Scores of lepers in Delta State have sent workers at the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development packing from the state secretariat in Asaba.
The lepers, who said they have been out on the streets protesting since Monday, 8th August, converted the car park in the complex into a mini hostel, as they came with mats, pots, stoves and other household items.
The hostile-looking men and women decried neglect by the state government, whom they said have completely ignored them and stopped bringing aids to them. The Authority observed that the patients looked ill, dirty and unkempt as they lay or sat under the shed, discussing.
Our correspondent escaped being injured by some irate members of the group, who nearly attacked him with sticks, when he attempted taking shots of them. Some of the older members of the group later apologized, but said the unruly behaviour of their members was as a result of hunger and anger; “How can they tell us to leave our homes and stay there, when they know they can’t care for us?”, said one who struggled with crutches, valiantly grbbing at the handles with fingerless hands.
A salesman by the roadside who didn’t disclose his name told newsmen that since Monday when the ailing protesters arrived, workers at the ministry had absconded, for fear of getting infected by the patients.
The Ministry of Women Affairs, Social and Community Development, headed by Rev. Omotshola Williams, was deserted, save for the lepers, when The Authority arrived the scene.
Led by its chairman under the auspices of the People Affected by Leprosy (PAL), Lucky Egbo, the patients hailed ex Governor James Ibori and Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan for caring for them and stemming their needs and challenges when they were in power.
Stating their grouse at the premises of the Ministry of Women Affairs, Social and Community Development, Egbo said Ibori removed them from the highway in 1999, placed them on monthly stipend and approved free meals for them.
He said Udaughan, who inherited the arrangement was unable to improve on their condition but continued with what he met on ground.
“Ibori resettled us and placed each of us on N8,000 monthly stipend. He also approved three square meals for us daily. Former Governor Uduaghan continued with the three square meals but reduced the monthly stipend to N6,000.
“The current administration of Governor Okowa is the worst. He did not only cut the monthly stipend to N3,900, he reduced our daily meal to two times a day. Now the Governor is owing us three months arrears plus the four months outstanding of Dr. Uduaghan”, Egbo cried.
He said the lepers’ colony would remain in the Ministry, at Asaba until the Governor listens to them, pay up the seven months arrears and revert to the daily meal to status quo.
“Thank God we came with our sleeping mats. We will remain here until they answer us. We were where we were when they (government of the state) came and promised to help us. Why are they now failing in their responsibilities towards us”.
A top staff of the ministry, who spoke under anonymity, appealed to them to return to their colony, hinging the non-payment of the economic depression and maintaining that “plans have reached advance stage to pay them.”
Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone.