DELTA: Uduaghan Parleys Aggrieved Handicaps *As Ogeah Decries Claims Of Govt Neglect *Detainees In Protective Custody -Police

In a bid to give sucour and heed the grievances of handicaps in Delta state, especially those who held the state under siege on Monday, July 08, 2013, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan has met with the leadership of the Physically Challenged persons in the state.

The Governor has also prevailed on the state police command to set free the 179 physically challenged persons allegedly arrested (Monday) for unlawful blockade of the Benin-Asaba Expressway in Asaba, just as the Police in Delta state claim that the detainees were kept in protective custody.

Meanwhile, the Delta state Ministry of Information has decried claims by the assemblage of physically challenged persons that the state government was irresponsible to their plight.

Recall that over 250 Physically Challenged persons had on Monday 8th July 2013 staged a “peaceful” protest and barricaded the busy Benin-Asaba express road from 11:45 am to 10:30pm, thereby inhibiting human, vehicular movement and disrupting inter-state commercial activities.

The Physically Challenged men and women took to the streets and later to the Federal High Way. The Police who waited patiently for normalcy to return had no choice but to effect some arrest to curtail the breakdown of law and order.

The Governor who spoke at the Governor’s office Annex Warri, when the leaders of the physically challenged persons arrested during the twelve hour protest were brought before him, said it was not acceptable for them or any person to embark on acts that will cause a breach of the peace or distrupt the free flow of traffic.

According to him, “We cannot continue to allow you people to behave the way you are behaving; you must signed an undertaking with the police to henceforth be of good behavior. What you people did yesterday (Monday) is certainly not acceptable. You blocked a major economic route of the nation and caused others unnecessary hardship.

“This adminstration has done so much for then physically challenged, we even created a special office to handle your affairs soI am surprised at your behaviour.”

Dr. Uduaghan told them that they should stop regarding themselves as beggars, explaining that their physical condition was not a licence for them not to make a decent living as they must struggle like others rather than keep waiting for monetary assistance from government and other persons.

“Any one of you that wants to work with government we will work with the person, but what I will not do is to hand money over to you. If you want to learn a skill we will train you and start you off, if you want employment you must pass through the necessary procedure and we will look at it and see what we can do. However, I will not be stampeded.”

Governor Uduaghan who frowned at their disregard for constituted authority and other people’s rights warned that Government can only help those who are ready to help them selves.

While saying that Government would not be blackmailed into sharing money to any group or persons, Governor Uduaghan reiterated that Government had not only given jobs to some employable members of physically challenged group but also trained and gave starter pack as well as opened up businesses for those who agreed to attend the skill acquisition programme put in place by the state Government and its agencies.

He therefore commended the Police for the professional way it handled the matter, appealing that the arrested culprits be given an opportunity to be of good behaviour and directed the police to investigate the source of the money with which they had chattered over thirty buses for the protest.

The Delta state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba who led their leadership to Warri, while briefing the Governor said the group constituted themselves into a nuisance and held up traffic for twelve hours between eleven in the morning and eleven at night, adding that but for the Governor’s intervention, those arrested would have been charged to court immediately.

The commissioner said many people were stranded as a result of the action and that most people were attacked while a woman in labour went through hard times because of the actions of the physically challenged persons.

Mr. Aduba who commended his men for their professional approach in handling the protesters announced that one Hundred and seventy nine of them were arrested, while the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Lucky Uyabeme claimed that the protesters were not arrested but only kept in police protective custody.

Chairman of the Disabled Persons’ Association, Isaac Omoh Obruche, however apologized to the state government and the Commissioner of Police for their unruly attitude that brought disrepute to Delta State, promising to tour the path pf law and order in presenting their grievances.

The Physically Challenged Persons were made to sign an undertaking to henceforth to be of good behaviour and never to engage in any riotous act that will cause a distruption of the traffic or breach of peace in any part of the state.

Meanwhile, the Delta state Ministry of Information has decried claims by the assemblage of physically challenged persons that the state government was irresponsible to their plight.

A Press release signed by the state Commissioner for Information, Barr. Chike Ogeah and titled, RE: PROTEST BY PHYSICALLY CHALLENGED PERSONS reads:

“On Monday, July 8, 2013, some physically challenged persons held a protest in Asaba, Delta State where they blocked a section of the Benin-Onitsha highway for many hours. Led by Mr. Isaac Obruche, its chairman, the Association of Persons with Disabilities alleged that they had been neglected by the Delta State.

“According to newspaper reports on the protest, the Association alleged they were not being given free medical care while their members are yet to benefit from the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme (SURE-P) of the government. Already a number of local governments have begun disbursing the funds made available to them.

“These allegations are not true. Delta State Government under the administration of Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan has a comprehensive package to enhance the welfare of the physically challenged. One such policy is the reserving of a minimum of five percent of employment into the state civil service for physically challenged persons. Since the policy was adopted, over 85 physically challenged persons have been employed into the civil service while the Dr. Uduaghan only recently approved the employment of additional 50 persons.

“In addition, the 25 local government areas in the state through which the SURE-P funds are being disbursed are under instruction to proportionately include physically challenged persons in their list of beneficiaries.

“Under the state’s Rehabilitative Interactive Skills Empowerment (RISE) and skills acquisition scheme, up to 300 physically challenged persons have benefitted from various training schemes in hair dressing, photography, fashion designs and other crafts after which starter packs such as hair dryers, sewing machines, grinders, cameras, printers, filing machines and mobility aids were distributed to the beneficiaries.

“The office of the Executive Assistant to the Governor on Physically Challenged has been actively engaging all stakeholders, including the private sector in improving the lot of this segment of the society. Through the office, students with disability receive yearly grants under the state’s scholarship scheme.

“In January 2011, more than 40 physically challenged persons were enrolled in different skills acquisition programmes; another 20 persons were presented with tables, chairs and N20,000 recharge cards to commence their own businesses while additional 30 persons were enrolled in yet another phase of the skills acquisition scheme.

“Delta State undoubtedly has the most comprehensive and responsive welfare package for the physically challenged in the country. However, we also acknowledge that there is still room for improvement.

“While we recognize the right of the association to protest, the manner of their protest on a major interstate highway whereby many motorists were stranded is objectionable. We believe that the leadership of the association acted unilaterally with the protest as other groups were neither consulted nor involved in the protest.

“For instance, the Delta State Association for the Blind with some of their members gainfully employed in the state civil service was taken aback by the protest. Its chairman, Mr. Nkem Ofili, has always liaised with the relevant agencies and officials in addressing issues relating to the welfare of the association.

“The persons that held the Monday protest represent the small group that consistently received grants and aids from the Delta State Government but refused to deploy the funds made available to them to productive use. They prefer receiving money on regular basis without any desire to engage in any productive ventures. This is unacceptable to the Government. We will continue to encourage and support those persons, and there are many of them, engaged in business ventures.

“We hereby enjoin the leadership of Association of Persons with Disabilities to take advantage of the various channels available within the machinery of government to table their grievances where they will be adequately addressed. For those who think the criminal blockage of a major interstate highway will blackmail the government into distributing free cash to them, they had better have a rethink.”



News Reporter
Blank NEWS Online founding Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Albert Eruorhe Ograka, is a Graduate of Mass Communication. He also holds a Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Journalism from the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ).

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