- BY JUDE DOZIE in Asaba/
It commotion at the Ministry of Women Affairs and Community Development in Asaba, Delta State as Persons affected with leprosy (PALs) stormed the ministry, demanding an increase in their monthly stipends and payment of arrears.
The development led to a number of workers deserting their offices, apparently for fear of the PALs who had carried out similar protests in the past.
The protesters, who came in large number all the way from the Lepers Settlement Eku in Ethiope East local Government Area of the state, alleged that the ministry was “tampering” with their allowances.
Eyewitness accounts said that the workers were caught unawares as the PALs practically stole into the ministry complex unnoticed; but they were soon jolted into action with car owners moving quickly to remove their vehicles from the premises to avoid them being vandalised by the irate PALs while others fled.
The action of the lepers however coincided with the World Leprosy Day celebration on Thursday and according to them the celebration should reflect on their welfare.
The lepers decided to barricade the ever busy government house (Summit Road) by the ministry headquarters and threaten to remain there until their plight were looked into, because they had waited endlessly without any officials attending to them.
Some of the inscriptions on placards wielded by the protesters read, “We are dying of hunger, our children starving”; “In 2017 you must pay us N15,000 or we return to the road”; and, “Is there any market for the poor?”
However, the Chairman of the lepers’ settlement in Eku, Mr. Lucky Egbo and the Secretary, Mr Pual Oke, in a letter of reminder to the commissioner in charge of the ministry, Mrs. Omatsoma Williams, insisted that the six months arrears owed them should be paid in full.
The PALs also called for increase in their monthly allowance from N3,500 to N15,000 while their feeding should be twice instead of once a day.