It is a common sight, should one take a drive round the wide and breadth of the country, especially in major cities, to see disused cars, caravans and other form of scraps on streets and roads.Combined with this picture are stalls and kiosks that traders along the roads use to display their wares.
The presence of this illegal ‘operators’ and scraps are not only a blight on the beauty of the cities but a real threat to society.Not too long ago, in fact, as he assumed office,the governor of Rivers State,Mr Chibuike Amaechi, inaugurated the committee on the evacuation of scrapes and road decongestion.
The mandate was to make the roads free of any obstruction and ensure free flow of traffic in Port Harcourt and the entire Rivers State.The chairman of the committee, Mr Chukwuemeka Woke, with the ugency of the job kick started and had continued to supervise evacuation exercises, urging all traders along the roads to vacate the areas.
Mr Woke had aways warned that the evacuation team would not entertain any plea while at location to remove any obstruction that impede traffic flow.Giving the assurance that government is determined to ensure that people do the right thing as well as obey traffic laws in the state. It is hoped and prayed that the steam for this exercise do not fizzle out.
But an imposing visible threat is the ever growing number and presence of beggers and other categories of destitudes on streets and major roads across the country; Rivers State is not exclusive.In fact, in the state capital,Port Harcourt, and its environs, the sight has continued to be an issues of concern to right thinking members of the public.
Not only is it a way of life for adult men and women but children also.Orphans are also found among them.They disguise as sickly,blind, deaf, lame and with visible body burnt to elicit public sympathy.They sometimes take to robbery,become ‘pick pockets’ at bus stops, and pose other social problems.They become very antagonistic to society,as it were, vetting their depravity and anger on the people.
Also worrisome is the sight of healthy looking individuals who do not disguise into any sickly looks but would do nothing else but begging.They take great pleasure to do this.These crop of people,of course, are part of the productive class of the nation’s population who should meaningfully contribute their productive quota to national growth.
But no.They rather carry on with their begging.Doing so on the roads and streets, especially where human and vehecular traffic is high.Sometimes, they run through moving and slow going vehecular traffic.What a risk they take.
The River State government had undertaken several raid to keep them away from public places.Aside adults,in september,2007, the riversstatenigeria removed about forty children from the streets and took them to the Port Harcourt children home at Borikiri. In addition to this, government also identified the non-indigenes among the adult destitutes when they picked them away from the streets.
The non-indegenes of the adults were transported back to requisite agencies in their respective state of origin. But like every other raid, the effort did not solve the problem.A drive round some major streets reveals, however, that not only has the number of adult destitudes doubled but the number of children and orpnans has also continued to be on the increase.
Studying the situation and commenting on the trend, some members of the public said a serious re-orientation programme should be planned for destitutes.The programme should be packaged in a manner so that it will encourage them to take up meaningful ventures.
They argued that most of the destitutes would have lived all their lives on the streets without the show of love from friends and relations.This could result from the hard economic situation that they had experienced.The only way to survive may just be living like destitutes.
While condemning their dogged interest in taking of arms from members of the public, they said government should also consider instituting a lesgislature against able bodied people parading as destitutes.
The General Secretary,Assemblies of God Rivers State Dr. Dabipi Daddy Sun Ibulubo said the church has planned evangelism activities aimed at destitutes within the immediate environment of their operations.From their findings, some people are forced into destitutes as a last resort to survive.
He said those who responded to their programme had been provided accommodation and employment but confessed that it is a cost intensive venture. Dr. Daddy Ibulubo said the growing number of destitutes requires a collaborative effort between government and corporate organisations to provide these groups of people some lease of life.
Mr Mustafa Audi is a cripple in his thirties.He plays on the handicap football team and appears very hopefully about life.He has a family of a wife and two children.But he is also a begger on the streets of Port Harcourt.
He said taking of arms is about the only regular means to raise money for the upkeep of his family. This is in spite of the fact that he had received some fund in 2004 from the state government to start a meaningfull livelihood for himself when a raid was made then.
Having eaten up the money, he had returned to the roads may be to await another ‘free money’. Sharing his experience at the rehabitation center, he said it is wrong for government to put both the mentally disturbed people with the sane.These two groups of people can not stay together without problems.
The Director, planning, research and statistics in the Rivers State Ministry of Social Welfare, Mrs Deinma Okoroma said the ministry undertakes what she callled a raid on destitutes to move them to the state rehabitation centre and Port Harcourt children feed to feed them free of charge.
Mrs Okoroma decried the situation where destitutes taken to their states of origin are allowed to return to the state.She said it is rather unfair for state not doing enough to gave their citizens appropriate attention.Mrs Okoroma said the issues has taken a national dimension with a policy soon to be made public.this will unify all efforts under a central supervision.
The articipated Federal government involvement gives a more convincing perspective to the effort to curb this social ill. A rewarding, holistic and national approach towards addressing the menace in major cities across the country could just be what was been awaited for the challenge.