World’s Dis­abil­ity Day: Mem­bers de­cry dis­crim­i­na­tion, want law en­forced

Daily Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Fidelis Mac-Leva, Ab­bas Ji­moh, Umar Shehu Us­man, Vic­to­ria Onehi (Abuja), Hope Abah Em­manuel (Makurdi), Ini­abasi Umo (Uyo), Peter Moses (Abeokuta), Itodo Daniel Sule (Lokoja), Us­man A. Bello (Benin), Jeremiah Oke (Ibadan), Dick­son S. Adama, (Jos), Romok

Per­sons liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties have lamented that they are still fac­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion across the coun­try de­spite the pas­sage and assent to the Na­tional Dis­abil­ity Bill.

Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari had on Jan­uary 23, 2019, signed into law the Dis­crim­i­na­tion Against Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties (Pro­hi­bi­tion) Act, 2018 fol­low­ing nine years of re­lent­less ad­vo­cacy by dis­abil­ity rights ac­tivists in the coun­try.

The law pro­hibits dis­crim­i­na­tion on the ba­sis of dis­abil­ity and im­poses sanc­tions in­clud­ing fines and prison sen­tences on those who con­tra­vene it. It also stip­u­lates a five-year tran­si­tional pe­riod for mod­i­fy­ing pub­lic build­ings, struc­tures and au­to­mo­biles to make them ac­ces­si­ble and us­able for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties.

But as Nige­ria joins the rest of the world to mark this year’s World Dis­abil­ity Day, per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties said dis­crim­i­na­tion against them has not abated.

They said pub­lic and pri­vate build­ings have re­mained user-un­friendly to their mem­bers es­pe­cially at state and fed­eral sec­re­tar­iats.

Daily Trust re­ports that aside from the pub­lic el­e­va­tors (lifts) at the Head of Ser­vice (HoS) wing and old Fed­eral Sec­re­tar­iat in Abuja, there are no special pro­vi­sions for per­sons liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties.

The Pres­i­dent, Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Per­sons with Phys­i­cal Dis­abil­i­ties (NAPPD), Com­rade Ril­wan Mo­hammed Ab­dul­lahi, noted that though Pres­i­dent Buhari had as­sented to the Na­tional Dis­abil­ity Bill which pro­hibits dis­crim­i­na­tion against per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties, the trend re­mains a chal­lenge to mil­lions of their mem­bers.

“The ma­jor chal­lenge be­ing faced by per­sons with phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties in Nige­ria is dis­crim­i­na­tion which we thought would be­come his­tory soon af­ter the law was en­acted.

“One of the ma­jor prob­lems with Nige­ria is that we are very good with com­ing up with laws but when it comes to im­ple­men­ta­tion it is an­other is­sue,” Com­rade Ab­dul­lahi said.

Also speak­ing, the pres­i­dent, As­so­ci­a­tion of Phys­i­cally Chal­lenged Ap­pli­cants, God­stime Onye­bu­lam, said: “Pure dis­crim­i­na­tion is our ma­jor chal­lenge.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, the Dis­crim­i­na­tion Against Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties (Pro­hi­bi­tion) Act, 2018 gives at least 5 per cent op­por­tu­nity for per­sons liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties for ev­ery re­cruit­ment in the coun­try by both pri­vate and gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

“But we suf­fer from dis­crim­i­na­tion as we have over 18,000 grad­u­ate ap­pli­cants who are un­em­ployed.”

Our cor­re­spon­dents report that per­sons liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties in the states have also iden­ti­fied dis­crim­i­na­tion as one of the ma­jor chal­lenges they face.

Benue

The peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties have stressed the need for gov­ern­ment to give them recog­ni­tion to bet­ter their lot in the so­ci­ety.

Ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor and co-founder of QuestAid Foun­da­tion, Aver Akighir, said: “We have over 10,000 per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties in Benue State. Dif­fi­cul­ties in at­tend­ing to our health chal­lenges are very se­ri­ous is­sues be­cause the health work­ers are not friendly. They are also not trained to at­tend to our mem­bers.”

He also said ed­u­ca­tion poses an­other chal­lenge for them as schools are not ac­ces­si­ble to per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties, cou­pled with high fees. He added that skills ac­qui­si­tion, as­sisted de­vices for the blind are also not made avail­able. On his part, the State Sec­re­tary of PWDs, Uer­tar Collins, iden­ti­fied stigma­ti­za­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion against their mem­bers es­pe­cially when they want to get mar­ried.

Akwa Ibom

Mr. Ubong Udo, Na­tional Pub­lic Re­la­tions Of­fi­cer of Nige­ria As­so­ci­a­tion of the Blind in Nige­ria and former Chair­man of Akwa Ibom Joint As­so­ci­a­tion of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties (JONAPWD), said en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, at­ti­tu­di­nal bar­ri­ers, ac­cess, and par­tic­i­pa­tion are their ma­jor prob­lems.

Udo, who spoke with our correspond­ent in Uyo, said the prac­tice of ex­clu­sion of PLWDs was detri­men­tal to both the group and the so­ci­ety, ad­ding that PLWDs re­quire in­clu­sion and not ex­clu­sion in so­ci­ety.

He ex­plained that seg­re­gat­ing PLWDs in the so­ci­ety make peo­ple sym­pa­thetic to­wards them in­stead of be­ing em­pa­thetic, say­ing the no­tion of sym­pa­thy meant PLWDs re­quire help, which is not true.

Udo, who is a prin­ci­pal pro­ducer with the Akwa Ibom Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (AKBC) Ra­dio Ser­vice, said his dis­abil­ity has not lim­ited his aspi­ra­tions in life, not­ing that the only lim­i­ta­tions are peo­ple in so­ci­ety. “Though I was for­tu­nate to get a job soon af­ter my grad­u­a­tion, many dis­abled per­sons who are grad­u­ates are not that for­tu­nate,” ad­ding that be­tween 100 and 150 PLWD grad­u­ates in the state are without jobs.

Ogun

The Sec­re­tary, Ogun State Joint Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties (JONAPWD), Ji­moh Ahmed Abio­dun, iden­ti­fied some of the chal­lenges con­fronting per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties to in­clude dis­crim­i­na­tion, lack of jobs, em­pow­er­ment, and lack of ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion.

He said there are over 250,000 peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties in the state, not­ing that the fig­ure only cap­tured Abeokuta me­trop­o­lis, Ijebu-Ode, Ijebu-Igbo, Sagamu, Ilaro, Imeko-Afon and Ota. Abio­dun ex­pressed con­cern that mem­bers of the as­so­ci­a­tion who have sound ed­u­ca­tion are be­ing de­prived em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Kogi

Chair­man of the Joint Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Per­sons With Dis­abil­i­ties (JONAPWD), Com­rade Solomon Ya­haya, said per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties con­sti­tute about 10 per cent of the over three mil­lion pop­u­la­tion of the state.

He iden­ti­fied some of the ma­jor prob­lems con­fronting per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties in the state to in­clude lack of in­clu­sive­ness, poor welfare, ne­glect by so­ci­ety and lack of voice in gov­ern­ment to push for the well-be­ing of per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties.

He said the rate of un­em­ploy­ment amongst per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties in the state is very high, not­ing that per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties who are qual­i­fied are hardly taken into con­sid­er­a­tion dur­ing em­ploy­ment pro­cesses.

He said there is need for the gov­ern­ment to es­tab­lish special schools for per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties for easy ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, ad­ding that the state only has one special school for the blind which is not that func­tional or equipped.

Edo

Peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties are fac­ing the same chal­lenges as their coun­ter­parts in other states that limit their as­pi­ra­tion. Daily Trust gath­ered that about 15 per cent of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion of the state is made up of per­sons liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties.

Speak­ing with our re­porter, Chair­man of the Joint Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Peo­ple with Dis­abil­i­ties, Edo State chap­ter, Henry Ebose, said they be­lieve that when the dis­abil­ity bill is passed into law in the state, their chal­lenges would be ad­dressed.

Ebose, a grad­u­ate of Mass Com­mu­ni­ca­tion from Auchi Polytech­nic, said: “Our chal­lenges range from ac­cess to pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties and struc­tures, ed­u­ca­tion, health and trans­porta­tion, among oth­ers.

“My dis­abil­ity has not re­ally lim­ited my as­pi­ra­tion; I have been work­ing with the Edo State In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice for the past eight years and re­cently over 30 per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties were em­ployed by the state gov­ern­ment,” he said.

Oyo

The pop­u­la­tion of the peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties in Oyo State, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est sta­tis­tics of the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO), is 17,000, the

Ex­ec­u­tive Special Ad­viser on dis­abil­ity to the state gov­er­nor, Bar­ris­ter Adekanbi Ay­o­dele, said.

Ay­o­dele said he has been man­dated by the gov­er­nor to en­sure an ex­ec­u­tive bill tagged “equal op­por­tu­nity bill” gets to the state As­sem­bly be­fore Fe­bru­ary 2020.

Plateau

The Chair­man, Dis­abil­ity Rights Com­mis­sion in Plateau State, James David Lalu, said the state has over 450,000 per­sons liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties.

Speak­ing with our correspond­ent in Jos, Lalu said the ma­jor prob­lems fac­ing per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties in­cluded sur­vival and dis­crim­i­na­tion, ac­cess to health care and ed­u­ca­tion es­pe­cially for those in the ru­ral ar­eas.

A vis­ually im­paired per­son, Bala Dakup, said he was lucky all through as he has never re­ally suf­fered dis­crim­i­na­tion. He said he is a 1987 grad­u­ate of Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence from the Univer­sity of Jos, and was one of the first phys­i­cally chal­lenged grad­u­ates in the state.

Kwara

The over 5000 peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties in Kwara are faced with dif­fer­ent chal­lenges rang­ing from aban­don­ment by par­ents, so­ci­etal stigma, mar­i­tal prob­lems to dis­crim­i­na­tion.

A former teacher at the School for the Hand­i­capped and mem­ber of the ex­ec­u­tive of the as­so­ci­a­tion of the dis­abled in the state, Mr. Fo­lawiyo Ab­dul­wa­hab Akanbi, said apart from be­ing dis­crim­i­nated against, they have lim­i­ta­tions in terms of ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion. Mean­while, the state gov­ern­ment has said that it is com­mit­ted to the re­al­iza­tion of the UN Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals (SDGs) 2030.

Gombe

In Gombe State, peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties have com­plained of be­ing ne­glected by the state gov­ern­ment.

The state chair­man of the Joint Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Peo­ple with Dis­abil­i­ties (JONAPWD), Umar Ali Goro, said they have univer­sity grad­u­ates and higher cer­tifi­cates hold­ers but find it hard to se­cure jobs.

“De­spite hav­ing 32 grad­u­ates, 28 NCE hold­ers and 99 oth­ers with diplo­mas as well as 486 sec­ondary school cer­tifi­cates hold­ers with 63 that at­tended craft school, many of us are ei­ther roam­ing the streets in search of jobs or beg­ging along the ma­jor roads across the state.

“Out of the 65,000 civil ser­vants in the state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments ser­vices, only about 500 of our mem­bers are fully en­gaged by the gov­ern­ment, leav­ing over 475,000 job­less be­cause we don’t have god­fa­thers,” he said.

La­gos

La­gos State chair­man of the Joint Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Peo­ple Liv­ing With Dis­abil­i­ties, Dr Ade­bukola Ade­bayo, noted that pri­vate com­pa­nies shied away from em­ploy­ing PWDs be­cause they be­lieve they are more of a burden and there is a limit to what they can do.

“When it comes to em­ploy­ment, there is a lot of dis­crim­i­na­tion. We are en­gag­ing the pri­vate sec­tor. Gov­ern­ment em­ploys lots of PWDs in the state but there is a huge gap in the pri­vate sec­tor,” he said.

Kano

In Kano, Abba Sarki Sharada who is the chair­man of Kanawa Ed­u­ca­tional Foun­da­tion, al­leged that the dis­abil­ity bill as­sented to by the pres­i­dent was only signed with the hid­den mo­tive to woo peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties to come out to vote for him.

“The rea­son why I say so is that from that time to date, noth­ing has been done to im­ple­ment the bill for the ben­e­fit of peo­ple with special needs. We ex­pected to see some­thing ear­marked in the 2020 bud­get for peo­ple with special needs to show that the gov­ern­ment is se­ri­ous about us but there is noth­ing to that ef­fect,” he said.

Borno

Peo­ple liv­ing with dis­abil­i­ties want to be spon­sored to study in ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions.

They also said they want some special schools to be built for them while ex­ist­ing cen­tres of learn­ing and vo­ca­tional train­ing work­shops be ren­o­vated and fur­nished with mod­ern fa­cil­i­ties that would en­able all their mem­bers learn skills to bet­ter their lives. Speak­ing to Daily Trust in Maiduguri, the state branch chair­man, Joint Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Peo­ple Liv­ing with Dis­abil­i­ties, Malam Amadu Umaru, said: “As we speak now, the re­pen­tant Boko Haram and IDPs have taken over our re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tre in Bu­lumkutu.”

Osun

Pres­i­dent of the Joint Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties (JONAPWD) Osun State chap­ter, Mr. Ke­hinde Oni­tiju, said the ma­jor chal­lenges of PWDs in the state in­cluded un­em­ploy­ment, in­abil­ity to use cer­tain pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties, ne­glect and fi­nan­cial con­straints.

Also, Co­or­di­na­tor of the Al­bino Foun­da­tion in the state, Mr. Luk­man Nafiu, said health is­sue re­mains the main chal­lenge fac­ing his mem­bers, stress­ing that per­sons with al­binism in the state also suf­fer eco­nomic chal­lenge, stigma­ti­za­tion and myths as many peo­ple see them as spir­its and be­lieve that it was a curse to be an al­bino.

Good news

De­spite com­plaints in states, lead­ers of per­sons with dis­abil­i­ties un­der the aegis of Ac­cess Nige­ria: Dis­abil­ity Votes Mat­ter Cam­paign, said the sign­ing of the Dis­abil­ity Bill by Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari is one of the best things that hap­pened to them.

The Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor, In­clu­sive Friends As­so­ci­a­tion (IFA) and co­or­di­na­tor, Ac­cess Nige­ria, Mrs. Grace Jerry, said: “The sign­ing of the bill by Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari early this year is a good de­vel­op­ment that would gin­ger us to push for more. There re­mains the chal­lenge of ac­cess to health, ed­u­ca­tion, trans­porta­tion, and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties among oth­ers.

The Min­is­ter of Hu­man­i­tar­ian Af­fairs, Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment and So­cial De­vel­op­ment, Ha­jiya Sadiya Farouq, in a press brief­ing yes­ter­day to mark the cel­e­bra­tion of the In­ter­na­tional Day of Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties in Nige­ria, said: “As part of ef­forts to al­le­vi­ate poverty and re­duce the suf­fer­ings among Per­sons with Dis­abil­i­ties (PWDs), the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment through the min­istry has been sup­port­ing PWDs on an an­nual ba­sis with var­i­ous forms of as­sis­tive de­vices and eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment ma­te­ri­als such as wheel­chairs, tri­cy­cles, Braile Ma­chines, Guide canes, crutches, grind­ing ma­chines, hairdry­ers, barb­ing clip­pers, sewing ma­chines and vul­can­iz­ing ma­chines.”

Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari hosts phys­i­cally- chal­lenged per­sons at the break of fast dur­ing Ra­madan Pe­riod, in the Pres­i­den­tial Villa Abuja (File Photo)

Na­tional Pres­i­dent, Nige­rian Air Force Of­fi­cers' Wives As­so­ci­a­tion (NAFOWA), Ha­jiya Haf­sat Sadique Abubakar (2nd left), presents one of the wheel chairs to a phys­i­cally chal­lenged stu­dent of Abuja School for the Hand­i­capped, dur­ing NAFOWA’s out­reach in the school re­cently

Speaker Femi Gba­jabi­amila con­grat­u­lates his Special As­sis­tant on Special Needs, Barr. Ab­dul­salam Idowu Kamaldeen, af­ter his ap­point­ment at the N/As­sem­bly (File Photo)

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