From Noah Ebije, Kaduna
As National Union of Textiles Garment & Tailoring Workers of Nigeria (NUTGTWN) joined the rest of the world to mark International Day for Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) on Thursday, it was observed that physically challenged persons have suffered effects of COVID-19 pandemic more than the able bodied persons across the world, and Nigeria in particular.
Speaking at this year’s commemoration of the event, the National President, NUTGTWN, Comrade John Adaji noted that while the physically challenged were battling with their disabilities, they were also weighed down by economic didsabilities occasioned by the pandemic.
December 3rd, each year is set aside by the United Nations as International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). The aim is to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to promote the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities and to take action for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society and development.
The theme for this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”.
Comrade Adaji said, “As many as 70 per cent of Nigerians are “economically disabled” through poverty, huge housing deficits, lack of basic facilities like water and light, insecurity, most Nigerians live with social disabilities. It is however a double jeopardy for those who combine social economic deprivations with physical disabilities, in a country without social security.
“As Nations including Nigeria strive to respond to COVID-19 pandemic and recover from the damage done by the pandemic, it is important to ensure that the response and recovery plan is disability inclusive. We must also ensure that the vision and aspirations of persons with disabilities are included and accounted for in a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world. This vision will only be achieved through active consultation with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations. It is therefore important to ensure full participation of persons with disabilities and their organizations in decision-making processes.
“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emphasizes that in building and rebuilding nations nobody including the physically challenged should be left behind. Promoting inclusion of persons with disabilities means first of all recognizing and protecting their rights. These rights include the right to decent work, the right to education, to access health care, to start a family, to live in one’s community, to engage in political participation among others. Sustainable Development is about inclusion of women, youths, the old and the physically challenged.
“President Buhari commendably signed into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018 on January 23, 2019. This followed over nine (9) years of relentless advocacy by disability rights groups, civil society organisations and the organised labour that include our Union. Nigeria also commendably ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2007 and its Optional Protocol in 2010.
“The challenge however is to ensure that relevant authorities put effective measures in place for full implementation of these legal instruments to guarantee the rights of persons with disabilities and ensure equal treatment and participation of people with disabilities across Nigeria. No better time to do this than now that COVID-19 pandemic had inflicted more pains and injuries particularly as it affects persons with disabilities.
“We therefore use the occasion of this year’s IDPD to call on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure full implementation of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, which he signed into law last year as well as the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) which Nigeria had ratified.
“The Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 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. There is also the establishment of National Commission for Persons with Disabilities to be responsible for ensuring that people with disabilities have access to housing, education, and healthcare among others.
“By ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) Nigeria is also expected to develop and carry out policies, laws and administrative measures for securing the rights recognized in the Convention and abolish laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against persons with disabilities.
“Let me assure you that as an affiliate of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and IndustriALL Global Union, our union in collaboration with our partners will heighten our advocacy and campaign for full implementation of all the enabling laws as they affect the rights of persons with disabilities”.