The rate of insane persons walking along Nigerian roads and streets is becoming unbearable. It simply questions the sanity of our society. Insane persons are those who have a disorder of the mind or deranged. They are popularly known as “mad persons”.
For some time now, streets and major roads in Nigeria have become endangered due to the high presence of mad people. This situation is not limited to one state. Virtually all the states in the country are littered with insane persons.
The number of mad persons freely roaming about the streets is on a geometric increase. This is no exaggeration as recent studies have shown that the number of psychiatric patients in Nigeria has doubled over the last few years.
One of the primary functions of any government is to protect the lives of citizens from internal or external violence and ensure the safety of its citizens. But it should be noted that the security of lives and properties by a government is not limited to fighting crimes like armed robbery, kidnapping or ridding the society of insurgency as is the case with the fight against Boko Haram. The government has the responsibility to protect its citizens against any form of danger that may be constituted by persons with a mental disability.
It is sad that in Nigeria today, lunatics (who cannot distinguish between right and wrong) are allowed to move freely with mentally-healthy or sane persons. The sight of mad persons on our streets is very appalling; their dirty and tattered appearance alone can make anyone edgy, not to mention their possession of sharp and harmful objects and their violent displays. This drives fear and worries into the minds of the citizens.
For years, insane persons have been overlooked as though they are not relevant or pose no form of real danger or threat to the society, but the sad reality is that this set of deranged people constitutes a real danger to the safety of the public. It’s, therefore, high time the public and the government found permanent solutions to this insanity in our society.
These insane individuals don’t just walk about the streets tormenting the citizens with their violent displays, they sometimes trespass into private property, houses and estates, begging for alms and even stealing food, clothes and other valuable items. Their displays on our streets are even seen as a “normal thing”. This is no minor issue; but the government, by their actions, do not consider it as a security threat.
During events like birthdays, weddings and burial ceremonies, mad persons are commonly seen moving freely, constituting themselves into public nuisance. Some people even go as far as appeasing them with food and gift items, just to ensure they leave the venue of the event. This is gradually becoming a culture.
Although there may not be available records to show the number of attacks by these mentally-unstable persons, it should be noted that most of the attacks in our society are traceable to this set of persons.
Some people are of the opinion that healthcare workers (psychiatric caregivers), relations of the insane persons, and the security agents have their fair contribution to the growth of this problem.
The healthcare workers in psychiatric hospitals whose responsibility is to take care of the mentally-disturbed persons do their jobs with a high level of nonchalance resulting sometimes in escape of these mentally deranged persons into our streets. Atimes, the number of escape is not accounted for.
The relatives of these insane persons also share in the blame. They loose these mad persons into the streets without considering the damaging consequences it poses to members of the public. Many relatives conceal their connections to these insane persons, either to avoid being held responsible for their care or being held liable for any dangers caused or just to avoid public stigma.
The security personnel also overlook the sight of these insane persons on the streets. This is probably because they feel they are not responsible for them. Even when they are witnesses to an attack by an insane person, they hardly do anything about the situation. What they fail to understand is that some unresolved murder and accident cases which they have in their files can be connected or traced to attacks by deranged persons, and some of them would most likely have been avoided if the security personnel had considered it a point of duty to protect the public from these persons.
Without gainsaying the fact, the government owes the public the duty of ridding our roads and streets of these mentally-ill persons. Given the likelihood that their number may have overwhelmed or outnumbered the few psychiatric hospitals we have in the country, government needs to build more rehabilitation and mental homes that can conveniently accommodate and cater for these people. The psychiatric homes should be equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and professionals who can take good care of these persons and keep them away from causing danger to the society.
In addition to building more psychiatric hospitals, the government should ensure that a general sensitization is given to members of the public, teaching them about the medical causes, symptoms and how to handle mental insanity. The public should be advised to report cases of insanity in the family, to enable the concerned authorities easily locate them, using the detailed description from the family.
The government should also constitute a special task force designed to checkmate the activities of insane persons. The task force should be charged with the duty of making sure mad people are taken off the streets. This will create a safe and friendly atmosphere for the people to live. It will also serve as a reassurance that the government has the best interest of the public at heart.
When these mentally-sick persons are effectively managed and completely taken off our streets, the streets will be more attractive just as the various environmental nuisance and health hazards caused by these insane persons will be a thing of the past, and the citizens will no longer feel threatened by their presence.
Otobo wrote from Port Harcourt.