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.

Signed,
 
CHIKE C. OGEAH Esq
Honourable Commissioner for Information

Delta State Ministry Of Information
Summit Road, Asaba
 
July 9, 2013

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