By Wole Mosadomi
Minna- The destitute in Niger state, comprising the blind, the lepers, the Spinal Cord affected persons, the orphans and the Polio affected persons, have cried of neglect by the government and the citizenry.
During the last Eid-el-Kabir festivities, it was a tale of unhappiness, total neglect, agony, depression, disappointment, anger among others for the destitute as they lamented that they were left to carry their cross alone.
Although they were not in any way regretting their condition as they believed it was the will of God for them which could not be challenged, they argued that being physically challenged did not make them different from their able bodied counterparts and should therefore be accorded same respect and dignity.
While many Nigerians celebrated the just concluded Eid-el-Kabir with pomp and pageantry, the physically challenged persons in Niger state marked theirs with tears.
At the blind settlement centre in Limawa, Minna, most of them who spoke with our Correspondent in Hausa decried the situation and felt so disappointed.
One of them simply called Muhammadu declared, “it had never been bad like this; we have never experienced dry Sallah like this especially in the past three years but it is worst this year. During any Sallah in the past years, there was no need for us to stay outside begging as gifts in form of foodstuffs, meat, cash etc from government, individuals, Corporate bodies and others naturally and unexpectedly came to us but now, even with us standing outside begging, nothing is forth coming especially from the government.”
One of the female beggers corroborated what her male counterpart said adding, “the government and the society have totally neglected us, help us tell the government especially that we are not happy at all and we need their assistance to survive.”
Also in an interview, Chairman Blind Association in Minna, (Sarkin Makafin), Alhaji Rabiu Abdullahi said the situation they have found themselves in the past three years can best be described as “very pathetic”
According to him, “In the past, between four to five cows were given to all the blind in the Minna to share and this was appreciated by all but in the past three years, not even a ram was given to us. Sometimes when we were given meat, we found it difficult to invite our members to come and share because it was nothing to write home about.
To worsen the situation, some government officials would come with cooked food inside cooler, they would assemble my people and hand over to them after taking photographs with them and they would later show it to the world that they were taking care of us but we know it is deceit but there is nothing we can do about it. I have never witnessed these same set of people coming to us with bags of rice, millet, maize, beans among others except with items that could not even feed a family,” he declared.
At the settlement of Polio affected persons, the Spinal Cord affected persons and the Orphanage, the story of neglect was even more pathetic. The State Chairman, polio affected persons, Auwal Ahmed said they were not really feeling the impact of government as far as their welfare was concerned.
Ahmed who was also state Secretary of the Spinal Cord affected persons said, “we have four categories of physically challenged persons in the state which are the crippled, the deaf, the blind and those infected with Leprosy and a cow was shared for all of us. You can imagine how confused we would be with the gift.
When asked on how they celebrated the Eid-El-Kabir, the Chairman declared, “honestly, we celebrated the Sallah with tears because what the Government and individuals did was not encouragìng at all.
The road leading to the Leprosarium which was at the outskirt of Minna was getting worst day by day while the infrastructural facilities including the wards were dilapidated. The environment was surrounded bushes thereby further exposing the patients to danger as reptiles including snakes crawled into the wards at will.
The old colony which used to be a Referral Centre for people affected with leprosy from across the country with patients overwhelming the centre was almost deserted due to its neglect.
Except for the Leprosy Mission of Nigeria (TLM) and T,Y Danjuma Foundation which were still striving to make the centre survive, the colony would have become history.
Only eight Patients- four males and four females remained at the Centre and it was the same story of neglect, depression and anger.