By Gladys Nweke
Persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Rivers State had at a joint stakeholders’ congress sacked Mr Kio Obomanu-led state leadership of Joint National Association Of Persons With Disabilities (JONAPWD) and inaugurated a caretaker committee to pilot the affairs of the association in the state.
The newly elected caretaker committee members include Hon Peter Job Wota (chairman) from Obio/Akpor LGA, Comrade Ngo Baridapdoo (secretary) from Khana LGA, Comrade Collins Akpanah (PRO) from Akuku-Toru LGA, Comrade Chinonso Ejimozor (Treasurer) from Etche LGA and seven other members drawn from other local government areas of the state.
A communiqué issued at the end of the congress was quoted as saying: “The entire community of persons with disabilities in Rivers State have unanimously agreed to use this medium to inform security agencies, the media, both the public and private sectors as well as the general public on the issues confronting the association in the state.
”Issues that have been compromised by the Executive body led by Kio Obomanu can best be described as self-centeredness and other undesirable actions.
The issues include interference with national matters of our association without consultations, frivolous taxation on members, lack of accountability/embezzlement, self-centredness in charity items dispensation or proceeds. For-instance, what happened with assistance from AGIP and Nigeria Customs. Others include intimidation and molestation of persons with disabilities just to mention but a few.
”Premised on the above-mentioned anomalies, after an exhaustive brainstorming session, the congress passed a vote of no confidence nullifying the entire executive led by Kio Obomanu for serious gross misconduct and misappropriation of funds.
Thereafter, the 11-man caretaker committee was reconstituted and sworn-in this day with a view to run an election within a period of three (3) months.”
In his acceptance speech, the new Caretaker Committee Chairman said he intends to serve to the best of his knowledge.
Representing Comrade Ernest Obuzor who is the South-south Coordinator of JONAPWD, Comrade Fatai Onifade monitored the congress and said it was peaceful.
On his part, the presider of the congress and JONAPWD Chairman for Niger Delta Region, Comrade David ThankGod Enogo said, “As a matter of facts, the community of persons with disabilities deemed it necessary to meet and brainstorm on issues that have to do with their welfare.
”Part of what they resolved as a stumbling block to the association was the exco led by Obomanu and what they did was to dissolve that exco and form a caretaker committee that will pilot the affairs of the community of persons living with disabilities in Rivers State.
”As a stakeholder, what is paramount to me is the peaceful conduct of the affairs and activities of our organization as well as the decision of our followers.
As you all observe, congress made their submissions and came up with a resolution which we have no choice than to abide with it.
Persons Living With Disabilities (PWDs) from the Ogoni extraction in Rivers State have accused Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) of not engaging them in the Ogoni cleanup process.
Meanwhile, the PWDs under the auspices of the National Association of Persons Living With Disabilities in Ogoni (NAPDO) through a press statement signed by Comrade Ngo Baridapdoo J (coordinator), Comrade Kaaga Kune N (Khana LGA), Comrade Helen Kemgbara (Gokana LGA), Comrade Precious S. Nniwura (Tai LGA) and Comrade Olaka Sunday Mba (Eleme LGA) further called on President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Nyesom Wike to prevail on HYPREP to give them jobs.
The statement reads, We, National Association of Persons Living With Disabilities in Ogoni want to inform the public that HYPREP is playing politics with the physically challenged persons in Ogoni. We have sent a letter of audience to HYPREP since 30th November 2018, no response till date. We have sent a reminder on the 10th of December 2018 and another one this January to its director’s email which he directed us to send into, yet HYPREP has not responded to us.
However, as we speak now, HYPREP is training and employing while some contractors have been mobilized to site, yet it has not to include physically challenged persons in the Ogoni cleanup process. So, we ask: ‘Are we not part of the society? Why is it that the leadership of Ogoni has forgotten our existence?’
Moreso, we have also sent a letter of audience to the former State Commissioner for Environment, Prof. Roseline Konya on 18th October 2018 and she failed to acknowledge us, including His Royal Majesty, King Giniwa and MOSOP President, Mr Legborsi Piagbara.
We, the above-mentioned association in Ogoni have been working for the empowerment and integration of persons living with disabilities. If we react tomorrow since we are not recognised in the society where we belong, the public will see us as troublesome, wicked and a bad set of people. Whereas we are peaceful, creative and educated.
Therefore, we use this medium to appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to come and help us address this issue because we the physically challenged persons in Ogoni have been left out in the cleanup process. We also call on His Excellency, Governor Nyesom Wike to come to our aid because we are part of the society.
You would recall that in abolishing any form of discrimination against PWDs in the country that President Buhari signed The Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Bill into law.
A statement from the presidency explained that, the Act prohibits all forms of discrimination on ground of disability and imposes fine of N1, 000, 000 for corporate bodies and N100, 000 for individuals or a term of six months imprisonment for violation, adding that concurrently it guarantees right to maintain civil action for damage by the person injured against any defaulter.
According to the presidency, The Act also provides for a five-year transitional period within which public buildings, structures or automobile are to be modified to be accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, including those on wheelchairs.
Before erecting any public structure, its plan shall be scrutinized by the relevant authority to ensure that the plan conforms with the building code.
A government or government agency, body or individual responsible for the approval of building plans shall not approve the plan of a public building if the plan does not make provision for accessibility facilities in line with the building code.
An officer who approves or directs the approval of a building plan that contravenes the building code commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of at least N1, 000, 000 or a term of imprisonment of two years or both.
Discrimination is prohibited in public transportation facilities and service providers are to make provision for the physically, visually and hearing impaired and all persons howsoever challenged. This applies to Seaports, Railways and Airport facilities.
The rights and privileges include education, healthcare, priority in accommodation and emergencies.
Furthermore, all public organisations are to reserve at least 5 per cent of employment opportunities for these persons.
The National Commission for Persons with Disabilities is also established in Section 31 with Executive Secretary as the head.