abak Roundabout to Eket, among other places, the patients roam about with unkempt looks, some walk nude, go about to beg for alms even become a terror to some women or children.
In August 2020, the state Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare moved in speedily, rounded them up and shipped them to Psychiatric Hospital for medication before they were released to their relations. How come that more have returned and flooded some streets and major roads in the state.
However, it is suspected that syndicates, accomplices and other unpatriotic elements may be responsible for the unholy duty of bringing them from the neighbouring states to the state.
Analysts are quick to cite lack of care, broken homes, depression, abandonment, homelessness, loss of loved ones, economic hardships, unemployment, hereditary factor and others as some causes of mental health problems.
This is the reason government, and public-spirited individuals must put up humanitarian gestures for the less privileged and the poor to check such problems.
The law enforcement agents must be on alert to stop the suspicious but reprehensible acts of the racketeers fond of flooding the state with mentally challenged persons.
We commend the state Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare for evacuating the persons in 2020 but want to appeal to the officials to clear the roads and streets of mentally challenged persons. Let the ministry set up monitoring team to check movement of the patients in and outside the state with a view to arresting and bringing the culprits to book.
The state government has to establish, at least, one Psychiatric Hospital in each of the three Senatorial Districts, employ psychologists, psychiatrists and medical workers as well as equip the existing psychiatric hospitals with more drugs and pay the workers better remunerations to encourage them in reducing the high-risk cases from our society.
More importantly, the government should release adequate funds for use in evacuating the persons and treatment in psychiatric hospitals.
Much as evil power cannot be ruled out in mental cases, government must constantly monitor pastors and unorthodox healers to ensuring their roles do not conflict with societal norms and conventional medical practice.
Let government register and allow only spiritual leaders and alternative medicine practitioners with workable and provable therapies in curing the ailment to carry out and conduct deliverance for demonic-possessed patients.
The surging cases of the patients pose shame and embarrassment to the decency and psyche of Akwa Ibom people. We must rise as a people and evacuate the persons from public domain in a bid to boost hospitality industry in the state.
This is the way government can secure and safeguard the lives and dignity of its citizenry.