The Rivers State Commissioner for Social Welfare and Rehabilitation, Mr. Damiete Herbert Miller, has blamed oil companies for rise in violence and drug abuse among youths in the Niger Delta region.
This is as he decried the rising number of beggars on the streets of Port Harcourt and its environs, insisting that 90% of the beggars are brought in from neighbouring states on daily basis.
Miller, who disclosed this in an interview in Port Harcourt, the state capital, said as a result of the influence of drugs, boys join cult groups while the girls no longer go to school.
He said, “The oil companies operating in the Niger Delta region are only talking about Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA); what about Social Impact Assessment (SIA)? Nobody is talking about that.
“All our boys are now on drugs and our girls are no longer going to school. The oil companies are the major cause of this problem. The buy weapons and drugs for the boys and make them to start fighting themselves.
“There is a lot of rubbish going on in the society, rape and violence, which are traceable to abuse of drugs. When the boys engaged by the oil companies are destroyed by drugs given to then by these oil companies, it is then they bring them to us for rehabilitation.”
The commissioner, who insisted that most of the street beggars are neither blind nor deaf and dump, said any effort made by the state government to clean the streets of beggars would be misinterpreted by the opposition.
Miller said, “A lot of these street beggars are not blind; they are not deaf and dump. They see begging as their normal day to day business. They are just using begging to make money. One day at Waterlines Junction, I watched a supposedly blind lady jumped pass a pothole. If she was blind, how did she see the pothole when she was walking unaided?
“If you stand at any of these popular junctions and bus stops along Aba Road in the morning, you will vehicles bringing in these beggars in their hundreds. They see coming to beg in Port Harcourt as a normal business and they return to their base every evening.
“Before now, we have given the issue of removing the beggars from the streets a thought. But one thing is clear here, the opposition will claim that we are chasing non-indigenes out of our state. So that is why we are being careful.”