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Beggars, physically challenged persons hold Ambode, Lagos Assembly members hostage

The protesters

Hundreds of beggars and physically challenged people yesterday held the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, the House of Assembly complex, and the entire Alausa secretariat hostage for several hours, protesting against alleged dehumanisation by the state government.

The angry protesters, mostly northerners, barricaded the road leading to the Governor’s Office, and House of Assembly complex, forcing the governor to follow another route to his office while returning from an event around 4: 00p.m.

Motorists were also prevented from entering or going out of the Lagos Government House and the Assembly premises, as they blocked the two entrances to the complexes.

The protesters, who came in about 30 buses, said they were tired of the antics and exploitation of the officials of the state government, who arrest them and subject them to inhuman treatment if they are unable to meet their bail conditions in time.

They claimed that once they are unable to bail themselves at the point of arrest or a day or two after, they are remanded in a rehabilitation centre where they are usually maltreated.

A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Justice and Empowerment Initiatives, Nigeria (JEI) which led the protesters, had in a letter addressed to the governor and dated March 3, 2017, requested for an immediate action on the alleged dehumanisation of the physically challenged in the state.

In the letter, which was co-signed by the Co-Executive Director of JEI, Mr. Megan S. Chapman, and its Staff Attorney, Friday Oteikwu, the group condemned the alleged “inhuman and degrading treatment that persons living with disability are subjected to at the Lagos State Rehabilitation Centre, Owutu-Majidun in Ikorodu Local Council of the state.”

JEI then urged the governor to order the immediate and unconditional release of all Persons Living With Disabilities (PLWDs) currently being detained unlawfully at the rehabilitation centre, as well as payment of compensation to the relations of persons, who died due to the treatment received at the centre.

In a statement made available to journalists, the Physically Challenged Empowerment Initiatives of Nigeria also condemned the alleged dehumanization of their members by the state government.

They alleged that last year alone, they recorded six deaths due to the condition in which people were detained at Majidun-Owotu. “One young man, who was unlawfully detained for 16 months was released, when he had grown too weak to walk, and less than a week after his release, he died of suspected tuberculosis.

“Another young mother, who was nine months pregnant, when arrested had no option but to put to bed inside the cell aided only by her cellmates; her baby contracted neonatal tetanus due to being born in unsanitary conditions and died several weeks later.”

Addessing the protesters, a member of the House of Assembly, Funmilayo Tejuosho, who stood in for the Speaker, Mudashiru Obasa, promised that the House would look into the matter and get back to them in due course.

She assured them that the state government was committed to inclusive governance and had several programmes to empower the physically challenged.

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Akinwunmi AmbodeJEI


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