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Physically Challenged Persons Demand Parliamentarians, Governorship Seats, Priesthood

Governments and churches in Nigeria have been taken to task over their discrimination against the physically challenged persons (paraplegics) and therefore demanded to be allowed to become governors, parliamentarians and priests. This was the position of one Justice C. Chukwu, a visually impaired (blind) 300 level Law student of the University of Nigeria Enugu Campus from Isu Awa in the Awgu local government area of Enugu, when he presented a paper, titled, "Removing barrier and creating an inclusive and enabling society for all", on the occasion of the 2013 CARITAS Week celebration of the Catholic Institute for Development, Justice and Peace (CIDJAP) Enugu.

Chukwu flayed the present situation where paraplegics are not given opportunity to hold political positions, such as governors, ministers, senators, House of Representatives and State House of Assembly members, as well as church positions as priests. "Day by day in our everyday life in the society today, persons living with disabilities, especially the visually impaired are being faced with various forms of discrimination and barriers. For example, in politics, they are not seen as one worthy of any political offices and are not provided with adequate facilities during elections. Little wonder that all the ministers and law makers, none of them is visually impaired. Does it mean that those who have visual impairment have no say in the governance and politics of country?" Chukwu lamented. He therefore urged governments in the country to make legislations that will cede particular percentage of parliamentary seats to the physically challenged persons at the various levels of the legislature.

The visually impaired Law student suggested that "In politics, adequate provisions for the persons with disabilities, especially the visually impaired should be made, and should have their own quotas, without prejudice, enshrined in the constitution to have in every sector of the economy at least 15 percent of employment and a minimum number of three persons from each cluster group of those with disabilities in every segment of the parliament, to represent the interests of other members in governance." The 300 level visually impaired Law student further urged government to create the enabling environment that will make it easy for the physically challenged to become elected state governors, ministers.

On the other hand, Chukwu implored the Churches, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, to allow the physically challenged persons to become priests and to serve Mass, declaring that "persons with disabilities should be regarded as complete and active parts of Christ's body and should be given opportunities to serve God and the church in any capacities without restrictions."

However, he challenged the physically challenged persons to be useful to themselves and to know that there is ability in disability. "You must rise above self destruction and laziness and should not see yourselves as failures or never capable. You can rise above any barriers, obstacles and discrimination, if you truly desire", Chukwu told his fellow physically challenged persons.

Citing himself as a living example, Chukwu admonished the physically challenged persons that disability was all about having the right mind and the right attitude to life because as a living witness, the human mind can achieve whatever it can conceive.

Earlier in her welcome address, the Rev. Sister of the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary congregation in charge of CARITAS department of CIDJAP, Rev. Sr. Onyinyechukwu Ezejesi, said the department was created in 1987 to attend to the needs of the poor in various categories in the society who need assistance, and that it coordinated the activities of charity groups and St. Vincent De Paul Society.

The Umuchinemere pro-Credit Micro Finance Bank donated some funds to the Caritas department of CIDJAP on the occasion, to assist it in attending to the needs of the poor in the society. Manager Public/Media Relations of the bank, Sir Abuchi Anueyiagu, represented the bank on the occasion.

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