By Samuel Ita, Calabar

 

No fewer than 300 members of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities on Wednesday blocked the Murtala Mohammed Highway in Calabar to protest alleged insensitivity of the Cross River State Government to their plight.

Physically challenged lock down Calabar over official ‘insensitivity’

By Samuel Ita, Calabar

 

No fewer than 300 members of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities on Wednesday blocked the Murtala Mohammed Highway in Calabar to protest alleged insensitivity of the Cross River State Government to their plight.

 

This crippled economic activities in Calabar for hours as the Murtala Highway is the only road in and out of the city.

 

Most of them just laid on the tarmac.

 

Most of them carried placards with inscriptions : “why are we treated like less human, stigmatized in our State? “If disability is a crime, give us amnesty,” “Governor Ayade, respect the United Nations Convention on human rights of persons with disability,” “Governor Ayade, give us appointment, we also voted you into office, disability can affect anyone,” amongst others.

 

Chairman of the association, Ogar Inyang said “the government of Cross River State is insensitive to our existence; they behave as if we do not exist. They treat us as if we have committed crime being disabled.”

 

“We’ve exhausted all avenues to dialogue with government. We wrote to the Governor, Deputy Governor, Chief of Staff, we wrote to the House of Assembly, wrote to the Commissioner of Police, made several efforts to see even the wife of the Governor to plead with her to talk to her husband to listen to us but all efforts had been useless.”

 

“We need a secretariat and vehicles to carter for transport need of our members. One of us should be appointed as Special Adviser on Persons with Disabilities to also give us a sense of belonging.”

 

Also speaking, Etim Okon, Southern Senatorial District coordinator of the group said the solution to the quagmire was for Governor Ben Ayade to address them in person, else “no retreat, no surrender.”

 

“We are on the road because the Government has refused to respond to our numerous efforts. We have been dehumanized, reduced to beggars despite our intellectual capabilities.

 

“The State government is giving appointment, SA this, SA that, but we are never considered.  Last week, we staged a warning protest but nobody answered us anything. Today’s protest is a child’s play as compared to the next one that will come. We shall close down this State for days.

 

“In Nigeria, we have almost five million people with disability and a number of them are in Cross River. They are not catered for in budget. Let me ask, what is government’s policy on education and health of people with disabilities? They are talking of housing, what are their plans for housing for people with disabilities?

 

“Ordinarily, people pay N100 from this place to Watt market, but we spent as high as N400. Nobody cares about us. Disability is not bought in the market, if it was, none of us would buy. Ayade, as a learned man knows how people like us should be treated but he is turning a blind eye, why, why?” he said.

 

Reacting the Commissioner for Sustainable Development, Mr Oliver Orok, said, “This is the first time we are meeting since I assumed office. They have not come to complain about anything.

 

“So I am wondering why they should do that. We are very passionate about what they are passing through but they have never come to us with their complaints. 

“Those things are things that can be taken care of. Government is not God that will now sit down and know what is your problem. 

 

“Government has made it you will not pay tax. They have 10 per cent of employment for them among others. As I talk to you there are so many of them in my office working here just to make sure we accommodate them.”

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