Samuel Bello, Abuja
Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), David Anyaele, in this interview, said government at all levels are yet to understand stigmatisation as a big challenge to the society. He added that sensitisation needed to be done on the consequences.
People with disabilities are often associated with street begging. Does this bother you and how can it be salvaged?
This is very worrisome. It may interest you to know that one of the most difficult endeavour is street begging for most citizens with disabilities. This is because it takes uncommon courage to manage rejection as a result of disability and begging on the street. However, we have observed that it is the state and society that constrained individual with disabilities to go into begging due to discrimination, stigma and isolation by the government at the state and the federal level. Nigeria government plan, design and implement their development programmes at the exclusion of citizens with disabilities and their families. National and state institutions responsible for disability issues are not accessible as more than 95 percent of these institutions are not accessible to people with disabilities. These institutions lack understanding on their role and responsibility in terms of rehabilitation of citizens with disabilities as such street begging is unavoidable. However, the National Disability Bill provides for the protection of the liberty of citizens with disabilities and criminalising their use in alms begging.
How do you deal with the stigmatisation challange?
To address the issue of stigmatisation, the society must accept and recognise that it is an issue. The challenge here is that the government at all levels are yet to recognise issue of stigmatisation as a huge challenge to the society. Therefore, to achieve this, a lot need to be done on sensitisation of government at all levels on the consequences of stigmatisation of citizens with disabilities.
It is difficult to campaign against stigmatisation in an environment that is harsh to persons with disabilities like Nigeria. The 1999 Federal Republic of Nigeria Constitution as amended is silent on prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of disability, as such, if you discriminate against a citizen on the grounds of disability the constitution may not protect you as a person with disability. This informed the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) to campaign for a legislation that would protect Nigerians with disabilities from discrimination and other harmful practices. Today, the Nigeria National Assembly has completed legislative action on the disability bill through the passage and transmission of the bill against persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) and the president too has assented to it.
People with disabilities hardly get regular jobs and are poorly paid. How can this trend be tackled?
The National Disability Bill made provision for all employer of labour in public organisation to reserve at least five percent employment opportunities for PWDs; it also made provision of adequate standard of living and social protection in terms of accommodation for PWDs; What that means is that stakeholders need to be sensitised to understand their roles and responsibilities for the effective implementation of the bill when assented to.
How do you react to your rights that are being abused and denied by the government?
It is too bad that the state is at the forefront of abuse against citizens with disabilities. Nigeria is a signature to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including its optional protocols. The treaty provides that state parties are under obligation to take adequate measures to protect and safeguard the rights of citizens with disabilities including provision of measures to ensure effective implementation of the convention. The failure of the government to implement this convention to the later, created the window for abuse of citizens with disabilities by Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the federal and state governments.
But with the law coming into force, we expect some of these discriminations to be a thing of the past. We have provisions that criminalise any form of discrimination against PWDs and ensuring adequate publicity, promotion of public awareness on the rights of PWDs; making provision for accessibility to public buildings and related facilities; provision for a five-year period within which all public buildings and structures are to be adaptable for use by PWDs; accessibility to transportation including road, sea ports, railways and air and related facilities; protecting the liberty of PWDs and criminalising their use in alms begging.
Also there are provision for all aspects of the educational and health care needs of PWDs to provide necessary assistive devices; establishment of a National Commission for PWDs with headquarters at the FCT, Abuja, with a governing council to run the affairs of the commission. The staff of the commission may also be directly appointed by the council or may be on transfer or secondment from any public service of the country.