Disabled Nigerian declines new home after protest from residents

Housing Executive ‘actively working to resolve issue’

Northern Ireland’s Housing Executive, said it was “actively working with local representatives and agencies to try to resolve the issue” in relation to Michael Abiona.

Northern Ireland’s Housing Executive, said it was “actively working with local representatives and agencies to try to resolve the issue” in relation to Michael Abiona.

Thu, Jun 19, 2014, 01:00

A disabled Nigerian man living in Belfast since 2010 will not move into social housing allocated to him following a protest at the door of what should have been his new home.

Michael Abiona (34), a board member of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, said he was confronted yesterday by up to four women and a man at the door of the house on Glenluce Drive in the east of the city which had been adorned with banners.

These stated: “Local houses for local people” and “We have rights too, we need homes too”.

They demanded to know why Mr Abiona was allocated a home by the Housing Executive when others had been on the waiting list, in some cases for years.

‘Won’t feel safe’

“I’m not moving in because I won’t feel safe,” Mr Abiona told The Irish Times.

“I’m waiting to speak to someone from the Housing Executive and I’ll see then what is to be done. My son comes first.”

Mr Abiona, who has been waiting for a home since 2012, suffers from osteoarthritis and needs both knees replaced. He works for Cedar Foundations, an organisation which helps those with disabilities.

The Housing Executive, which runs social housing in Northern Ireland, issued a statement saying it was “actively working with local representatives and agencies to try to resolve the issue”.

A spokeswoman added: “We are hoping to speak to Mr Abiona so he can confirm his intentions.”

Condemnation

The executive says every applicant seeking accommodation, including those from overseas, is graded on a transparent points system. Points are awarded for a range of circumstances and not just the length of time waiting for a home.

There has been widespread condemnation of the incident from political parties.

Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the incident was “shameful” and “must be condemned by everyone”.

East Belfast Alliance MP Naomi Long said: “Any right-thinking person will condemn this blatantly racist behaviour.”

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said: “We must not allow ourselves to become sanitised to the despicableness of racism.”