By Chris Agbo,

Insecurity in Nigeria is taking another dimension and Nigerians are becoming crueler and have lost their conscience. Nobody is safe now in Nigeria, even the persons with disabilities and those working for them are not left out in this criminality. These criminals are engaging in robbery, kidnapping, sexual abuse and killing and they did not spare persons with disabilities and sign language interpreters in their wickedness.

Recently, as a journalist focusing on disability issues and getting all the news of criminality against individuals within disability community, I am beginning to get worried because it seems that individuals within community both persons with disabilities and their volunteers are being targeted. It suggests that persons with disabilities with all the vulnerabilities and challenges, insecurity have now been added to the equation. The situation is dangerous and could have negative effect because volunteers such as sign language interpreter would be skeptical about offering their services at late hours and even continuation with the job since they are being targeted and either being robbed or kidnapped.

Just on Saturday night of 19th June 2021, armed robbers attacked the home of a high profile woman with disability in Abuja and on gunpoint, they made away with her belongings (phones, laptops etc) and that of her husband. The hoodlums have lost their conscience to the extent that they never mind that she is a woman with disability (wheelchair user) who have been struggling to make ends in spite of all the barriers she is facing in Nigeria.

When the news of armed robbery attack was broken in the community through The Qualitative Magazine TQM whatsapp platform, other persons with disabilities shared their own experiences with these hoodlums.

Paul Ihekwuaba of Global Hope initiative, a wheelchair user posted on The Qualitative Magazine (TQM) whatsapp platform that he has been robbed three times in his home at Kubwa, Abuja and at each incident, he reported to the police but no investigation was carried out. He remains vulnerable and to the mercy of God that they do not come again.

Another high profile woman with disability (name withheld) who also resides in Abuja was earlier this year attacked in her home and she lost so much and there is no clue of the perpetrators.

The Attack on the home of this woman with disability at the weekend came when we have not fully recovered from the shocking news of the kidnapping of a sign interpreter, Mrs. Daramola Martina Onyeka who was taken away in her home in Kuje also in Abuja at around 1pm at night alongside her daughter and Ten-million-naira ransom was demand before they could be released.

Sources from the family confirmed that a ransom of two million naira was paid to rescue the release of Madam Daramola and her daughter.

Her predicament made me to recall the when another sign language interpreter Dangana Deborah Joy was miraculously survived being kidnapped in Abuja.

The incident happened on November 11, 2020 on a day Deborah was so busy volunteering her services as a sign language interpreter to Abdulmumuni Ujah, the Chairman, Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja Chapter and also pro-bono to Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) where she signs on 7pm News.

On that very day, Deborah attended an advocacy meeting embarked upon by The Albino Foundation at Ministry of Water Resources at Old Secretariat, Area 1, Garki, Abuja which Ujah was invited. After the meeting with The Albino Foundation, later in the evening, Deborah headed to NTA Headquarters at Area 11, Garki, Abuja to feature in their 7pm Network News as a sign language interpreter.

When the news ended at 8pm, Deborah walked to the front of Nicon Luxury Hotel to board a taxi to Wuse Market where she can get a bus going to Kuje Area Council which is more than 30kms from the city centre.

Deborah who cannot afford high cost of accommodation at the city centre, resided at Kuje and she has been going to the city centre on daily basis from there.

As she was on the road side waiting to board a taxi, a taxi came and she stopped it, some people were already in the cab so she did not suspect anything. So, she entered, immediately the car drove off, the glasses of the car started going up and she queried and they asked her to cooperate and if she fails to cooperate, she would be killed.

At that point, Deborah understood that she is already at the hands of criminals, she began to shout Jesus!!! in her mind. They collected her phone and her bag. They searched the bag, they could only see her transport fare, then they started going through her phone and they asked for her password for the Bank app in her phone, she gave it to them, they went through the app and they saw Five Thousand Naira only in her account. They asked her what is doing for a living and she told them that she is a volunteer sign language interpreter. They asked again if she have a boyfriend and she told them that Jesus is her boyfriend.

After all those questions and searching through her phone, they start abusing her sexually, they were putting their hands into her bra, touch her breast and other sensitive areas. They did that to her for some time and they dropped her but they went away with her phone and bag leaving her stranded. She had to seek help from passerby before she was able to make it home.

Deborah was so lucky to have been released by these heartless hoodlums, some people have been taken in this manner and they never came back. Some people, ransom were paid before they were released. Maybe God answered Deborah’s prayer, or they could not see phone numbers of people who can pay ransom on Deborah or maybe she does not have a boyfriend that they can contact for a ransom.

Deborah was miraculously released, she could have been taken away like others, demand for ransom or even get killed for ritual purposes as they have done to thousands of young ladies.

This heightened cases of insecurity in Nigeria, persons with disabilities and sign language interpreters are now being targeted. Maybe these individuals work is always keeping them in the eyes of the public which can draw a lot of attention to them and the hoodlums targeting them with the hope that they are millionaires or friends to the high and mighty.

High profile persons with disabilities and Sign language interpreters seems to require special security but since we know that such security cannot be possible because they are not politicians. High Profile Persons with disabilities and Sign Language Interpreters should be more careful, keep their residential place a secret and accompanied by someone whenever they are providing night service to avoid Deborah’s case.

Above all, all Nigerians life is in danger, it is God that can save us all from these dangers all around us because it seems our government have failed in the responsibility of securing lives and properties.

I am still calling on government to do something because these PWDs and Sign Language Interpreters who are legitimately earning a living and have to lose their hard earned money and properties to hoodlums, bandits, criminals whatever they are called. Enough is Enough.  

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