The Joint National Association of Persons With Disabilities, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area chapter, Bayelsa State, has bemoaned their under-representation and neglect by leaders of the area and government at all levels.
They stated this when a delegation of JONAPWD in the area, led by its president, Salvation Enoch, visited Alagoa Morris, Head of the Environmental Rights Action Niger Delta Resource Centre in Yenagoa, the state capital, on Monday.
Enoch lamented that they had been denied access to their representatives in government, particularly in the executive and legislative arms where they had hoped to be given an audience to express themselves and state their challenges.
He said, “If you look at the Southern Ijaw area, we are the most vulnerable people and we have not gotten the opportunity to speak on issues affecting us as persons with disabilities, especially the neglect that we have been facing.
“Our leaders, from the local government to the state and federal levels; we are less represented in government and we don’t have free access to our representatives for them to understand that we are also existing as persons with disabilities and that our challenges are supposed to be looked into. It has been very challenging in our effort to have an audience with them.”
He said they had written several letters to various leaders and representatives but discovered that their letters were not usually delivered to them.
While shedding light on the problems of JONAPWD members, Enoch said, “Many of us are less educated. We need JAMB forms and scholarships. We need walking and hearing aids, and magnifying glasses. We need skills acquisition.
“We also need empowerment, some of us have talents and are also good at bead-making, singing, and others. We need training programmes. We need employment chances. On World Disability Day, we are supposed to celebrate it but nothing happens. We need disability home/office in Southern Ijaw.”
He also stated that they were suffering a great deal of discrimination and police brutality, and appealed to the ERA Niger Delta Resource Centre to “assist us to push our issues.”
Responding, Alagoa Morris, a foremost environmental and community rights activist, called on the Bayelsa State Governor, Douye Diri and relevant government authorities to pay special attention to the physically challenged persons.
He urged the governor to extend his administration’s welfare scheme for the elderly to persons with disabilities as well so that they could also receive monthly stipends and have a sense of belonging in the state.