Written by Austine ELEMUE

The Day ’Cripples’ Crippled Abuja

Like the famous satire, "The Beggars' Strike", activities in the Federal Capital Territory were ‘crippled’ by physiologically challenged persons. Our correspondents, Austine ELEMUE and Edrina EMMANUEL monitored the event and report: 

The sight of the physically challenged persons taking over some parts of the streets of Abuja could be liken to the novel, "The Beggars' Strike’ or the ‘Dregs of Society" written by Aminata Sow Fall. It is a novel of modern African society that depicts the consequences that ensue when a city's director of public health and hygiene attempts to remove all the beggars from the city's streets. 

No doubt, last week, the physically challenged persons made a point as hundreds of them from the oil rich Niger Delta region barricaded the two major lanes leading to Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, over what they described as marginalization and dehumanizing of the less privileged class especially those physiologically challenged in the society. 

Despite the presence of heavily armed security operatives, they were not deterred to voice out their grievances against the federal government. 

During the protest, the group vowed that until the federal government addresses issues of unemployment and other social problems facing the physiologically challenged persons from the region, the protest will continue unabated. 

For several hours, these special citizens’ paralyzed commercial activities in the nation's capital as all major routes leading to NNPC in the Central Business District were cordoned off by security men. All efforts made by representatives of the management staff of NNPC to persuade them to call of the protest fell on deaf ears. 

Speaking to Metro, the leader of the group, Comrade Isaac Obruche, revealed that they had decided to occupy the road after series of failed dialogue between them and some stakeholders in the oil and gas industry, stressing that both past and present government treat issues bordering on the physiologically challenged with levity. 

Obruche, who spoke in an eloquent and unmistakably terms, vowed that the group will not vacate the road until the federal government meets one of their demands, even as he accused the management of NNPC of marginalizing not only the physiologically challenged persons, but also the south south geopolitical zone that lays the proverbial golden egg. 

"We mobilized ourselves to this city after series of failed promises by the federal government to the physiologically challenged persons from the Niger Delta region. We want to sound it very clear to those in authority that we are all stakeholders in Nigeria and the continue denial of employment by a certain group of people or region will be resisted. 

"Many of us lying down here are either graduates or artisans in different fields and the only crime we commit against the society is our various degrees of disabilities which is not our efforts. Let me tell you, everybody is a potential physiologically challenged person. Most of us here are not born with disability, but through certain circumstances in life we are now physiologically challenged. 

"The present government must give us automatic employment, and address some social issues confronting us. For example, this NNPC Towers is not friendly to the physiologically challenged persons despite the fact that the funds used in building it is from our region. The building is designed in such a way that it is impossible for some of us to get to the third floor of the Tower," Obruche affirmed. 

He lamented the way and manner in which security operatives harassed and intimidate them during the peaceful and legitimate protest, adding that no amount of intimidation will deter them from pressing for their demands. 

Metro reports that the Association of Deaf and Dumb in the Federal Capital Territory, also staged a similar protest to the office of the FCT minister, Mallam Musa Bello. They called on the administration to recognize them in the day to day running of the city. 

Though, they spoke in signs language, but an interpreter told Metro that the protest was an advance notice that members of the association will continue to agitate for their legitimate rights.

Going by the bravery of the two protests by the challenged members of society, there are speculations amongst society watchers that this could just be the beginning as more citizens gain awareness of their rights to demand inclusion and good governance.

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