Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Persons living with disabilities have appealed to the government, corporate organisations, good spirited individuals and groups to come to their aid to save them the harsh effects of gas flaring in oil producing communities.
The group said that gas flaring not only destroyed the local environment but also worsened the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
They made the appeal, weekend, during a media dialogue with the theme, “Amplifying the Voice of Persons Living with Disabilities in the Climate Change Discuss”, held at Las Hogar Hotels and Suites, Kwale, the administrative headquarters of Ndokwa West Local Government Area of Delta State.
The event was organised by Persons with Disabilities Action Network (PEDANET) Nigeria with support from the Global Greengrants Fund, with the PEDANET Executive Director, Ubaka Emeka Betram, harping on the need for persons living with disabilities to take more active interest in issues that impacted them directly or indirectly, like climate change.
The citizens, made up of men, women and youths with disabilities, lamented that though their various challenges had always meant daily hardships for them, the continued flaring of gas by the oil companies in Ndokwaland has made the effects of the new Coronavirus far more severe, practically making their lives nightmarsh.
They lamented that they were also victims of various health and environmental effects of gas flaring with most of them being unable to move around and go to farms and other places where they earned their daily bread due to flooding and pollution.
One of the resource persons and Founder, Initiative for Cultural Heritage, Chief Osaemenjor Chukwuemeka, noted that most of the people concerned found it very difficult to access hospitals and public places including churches, government offices and even various hotels and centres of learning because persons with disabilities were not taken into consideration in structuring of these public places.
Chukwuemeka, who appealed to “hospitals to assist these special citizens to cover the distressing distance they have to cover to access doctors in hospital clinics”, urged hospitals, hotels and public places to be more sensitive to special needs of persons on wheelchair.
In his presentation on “The Effect of Climate Change in Delta Communities – The 2012 Flood As A Case Study”, Mr Eugene Hyacinth Ossai, a journalist, agriculturist and community development advocate, noted that while people may be grouped into those with physical, mental or other forms of impairment, economic disability affects all segments of the society.
He however, noted that economic disability was far more severe for people with disabilities because they are compelled to add the burden of general economic disability to their natural or circumstantial physical, mental or other forms of disability.
Drawing instances from his personal experience, Comrade Innocent Esume, acting secretary of Persons With Disabilities, Ndokwa Nation, appealed to the government and good spirited individuals to assist persons with disabilities to obtain education, skikls training, jobs and various palliatives that would help them get succour from the harsh effects of the COVID-19.
Speaking on “Organising Civil Society Groups for Effective Engagement on Climate Change/Gas Flaring”, Mr Isaac Botti of the Abuja-based group, Social Action, urged persons living with disabilities to take up the challenge of helping themselves by taking active part in dialogue to engage the authorities in government and corporate organisations, including oil and gas companies, on issues like gas flaring which greatly impacted the environment and climate change.
An environmentalist, Dr Charles Obiechina Olisa, also spoke exhaustively on the interrelationship between climate change and biodiversity, stressing that “no effort should be spared in ensuring that our biodiversity is protected through conscious preservation of our flora resources if our desire to halt the negative impact of climate change would be realized.’