By Mashe Umaru Gwamna
It was all smiling and dancing galore when the Social Development Secretariat (SDS), of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) feted some physically challenged persons in Abuja, penultimate week.
The gesture, which was a show of love and affection towards them, coincided with the 2014 Day of the Physically Challenged Persons.
More so, it was to help the beneficiaries (the disable) join others in marking this year’s Christmas, that the Secretariat provided them with food items, and clothing materials to among other things.
Specifically, items distributed to the persons living with one form of physical impediments included bags of rice, beans, salt, corn, millet, red and groundnut oil, as well as assorted clothing materials.
Interestingly, the expression of sad and gloomy look on their faces turned into smile and joyful countenance, just as they sighted theitems on display at Old Parade Ground, the venue of the event.
Also, they were overwhelmingly inspired by the sounds of good music playing at the arena,despite their condition they were dancing and leaping for joy, as they are being remembered.
Peoples Daily observed that, they were not just wearing a fake smile-just to appear be happy before the guests but their happiness springs up from the depth of theirheart, just like waters from the fountain, indicating how pleasant they felt being remembered by the SDS.
Most importantly, their smiles reminds them that hope is not lost, but that life ismeaningful as reflected in the kindness being shown to them.
Speaking at the event, Secretary of Social Development Secretariat, Blessing Onuh, reiterated that it is the mandate and responsibility of the Secretariat, at the departmental level, to take care of people livingwith disabilities in the FCT, especially during the commemoration of the Physically Challenged Day.
She added that in commemorating the Day, the Secretariat decided to dole out the assorted clothing and food items to the beneficiaries, as a way of spicing up their lives and giving them more hope- that they are not forgotten.
“Aswe celebrate the 2014 Physically Challenged Day, and offer more hope to physically challenged personswe need them to totally cooperate with the secretariat-by promisingthey will stay away from begging on the streets”.
“They should have that understanding that there are so many risks insending their wards out for streets begging.
“But caring for children should be your priority and primary focus, as every person has one form of responsibility or the other,” she stressed.
Onuh, who further disclosed that the FCT Administration has many empowerment centers with free enrollment across the Area Councils, said the displaced persons areencouraged to pick up forms to enroll themselves to be empowered especially at the center in Bwari, which has graduated over 200 of them with start-up cash of one hundred thousand naira each to help themstay away from the streets, through starting their own small scale businesses.
She appreciated the FCT administration for giving the secretariat theneeded support to contribute and provide the needs of physicallychallenged persons, which is in line with the transformation agenda of President Good luck Jonathan.
She thereforeurged all well-meaningpeople to contribute their quota by in helping people living with disabilities in the society.
While distributing the gift items, representative of the Minister of state for FCT, Mrs. Uche Nwafor, pleaded with the physical challengedpersons to cooperate with the FCT administration policies which aredesigned to empower and equip them for a better future rather thanstaying out on the streets.
“The issues of people living with disabilities are very paramount tothis administration that is the reasons we want to offer them qualitylife.
“These gifts we are given them are part of the giant strides ofthe FCT administration to meet residents’ needs.
Similarly,the Coordinator, Society Against Prostitution and Child Labour in Nigeria (SAPLN), a non- governmental organisation, Grace Adogo, noted that the Organisation appreciates the FCT administration through the Secretariat for giving them the opportunity to cater forthe physically challenged persons by giving them hope with food item sand skills acquisition.
She revealed that SAPLN has launched buses that willpatrol the city center picking people with disabilities that refused to cooperate with administration.
On her part, Director, Social Welfare Department, Folashade Ayiyeka, said that the physical challenged persons are very dare to thedepartment.
According to her, the Department has many graduates, who have utilized the available opportunity.
“The FCT administration has offered to the physically challengedpersons, not only with food stuffs, but it has also equipped withskills acquisitions like: teaching them how to make soaps, beads among others, to help them become more useful to their families and the nation.
Ayiyeka however pleaded with the FCT administration to build a clinic orhospital at the location of the displaced persons facilities, where their healthsituations can be check up and be treated, as most of them aresuffering from various illnesses.
She also advised people with disabilities to shun street begging; instead the skills they have acquired should be used as small scaleenterprises to enhance their livelihood.
She added that if they cooperatewith the relevant authorities, more beautiful things like meeting their needs will always happen to them regularly.
Not left out, the Public Relation Office (PRO) of the Abuja Disabled Emirate Council, Suleiman Abubukar, said “we indeed appreciate thesocial development; they are our parents and they have done a lot ofkind gestures to physically challenged persons in the FCT”.
One of the beneficiaries, Adebayo Kayode, decried that the right of people with disabilities isalways trembled upon, as often they are not being considered when seriousdecision of citizens are taken in the country.
He says,“We praise the social development for a work well done, but thekey issue here is empowering us, because when the food is finished, we will still go back to street begging.
“Therefore, am pleading with the FCT administration to give those among usthat are graduates jobs, to ease our plight.
“We are not treated as citizens of this country, our human right is being played upon andpeople undermine people with disabilities as if we do not have anything to offer.”
Another beneficiary, Fatima Bamdamis, said it is not the first time Social DevelopmentSecretariat has given them this kind of opportunity, to make their lives more meaningful in thesociety.
“When all these items are distribution to various groups of displacedpersons, some of us our leaders do not usually offer us with any of the items.
“We are calling on the secretary of socialdevelopment, to look in to the matter, because most of us havechildren, that is why most times even, when this food stuff and othermaterials are given, we still hangout on streets begging to make endmeets,” she stressed.