By Magnus Eze
As the world marked the International Day of Persons Living with Disabilities (PLWDs) on December 3, series of activities were organised by the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and Disability Rights Advocacy Centre (DRAC) during the week in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
CCD in collaboration with Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), on Tuesday, December 5, held media dialogue on Nigeria’s disability bill before the National Assembly, where they accused government of excluding them in the various social intervention programmes of the present administration.
They allege that the N-Power programme and its likes were designed without consideration for people with disabilities, adding that the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also exclude them.
Executive Director of CCD, David Anyaele, who fired the salvo called for right-based approach in the conception and implementation of development programmes.
He lamented that the absence of disability bill had denied over 25 million people with disabilities in Nigeria of some critical aspects of human rights, alleging that the bill harmonised by the Senate and House of Representatives Committees since December 6, last year, was nowhere to be found in the National Assembly.
According to him, the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Bill 2015 is “a bill for an Act to ensure full integration of persons with disabilities into the society and to establish a National Commission for Persons with Disabilities and vest with it the responsibilities for their education, healthcare and the protection of the their social, economic and civic rights SB022.”
Daily Sun gathered that the bill sponsored by Senator Francis Alimikhena was passed by the Senate on July 13, 2016 while “A Bill for an Act to ensure full integration of Nigerians with disabilities into the society and eliminate all forms of discrimination against them 2016, HB 476,” sponsored by Ochiglegor Idagbo was passed by the House of Representatives on June 9, 2016.
The Joint Conference Committee for the harmonization of the bill was inaugurated on November 22, last year and was led from the Senate by Senator Obinna Ogba and by Hon. Orkey Jev Emmanuel in the House of Representatives.
It was further learnt that at the close of the meeting of the Joint Conference Committee, the Senate version was adopted on December 6.
Surprisingly, nothing was heard again about the bill, prompting people with disabilities to raise the alarm that the bill was missing, especially, in the light of their previous unpalatable experience where ex-presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan failed to assent similar bills passed by the National Assembly.
Presenting their frustration, Anyaele said: “It is based on this delay, one year after harmonization of this bill without dispatch to the President for assent that compelled us to seek for your intervention to save the lives of more than 25 million Nigerians with disabilities.”
Also speaking, Programme Coordinator (Economics) of OSIWA, Joseph Amenahon urged policy makers and all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to ensure that people with disabilities were carried along in government’s policies and programmes.
We are women too
DRAC’s two-pronged programme titled “We are women too” could easily pass for stampede; providing avenue for stakeholders from various fields to discuss the plight of women and girls with disabilities. Yet, the key issues remained basically the same-inclusion and accessibility.
Director General of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Julie Okah-Donli, in a keynote said the commitment of governments to accessibility and mainstreaming of disability issues in development is critical to advancement of rights and privileges of persons with disabilities.
According to her, accessibility is a precondition for enjoyment of human rights of persons with disabilities and a means for social, cultural and political empowerment, participation and inclusion.
Okah-Donli further advocated for the adoption of social model approach which addresses disability as a rights-based issue than of campaigns and advocacy.
She however, regretted that “There is neither adequate social protection for persons with disabilities nor statutory institutions in the country mandated by law to handle issues affecting them.”
The Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, which Department of Rehabilitation oversees only a fragment of issues affecting persons with disabilities, according to her, has no legal instruments to pursue its obligations.
The ministry is also grossly underfunded, making it impossible to provide adequate rehabilitation services, including accessible funds, education and other social services needed by persons with disabilities.
Represented by Director, Counselling and Rehabilitation Department, Mrs. Eunice Anuforom, the DG NAPTIP further said that environmental barriers also contribute negatively to the physical, emotional, psychological, social and economic wellbeing of persons with disabilities.
Said she, “Most public buildings are not accessible; transportation system is very unfriendly and injurious to the wellbeing of this category of persons with the resultant denial of their bonafide rights and privileges as citizens of the country.”
Regardless, Okah-Donli stated that the agency places issues of persons with disabilities on the front burner of its operations, noting that it has developed data bank on those they rescued, rehabilitated and reunited with their families.
Also, Executive Director of Women Africa, Chinwe Onyeukwu decried the lack of understanding of issues of disabilities in the women rights movement.
Like Onyeukwu, other speakers, including Chairman of the FCT Chapter of Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD), agreed that information on women with disabilities was scanty; hence they called for more information on the issue.
Contributing on the topic, “Exclusion of women with disabilities: Challenges and solutions”, Deputy Director, Voter Education, Publicity, Gender and Civil Society Organisations of INEC, Lakunuya Bello revealed that the commission would soon adopt a framework to engender increased participation of women with disabilities in the electoral process.
She also said that Form EC40H was designed to capture the various forms of disabilities to help INEC in bolstering inclusiveness.
Premiere of ‘In the shadows’
The celebrations climaxed that evening with the premiere of a film on violence against women and girls with disabilities, titled “In the shadows” written by the Executive Director, DRAC, Dr. Irene Ogbogu.
With 70 per cent cast mainly women with disabilities, the about 30-minute film vividly tells the story of violence and denials suffered by women and girls with disabilities.
The activities sponsored by CBM and Australian Aid eventually snowballed into a party, where persons with disabilities and other guests took to the floor to enjoy themselves.
National President, Association of Sign Language Interpreters of Nigeria, Timothy Tinat, described the film as the voice women with disabilities needed.