Dumping of beggars, mentally ill persons in psychiatric facility raises concern
Condemnations have trailed the indiscriminate arrest and dumping together of beggars and mentally ill persons picked from the streets of Enugu State at a psychiatrist facility by the state’s Ministry of Gender. It was learnt that officials of the ministry in an attempt to sanitize the state have continued to raid major streets for beggars and mentally derailed persons.
But rather than separate them, when they are caught, they are being lumped together at the Neuropsychiatric Clinic belonging to Enugu State University Teaching Hospital, Emene due to the dilapidation and non-functionality of the state’s rehabilitation centre. The Neuropsychiatric Clinic is meant for mentally derailed persons.
The Guardian, which visited the neuropsychiatric clinic at the weekend discovered no fewer than 30 beggars including elderly men and women, children and youths as well as disabled persons, locked up and waiting to be “bailed” with many mentally derailed persons at the facility.
Further investigation revealed that the inmates are fed together even as some of the beggars claimed they had spent more than a month in the facility. They claimed that to regain their freedom, officials of the ministry are demanding a “bail fee of N10,000”
They further alleged that during the arrest, they were thoroughly ransacked with every kobo on them taken away by the officials.
Uche Mbam, from Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, who said he resorted to begging following a car accident that chopped off his two legs in 2016, said he was caught on Ogui road on August 13, this year adding that the N15,350 on him was taken away.
Blessing Ugwu, from Nkanu in Enugu, arrested with her two children along the Holy Ghost Park, said she had not been begging but had gone there to sell her melon. She said the people that brought her made away with N10,500 on her, yet she is held for her inability to pay N10,000 bail fee in the last two weeks. “My husband does not even know I am here. I don’t know how to reach him and I don’t have the money they are demanding from me. I am not a beggar, I have only gone there to sell my melon”, she said.
When contacted, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Gender, Enugu, Dr. (Mrs) Chinwe Anibeze, confirmed dumping the beggars and mentally ill persons together but attributed it to the dilapidation of the rehabilitation centre in the state.
She said that the state government was on the verge of rehabilitating the centre after Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi visited the premises recently
Anibeze, who expressed shock over allegations that the beggars were being dispossessed on arrival in the facility by her staff summoned the officers in charge of the raid to her office, where each took turns to explain their role.
She also ordered them to produce receipts and bank tellers to authenticate their claims that the money realized was from the beggars were paid into government account as claimed.
She, however, said that though the bail fee was charged to dissuade people from going into begging and argument government’s responsibility towards them, she added that she would not tolerate abuse of duties from the staff and promised to investigate allegations raised by the beggars.