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A demand for their rights

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A demand for their rights

Four months after passage of the Disability Bill by both chambers of the National Assembly, the fate of the Bill is still hanging in the balance, as the President is yet to give his assent to legalise it. REGINA OTOKPA and CYNTHIA OKEKE report on stakeholders’ position

 

Statistics have revealed that no fewer than 25 million Nigerians are living with one form of disability or the other. However, the policies in place have not been favourable to these unique set of human beings, who have risen up against all odds, to make impact in their various little ways aimed at further developing the country through several networks.

 

Despite their hard work, talent and dedication, Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in Nigeria, have continued to encounter significant obstacles of discrimination and exclusion on a daily basis, preventing them from fully exercising their rights and thus, poses as hindrance to their meaningful participation in the society and economy. Directly and indirectly, this has a huge effect on the vicious circle of poverty that has debased the dignity of persons with disabilities.

 

 

Speaking recently at a one-day Stakeholders Forum on ‘Nigeria Disability Bill’ organized by the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) in Abuja, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, lamented the adverse effect of discrimination and exclusion on persons with disabilities in the country.

 

Applauding the National Assembly for passing the National Disabilities Bill, he maintained the act was a proof of support and commitment the Federal Government has to general issues that guarantee the wellbeing of persons with disabilities.

 

Represented by the Director, Social Services of the ministry, Mrs. Dorcas Ajiboye, he said: “We are gathered to make concrete decisions that can either mar the future of these persons or fortify their advancement in the society; our decision here are critical to national development.

 

 

“This meeting is to promote the welfare of these persons, who for long have been neglected while giving them a sense of belonging in the society. This, in return, will provide succour and extend transformation to many aspects of the economy. “Employment is a top priority for this government; hence, creating growth and jobs that must be open to all citizens – including those with disabilities.

 

The ministry, through the national employment policy is strongly admitted in fostering an all-inclusive and respectful workforce culture that promotes the hiring, retention and professional development of people with disabilities, both among public and private sectors of labour employers.” Evidently, it is of utmost importance that President Muhammadu Buhari gives his assent to the Disability Bill once transmitted to him by the National Assembly.

 

That will address the various issues of discrimination confronting PWDs, and allow for a reduction in the employment gap between people with and without disabilities. Lending its voice to the clamour for the Disability Bill be passed into law, the Australian Government appealed to Buhari to do the needful, so as to ensure the rights of people with disabilities were recognized through domestic legislations.

 

 

Speaking to Inside Abuja, the Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Lehmann, said as member of the human rights community and United Nations, Nigeria was obligated to recognize the rights of people with disabilities and ensure a disabilities inclusive policy in the country.

 

 

Represented by the Deputy High Commissioner, Cleo Wilson, he maintained that like many other countries of the World, Australia believed that people with disabilities have an important role to play, and needed additional support and facilities that would allow them contribute meaningfully to the society.

 

“Australia, as a member of the international community is extremely interested in this; every country in the world needs the bill that helps to ensure that groups that have concerns and issues have their rights recognized. Australia has already done that, and the most important thing that Australia has done is that we have a disabilities inclusive policy.

 

So, every programme that we run or any funding that the Australia gives, we look to ensure that the people with disabilities are captured. This is essential and it is recognition of the important role that people with disabilities play in all our societies,”he said.

 

According to the Executive Director of the CCD, David Anyaele, the assent of the bill was critical  to criminalize every form of discrimination against people with disabilities, and also to ensure these group of persons participated in government programmes and activities.

 

Anyaele, who lamented the continued gross discrimination suffered by people with disabilities in government interventions, appealed to both Buhari and the Chairman of the National Assembly, Senator Bukola Saraki, to play their respective roles in favour of the over 25 million people with disabilities across the country.

 

“This administration has rolled out various interventions aimed at improving the livelihood of Nigerians but the situation where these situations are designed with the exclusion of people with disabilities is deplorable and all Nigerians must condemn it.

 

 

“Therefore, the need to sign the disability bill into law, and to criminalize every form of discrimination and other harmful practices against the people living with disabilities is important as it stands. “Without signing that disability bill into law, every other activity of the state remains charity and charity is not sustainable. It promotes exclusion and people with disabilities are the worst hit.

 

 

That is why we are asking President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the disability bill into law and also, we are asking Senator Bukola Saraki, the chairman of the National Assembly, to take appropriate measure to transmit the bill to the President for his assent.”

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