.Demand sack of SA, Special Citizens
Two days after they staged a protest to the Ahiajoku Conference Centre to get the attention of Governor Rochas Okorocha to no avail, physically challenged persons numbering over 500, drawn from the 27 council areas of Imo state yesterday converged in Owerri, the state capital in protest of alleged insensitivity and high-handedness on the part of the government of Imo state and its agents.
The group led by the state chairman of the Joint National Association of Persons Living with Disability (JNAPLD), Dr. Stanley Nwachukwu, accused government through its agent, the Special Assistant for Special Citizens, Mrs. Kate Okoli of intimidating and subjugating their members.
They accused Okoli of hijacking gifts and goodwill donations to the association and re-presenting same to the group, making it appear to have been donated by government.
“Gift donated by charitable individuals would be brought in by Mrs Okoli presented to us, videoed, photographed and posted on a special website as government achievement.”
They accused Okoli of asking charitable donors to donate gift items to her office and not to the disables association and had never accounted for such gifts.
“Most recently, Senator Osita Izunaso promised us a gift of N1million during his birthday party with us, as has been the custom for the past six years now, to our utter surprise, Kate Okoli, without our consent went and collected the money only to present it to us with photographers and video cameras as part the effort of the government to better our lot. This is fraud and we are no fools.”, they fumed.
According to the angry disables, the Special Assistant had clamped down on their parent union, JNAPLD directing them to desist from assembling and change the name of their organization to reflect ‘special citizens’.
The Southeast Coordinator of JNAPLD, lamented that the SA, treated their members like they were less than human. Said he, “Some of our members should be commended for having not taken laws into their hands. Not very many men can tolerate it when a lady who may be their wife or daughter stands in their faces and call them ‘worthless women’ just because they are disabled. That is how badly we have been dehumanized by the Imo state government.”
Continuing he said that Okorocha had given waiver for employment of disabled persons, but at the same time 50 percent of the said employment is presently going to able bodied men and women without any disability.
The protesters however called for the immediate removal of Mrs. Kate Okoli, the SA, Special Citizens and replace her with a physically challenged person who would better understand their plight. Explaining, they stated that they took to the streets because they had earlier taken their complaints to the Governor, the State House of Assembly and the Chief of Staff to the Government House, Eze Madumere, yet no attention was given to them.
Commuters plying through Orlu road, Bank road, Assumpta road and PortHarcourt road were put through a harrowing experience as they were forced to disembark and trek to their various destinations. The impact spilled over to other major roads in Owerri leading to a traffic gridlock in most of the major roads in Owerri.
Efforts by the Security Aide to Governor (Owerri zone), Mr. Onyeukwu to dissuade the protesters was greeted by near aggression. Police and military patrol teams were helpless as to how to handle the situation.
Special Advisers (Media) to the governor, Ebere Uzoukwa described the action of the disabled persons as unnecessary.
Said he, “They came to government house last week to demand for the sack of the SA, Special Citizens, Mrs Okoli and replace her with one of their own. I am surprised they could take to the streets so soon causing breach of peace and security.”