2022 International Albinism Day: A’Ibom Govt Bars Jake’s Epelle’s Group From Hosting Event in Uyo

…Security agencies, stakeholders, international community put on alert

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By Edet Okpo

Ahead of the upcoming cerebration of the International Albinism Awareness Day to be held globally on June 13, 2022, the Akwa Ibom State Government says it has disassociated itself from Jake Epelle’s event and bars him and his National body from hosting the cerebration in the State because of potential negative implications necessitated by series of petitions from Stakeholders and Members of the Organisation.

The State government therefore sternly warned the CEO/Founder of The Albino Foundation (TAF) and President, The Albinism Association of Nigeria, Mr. Jakes Epelle, against taking government’s well communicated injunction for granted by going ahead with the planned celebration in the State, charging security agencies to be on red alert to checkmate possible breach of law and order, as well as stakeholders and the international community to be aware of the development.

This was part of the State government’s position on the matter as contained in a press statement issued by the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Dr. Ini Adiakpan, at a press conference held at the Conference hall of the Ministry, Idongesit Nkanga Secretariat, Uyo.

According to the statement, government took the bold position consequent upon intelligence information and series of frightening reports and petitions to the Ministry by some members and leadership of Joint National Association for Persons With Disability (JONAPWD), Akwa Ibom State Chapter, and Advocacy for Persons with Albinism Network of Akwa Ibom State, an affiliate of the organization, citing serious grievances and internal wrangling that could pose serious security implications to the citizenry and the state at large.

The Statement further reiterated that should its orders be flouted by the organizers, it shall have no option than making sure Mr. Jakes Epelle and his plotters were decisively dealt with according to the law, as their action would have been targeted at giving a bad name to the State in national and international circles. Government therefore sees Epelle’s antics as an affront and gross act of insubordination that cannot be tolerated .

“The Akwa Ibom State government has strong interest in the event and welfare of the persons with disabilities and Albinism because of the love and huge resources it has deployed in that connection as well as aggressive advocacies and laws that have been enacted as legal framework for the promotion of gender-based issues and protection of persons living with disabilities. You are witnesses to what His Excellency, Governor Emmanuel and his amiable wife, Her Excellency, Dr. (Mrs.) Martha Emmanuel have done in that regards. So anything that would truncate or jeopardize the interest of these persons must be nibbed in the bud”, the statement maintained.

Findings by our reporter however confirmed that Mr. Jakes Epelle had been holding secrets and open meetings in the State to fine-tune plans for the events, one of such, was a press conference he held on Thursday, 9th June, 2022, stating that the 2022 International Albinism Awareness Celebration will be held in Uyo.

A member of the organization at the press conference who volunteered information to our reporter on grounds of anonymity confirmed that there was serious intractable crisis in the association largely because of Jakes Epelle. “He is naturally troublesome, stubborn, dubious, and unscrupulous. He likes making headlines”, she said, hence she said she was in full support of government’s decision because ‘Epelle could spring surprise at any time any day”.

Our reporter also cited a petition letter dated 9th June, 2022, entitled: Re: Emergency Request to Decline Mr. Jake Apelle and the Albinism Association of Nigeria’s Invitation and Boycott of Their June 13, Scheduled to Hold in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State”, signed on behalf of Joint National Association for Persons With Disability (JONPWD), Akwa Ibom State Chapter, by its Chairperson and Co-Founder, Miss Omotunde Ellen Thompson (FRM), and sent to the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, US Embassy in Nigeria, Her Excellency, Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard.

The signatory to the petition gave reasons for the group’s decision to boycott the exercise. One of such was that Mr. Jake Epelle wanted to host the event solely for his selfish aims.

Another reason was that he wants to humiliate and disparage Mrs. Nnene Bassey, president of Advocacy for Persons with Albinism Network of Akwa Ibom State and others who have been trying t restore order in the organization.

An excerpt of the petition stated: “‘It is sad to let you know that Mr. Jack Epelle and his Albinism Foundation, in their continued retaliation, repression, intimidation, unnecessary harassments, being unprofessional, unethical, immoral, power-drunk, and overzealous, disrespect to women, rule of law, etc…misused the Albinism of Nigeria that he formed.

Speaking, another member of the group in a brief chat with our reporter described Mr. Jakes Epelle as “a stanch chauvinist and merciless hater of women who has not seen anything good in Mrs. Nnene Bassey and therefore is fiercely against her current position”. This, she source hinted, is even against the fact that Mrs. Bassey was duly elected in August 2021.

The petition also raked up a documentation of Mr. Epelle’s earlier and practicable misconduct which members of the organization consistently have frowned at but have had to endure over the years in the vain belief that he will change. On an attachment to the petition with the sub theme, “Statement of Facts”, the group chronicles Mr. Jake Epelle’s multiple iniquities.

These, among others, include harassment, exploitation, intimidation, torture, and swindling or duping of hapless members of the organization. Specific instances as the petition letter further revealed include how Mr. Apelle denied one Miss Helen Edet of Cross River State access to writing the West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) by singlehandedly withdrawing for his use money given to her as assistance by one Assistant Inspector General of Police, but which was deposited in the bank account of TAF.

Other allegation against Mr Epelle include his “involvement in manipulation and discrimination, blocking other members from receiving assistance and goodwill from donors and well-wishers, obstructing proper and legal election of executives for the association.

Emphasizing on government’s displeasure over the development, and considering that all the affected agencies fall directly under the supervision and oversight of her ministry, the press release by government supported the boycott of the celebration, and reaffirms government’s full support for and partnership with the Nnene Bassey-,led group.

The Commissioner however called on interested stakeholders, relevant affiliate organisations and the general public to attend the 2022 International Albinism Awareness Day on the theme: “United in Making Our Voice Heard”,organized by Advocacy For Persons with Albinism Network ,holding at Women Development Center, IBB Way, Uyo, on Monday, June 13, 2022 by 10am, with Muluka Anne Mitidruumon, UN Independent Expert on the Enjoyment of Rights of Persons with Albinism as Guest Speaker.

The international Albinism Awareness Day (IAAD) is commemorated annually on June 13 to celebrate the human rights of persons with albinism worldwide. The 2022 edition has the theme – “Uniting in Making Our Voice Heard”.

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