Hundreds of beggars and physically challenged people, on Tuesday, held Lagos state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, hostage while protesting an alleged dehumanisation by the state government.
The protesters who practically shut down the entrance into both the governor’s office and the Lagos State House of Assembly, also held civil servants at both offices hostage.
The protesters mostly Northerners who were visibly angry barricaded the road leading to the Governor’s office, and the state House of Assembly forced the Governor who was returning from an event to follow another route to his office while motorists were also prevented from going in and out of both the Government House and the State House of Assembly premises.
A Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), Justice and Empowerment Initiatives, Nigeria (Jei), which led the protesters, in a letter addressed to the Governor and dated 3 March, 2017, the protesters who were led by a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Justice and Empowerment Initiatives (JEI) requested for an immediate action on the alleged dehumanisation of the physically challenged in the state.
The letter, co-signed by the Executive Director of JEI, Mr. Megan S. Chapman, and its Staff Attorney, Barr. 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 Government of Lagos state.”
The organisation therefore, urged the Governor to order the immediate and unconditional release of all PWLDs currently being detained “unlawfully at the Lagos State Rehabilitation Centre, Majidun as well as payment of compensation to the relations of persons, who died as a result of inhuman condition of the Centre and to PWLDs previously unlawfully detained at the Centre.”
In a statement dated 7th February, 2017 made available to the press, the Physically Challenged Empowerment Initiatives, in Nigeria also condemned the alleged dehumanisation of their members by the Lagos state government.
The group alleged that six deaths were recorded last year alone due to the condition in which people are 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, 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 under unsanitary conditions and died several weeks later,” they alleged.
The group therefore, demanded the closure of Majidun-Owutu Rehabilitation Centre which according to them, is a place of detention for PWLDs and the immediate release of “all persons unlawfully detained,” as well as the immediate suspension of enforcement and subsequent repeal of Section 166 (1) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State that criminalizes ordinary street begging amongst others.
Addressing the protesters, A member of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Adefunmilayo Tejuosho who stood in for the Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, while addressing the protesters promised that the House would look into the matter and get back to them in due course.
The lawmaker assured them that the state government was committed to inclusive governance and had several programmes to empower the physically challenged people in the state.