Physically challenged persons, traders storm Ambode’s office, protest arrests

Scores of physically challenged persons on Tuesday stormed Lagos House, office of Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, expressing displeasure over alleged detention of their members who were artisans on wrong premise that they are beggars.

Also, they were joined by traders who came to protest against indiscriminate arrest and displacement of various locations where they peddle their trade.

The protesters, who stormed the Governor’s Office, were armed with placards with inscriptions such as, “Ambode stop destroying our homes, market and schools,” “We are in recession now, why destroying our economy,” “We are part of Lagos, don’t displace us,” among others.

The physically challenged persons alleged that operatives of the agencies of state government often arrest them under the disguise of removing beggars from major highways in the state.

It would be recalled that the State Government had, at the last Townhall meeting, disclosed that 31 Niger Republic destitutes/beggars were rescued from the street of Lagos between January and July, 2016.

Speaking with newsmen, the Seriki Arewa of physically challenged persons in Agege Local Government, Mallam Haruna Abdullahi, alleged that over 20 physically challenged artisans were arrested as beggars by the official of the state government.

Muhammed Zana, secretary to the physically challenged persons, argued that the action of the state government was unconstitutional, adding that all the officials did was to arrest any person found to be physically challenged without doing proper checking.

According to a trader, Matthew Abba, hundreds of traders have been displaced by the ongoing demolition of structures in Lekki and Victoria Island axis of the state.

In the letter sent to the governor and read on behalf of the protesters by Raymond Gold, the aggrieved persons said: “We are deeply concerned by the recent crackdown by the Lagos State Government on street trading and begging. The attack on the poor, especially persons living with disabilities, is inconsistent with inclusive governance.

“It is pathetic that in spite of our appeal last year against forceful eviction, the state government last month evicted some residents of Ilubirin. Such hard-line policies do not solve the social problems that plagued Lagos State. It will not put Lagos on the road of achieving the sustainable development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

“We call on the Lagos State Government to abandon hard-line policies that do not solve social problems. Instead, the state government should partner local and international agencies in developing strategies that enable informal workers to gradually pull themselves from poverty and enter formal sector. This will increase government revenues,” he said.

Gold urged that rather than arrest physically challenged persons, “the state government should help them to develop and learn new skills, in order to pursue alternative livelihood in the state.”

Responding on behalf of the state government, Mr. Taiwo Ayedun, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Civic Engagement, told the protesters that the issue would be investigated, assuring that, “in order to investigate it, we will like to meet with your leaders tomorrow (Wednesday).”