Many physically-challenged persons who came for an empowerment programme, sponsored by the Akwa Ibom State Government through the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare, sustained varying degrees of injuries in their bid to escape from the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps operatives who flogged them during the distribution of food and money.
It was learnt that some of the victims who were visually impaired, fell on rough surfaces, while others, who could not run, were marched on by other fleeing persons.
Some were also said to have passed out in the melee.
A victim, Ime Okon, from Ikot Ntu, in the Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, told our correspondent on Thursday that he could not raise his left arm as it had been broken following the stampede that ensued after the flogging by the NSCDC men.
He said, “As we were trying to come out, the NSCDC personnel started flogging people. The fleeing crowd pushed some of us down and stepped on us to escape. I can’t raise my left arm. I don’t have money to go to a hospital. I know three others who sustained serious injuries.”
A police officer at the scene told our correspondent that nobody died during the incident, adding that only a few persons sustained injuries as they tried to make their ways, into where food and money were being distributed.
PUNCH Metro gathered that the physically-challenged persons who went to Uyo from different local government areas of the state with expectation of empowerment, were disappointed as they were given food and N3,000.
A beneficiary, Mr. Mbiere Udofia, from Ikot Essien village, in the Obot Akara LGA, told our correspondent that his fare from Obot Akara to Uyo, and back was N2,000.
He said, “I did not come to Uyo to be given food in small plastic and N3,000 in an envelope. I came here for empowerment so that I can live like every other person in the society.”
Another physically-challenged person, Itoro Sunday, from Mbiaikpa Ibakesi in the Ini LGA, stated that if she knew she would not be empowered, she would not have come all the way from Ini to Uyo.
She said, “The people gave me N3,000 while my transport from Ini to Uyo is N2,500. I did not come here for food; I came here to be empowered. The people they decided to empower are those who already learnt a trade.
“But many of us also learnt different types of trade. I don’t know what other criteria they used to empower some people.”
The Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Dr. Glory Edet, said nobody was injured or killed during the exercise.
She said, “You have seen how everything is going on smoothly. I have told you that nobody died; you can see the security people everywhere.
“Where do you get the information that some people were injured? You people like to write negative things about this state. And if I read any negative report from you, I shall sue you.”
Our correspondent, however, observed that the NSCDC actually flogged some physically-challenged persons who tried to get food or money.