Business activities around Lagos State Governor, Akinwumi Amobode’s office came standstill for several hours after sea of beggars under aegis of Physically Challenged Empowerment Initiative (PCEI) stormed the axis to registered their grievances and dissatisfaction over maltreatment and unlawful detention of disables in the state
The disables in their hundreds of thousand during the protest, appealed to the government to shut down its rehabilitation center at Majidun-Owotu axis of the state.
The disabled alleged that the centre condone indiscriminate abuse of their members hereby calling for release of people detained unlawfully.
The group coordinator, Mohammed Zanna, who led a peaceful protest said for years, countless members of their disables have suffered untold abuse at hands of officials of the state in charge of enforcing law and rehabilitation.
He lamented that several complaints of how agents have been arresting beggars and demand for bribe between N15,000- N25,000. were registered before appropriate authorities but no action was taken to clampdown such acts.
He added that among disables who could afford the ransom regained freedom and that those who could not pay were unlawfully detained for months or beyond a year without trial in terrible conditions leading to health problems and eventually death.
According to him, the group have recorded in the last one year death of six members due to condition subjected to at Majidun Owotu rehabilitation centers.
The group also urged for immediate suspension of enforcement and subsequent repeal of section 166(1) of the Criminal Law of Lagos state that criminalizes ordinary street begging.
The coordinator seek from Lagos state government to partner with their group in providing impoverished person living with disability with alternative livelihood through free vocational training and empowerment program for their members.
Also, the Coordinator, Justice and Empowerment Initiative of Nigeria (JEN), Megan Chaplin, who is providing the group legal backing, complained on suffering of the disables in the state, as well as state of rehabilitation center’s facility which was described disheartening.
Chaplin said that the JEN has been providing the helpless beggars training on laws of Nigeria and Lagos state and initiatives on how to get justice from their government.
She said the group had written protest letters to the governor last week and other agencies but that there was no response to pressing demand.
“We have to come out since government decides not to respond to letter written to register the pains of thses less privileges> That is why they decided to protest peacefully till their demands are yielded to”.
Meanwhile, the Senior Special Adviser to the state governor on civil engagement, Taiwo Aigbendu who addressed aggrieved beggars assured them that their demands would be discussed on pressing issues list.
He said the state government would do everything within her capacity to meet up with their demands.
He, however, debunked the allegations that Lagos state agencies members usually demand bribe from the disables but, also assured that investigation would be launched to that effect.
He advised the group not to take laws into their hands and enjoined them to returned back to their respective places.
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