Asaba Protest: Uduaghan Frees 179 Detained Physically Challenged Persons

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… As Delta Insists It Is doing Enough For The Physically Challenged In the State

SAN FRANCISCO, July 09, (THEWILL) - The Delta State Governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan has prevailed on the state police command to set free the 179 physically challenged persons arrested (Monday) for unlawful blocking the Benin-Asaba Highway in Asaba and obstructing vehicular traffic for over 12 hours.

The persons are however to sign an undertaking to henceforth be of good behaviour and never to engage in any riotous act that will cause a disruption of the traffic or breach of peace in any part of the state.

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 disrupt the free flow of traffic.

“We cannot continue to allow you people to behave the way you are behaving; you must sign 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,” the governor said.

Continuing Uduaghan said, “this administration has done so much for the physically challenged, we even created a special office to handle your affairs so 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 license for them not to work and earn a decent living as they must struggle like others rather than keep waiting for handouts 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.”

Commending the Police for the professional way it handled the matter, Governor Uduaghan appealed 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 over thirty buses for the protest.

Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ikechukwu Aduba 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. 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 confirmed that one hundred and seventy nine persons were arrested.

The leader of the group, one Isaac Obruche apologised for their unruly conduct and promised that henceforth they would be of good behaviour and channel their grievances lawfully and properly.

Meanwhile, the Honourable Commissioner for Information, Mr. Chike Christopher Ogeah, has berated the protesters over their action and denied that the physically challenged in the state are not being provided for.

In a statement Tuesday, Ogeah denied all the allegations leveled against the state government by Obruche, the chairman of the group that led the protest.

The full text of the statement 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 stillroom 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.”