The Interim Administrator of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mr Efiong Akwa, has re-affirmed the commitment of the Commission to assist people living with disabilities to give them sustainable livelihoods.
Speaking when he received a delegation from the Niger Delta region chapter of the Joint National Association of Persons Living with Disabilities at the NDDC headquarters in Port Harcourt, Akwa said that NDDC was committed to the well-being and overall development of members of the association.
The NDDC Chief Executive Officer announced that the Commission would offer contract employments to one member of the association from each of the nine Niger Delta States. He observed: “Because of the huge recurrent expenditure in Nigeria, Mr. President has directed that we step down on full employment, so we can only give you a contract employment that will last for two years. We do not have the capacity to take everybody. We will also support you with mobility aids.”
He noted that the new NDDC headquarters made special provisions to assist persons living with disabilities to enable them have easy access to the building through roll-on/roll-off walkways, stating: “There was no provision for persons with disability in the old building but today it is included in this new building.”
Responding to the demands of the association, Akwa stated that the NDDC does not utilize contract projects for empowerment, as development projects affect millions of lives in the Niger Delta region, noting that NDDC, as an interventionist agency, was concerned with sustainable development projects.
He stressed: “I will not approve contract projects as an empowerment tool in my time as Chief Executive Officer of NDDC. But if any of you is capable and has the capacity for training, we will allow that.”
He charged them not to see themselves as disabled, urging them to keep to their resolve to shun violent confrontations but to embrace dialogue instead.
Akwa praised persons living with disability for doing Nigeria proud during the 2016 Olympic Games, stating: “When none of the teams was able to win gold, you won that for the country. You have also done very well in your civic responsibility by voting. You voted this administration into power.”
Earlier in an address he read on behalf of the regional chairman of JONAPWD, Mr Simon Bidei, the coordinator of the group, Prince Akaninyene Isidore, promised that the group would no longer be confrontational in making its demands.
He said: “We cease this opportunity to thank President Muhammadu Buhari for signing into law, Discrimination against person with disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2019, which provides for the integration of persons with disabilities into the society and for constituting the National Commission for Person with Disabilities, NCPWD.
“It is important for us as human beings to understand that disability is part of the human condition and that all of us may become disabled to one degree or the other during the course of our lives.”
The Chairman said that the vulnerable and disadvantaged group at grassroots usually suffered untold hardship, neglect, gross discrimination, deprivation and stigmatization. He added: “We disabled person in Niger Delta region are appealing to your Interim Management Committee to integrate persons with disabilities as stakeholders in Niger Delta Region during the introduction of the new Niger Delta Regional Development Master Plan.”