The Lagos State Government has responded to criticisms of its alleged deportation of no fewer than 67 Nigerian citizens from the state to the Upper Iweka Bridge in Onitsha, Anambra State, saying the exercise was continuous as it started the practice of expelling beggars and destitutes rescued from the streets back to their states of origin in a bid to rid the streets of beggars and the mentally-challenged.
Speaking to The Guardian, Special Adviser to Governor Raji Fashola on Youths and Social Development, Dr. Enitan Dolapo Badru, said so far, at least 1,708 beggars and destitute had been expelled from Lagos just as he noted that normal international standard requires the state to reunite them with their families.
“The end result is to reunite them back with their families. We are not repatriating them out of Lagos, we are reuniting them with their families because once we rescue them, we cannot as a government, hold a child under the age of 18 in custody without parental or guardian’s consent. We found out that a lot of children on the streets of Lagos come from outside the state thinking that Lagos is an Eldorado. It is unfortunate that many of them are underage and very vulnerable because they can be introduced to so many vices.
“When we rescue them, we try as much as possible to carry out social investigation to know where they actually come from and why they absconded in the first place. And this takes time, because most of them don’t usually tell the truth since they don’t want to go back home. Once we have them in our custody, we must take a Court Order to keep them since the law provides for that and we cannot keep them indefinitely, so we still need to send them back to their parents. And our practice is to get in touch with the social welfare services of their respective states, which would in turn get in touch with the families,” he said.
According to Badru, in the last one year, a total number of 3,114 beggars/destitute/mentally-challenged have been rescued in day and night operations with 87 per cent (2,695) of them taken to the Rehabilitation and Training Centre, Owutu, Ikorodu, where the state government has made provisions for facilities to help in turning their lives around, while the mentally-unstable are given medical attention.
The expelled Nigerian citizens were reportedly brought to Onitsha on Wednesday at about 3.00am in four buses, escorted by anti-riot policemen; a move that has generated widespread condemnation and outrage.
Meanwhile, one of the destitute, Mr. Osondu Mbuto, from Ohaozara in Ebonyi State and a petty trader in Lagos, who said he was arrested by the Lagos State Kick Against Indiscipline (KAI) officials while going to his shop on December 18, 2012, told journalists that he was detained in Ikorodu, Lagos, for over six months for alleged wandering and other minor offences.