By Matthew Ogune
The European Union (EU) delegation to Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has reminded the Federal Government that failure to effectively implement the provisions contained in the disability rights law passed in 2019 will render the law ineffective.
Programme Manager at EU delegation, Laolu Olawunmi stated this, yesterday, in Abuja at the 2021 Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) annual lecture tagged, ‘enhancing the civic space and political participation of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs).’
She said: “We commend the passage of the disability rights law passed in January 2019, and the subsequent establishment of the national commission for persons with disabilities.
“We must be reminded that a good law is only as effective as its implementation, and failure to implement will render such a law ineffective. We must not rest on our laurels.”
Olawunmi, who disclosed that a society’s humanity is measured by the way it treats vulnerable population, especially persons with disabilities, regretted that after women, children and youths, disabled persons constitute one of the next categories of marginalised sector in Nigeria and Africa.
She maintained that the challenge faced by PWDs has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as access to healthcare was becoming more restricted and people who rely on physical assistance face significant constraints in their daily life.
“It is no secret that societal barriers place persons with disabilities at increased risk of violence, poverty, poorer health outcomes, marginalisation in their communities, and fewer educational and employment opportunities. Such outcomes are not inevitable, however, and this is why we have to be deliberate on disability inclusion,” she said.
She disclosed that a research conducted by Nigeria Institute of Advance Legal Studies showed that out of about 10 million PWDs in Nigeria, 1.8 million are domiciled in Lagos State, and that nine out of 10 disabled persons in the country live below poverty line.
She said the EU has been a strong partner in Nigeria’s effort aimed at disability inclusion, and that the EU has been working with key stakeholders to promote access to justice, political participation and social services.
In his address, the Minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, disclosed that the present administration has included 100,000 persons with disabilities as beneficiaries of Federal Government’s conditional cash transfer in a bid to address PWDs’ plight.
Mohammed said an additional 40,000 persons with disabilities had also been added to the Batch C, Stream one of the Federal Government’s Npower programme.
The minister said there was also ongoing design and construction of accessibility facilities in three Nigerian universities to cater for disabled citizens’ needs.
“There is also development of minimum accessibility standard and policy document that provides detailed accessibility facility requirements for building roads and transportation.
“The Inspector General of police has recently approved the establishment of disability services in all Nigeria police formation in partnership with the national commission for persons with disabilities to curb discrimination and other ill treatment of persons with disabilities in Nigeria…” he said.
In his welcome address, FRCN Director General, Dr. Mansur Liman and the founder of Albino Foundation, Jake Epelle, called for an end to barriers preventing PWDs from contributing effectively to Nigeria’s socio-political and economic development.
They noted that PWDs have for too long experienced negative attitudes at family and community levels, including name-calling, negative beliefs, and misconceptions surrounding causes of disabilities.
According to the duo, these negative attitudes manifest in rejection, neglect, loss of respect, denial of identity or self-worth, often resulting in low self-esteem, depression and isolation.
They stressed the need for government officials, policymakers, and decision makers to be aware of the importance of disability as a developmental issue and enhance data collection on disability.