Why we discourage physically-challenged persons from street begging – Ugwu

The founder of non governmental organisation in charge of persons with disabilities Victor Ugwu in an interview with CHUKS NWEZE says the organisation is out to ensure that persons with such status in Enugu are dissuaded from begging. 

What is IFEPED all about?

It is an abbreviation for Initiative for Eradication of Poverty and Empowerment of the Disabled, a non-governmental organisation  formed in 2014 and registered with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to empower people and eradicate poverty in the society especially those living with disabilities. 

How have you been leading the organisation and what are your challenges?

During the formation and registration of IFEPED 10 years ago, I was advised by  CAC to get more people as trustees. It was difficult then for me to get six persons, but after all said and done, I was able to get through. After the registration, to get humane and philanthropic people that would run the activities of IFEPED with me remained a very big problem. Since the formation of the NGO, we have packaged so many activities that would help us empower our youths and people with disabilities. We started documentation of names of people living with disabilities in the society to enable us upload their information on the website so that whoever is interested to help or assist any or some of them would get their direct information from IFEPED website. 

What is the relationship between IFEPED and JONAPWD?

The mandate of IFEPED is to empower people and eradicate poverty in the society. JONAPWD is Joint National Association of Persons With Disability, an amalgamated body of people with disabilities of which I don’t know their mandate. 

In what ways have you been liasing with the government, corporate organisations and faith-based organisations?

Before we started the documentation of people with disabilities to enable us know each of them and their individual needs, we  approached the state Ministry of Gender Affairs and Social Development and Ministry of Human Capital Development and Poverty Reduction for partnership/collaboration, but they declined. We later tried some NGOs, they also declined saying that documenting people with disabilities in the state is a government duty. We only received financial support from some individuals and religious organisations. 

How do you meet the needs of individuals under your care in this trying times?

We find it difficult to carry out our activities these days. In our last event of December 2023, (International Day for Persons with Disabilities) co-sponsored by His Lordship, Bishop Obi U. Onubogu of Rock Family Church Nigeria, it was very difficult for us to provide transport for people with disabilities from their different LGAs to the ceremony at Michael Okpara Square. 

What has been your greatest challenge leading IFEPED?

My greatest challenge as IFEPED leader is lack of commited people with like minds to carry out IFEPED activities.

How do you cope with the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities Law?

In Enugu state, for instance, I am satisfied with the law. That was why we followed it up until former Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi signed it into law before he left. We are now working for its implementation.

What are the achievements of IFEPED so far?

Since its formation in 2014, even though we lack sponsorship, we have succeeded in training some physically-challenged persons in skills acquisition like shoe making and some other crafts. We have equally assisted some in their academic activities. We attracted rural electrification project in Urobo village, Uburu community of Ohaozara LGA, Ebonyi state as requested by Mr Enyi Joseph Nwabueze, a visually impaired person from the village. IFEPED made effort and stopped the state government from closing a private school established by a person living with disability in Ugwulangwu the same Ohaozara LGA during Umahi’s tenure.

IFEPED made cases for persons with disabilities and without disabilities in police stations and courts. IFEPED campaigned for Enugu State Disability Law and made it available for the public. As a result of that, some radio stations have approved free slots to enable us sensitise and explain the provisions of the law to the public from time to time. We championed the course of people who were maltreated, denied their rights in their communities or intimidated/oppressed either by their husbands or business partners. Currently, IFEPED matters are going on at the Magistrate Court Enugu and Nsukka to free some individuals from the hands of others while some lawyers have been assisting us to enforce the Disability Law in the court of law whenever the need arises.