The National Association of the Blind has threatened to embark on a protest over what it termed discriminatory policies of the Central Bank of Nigeria and other related issues debilitating the progress of the visually-impaired Nigerians.
The association laments that despite the passage of the Disability Act in 1999, Persons with Disabilities still report discrimination from different financial institutions across Nigeria.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, the National President of NAB, Ishiyaku Adamu, said the CBN’s discriminatory policies limit the economic aspirations of the PWDs and create unnecessary barriers to meeting the target of the Sustainable Development Goals by Nigeria.
“It has been recognised that economic empowerment is not possible without financial inclusion. No entrepreneur (whether on-farm or off) can prosper without working capital, and the majority of entrepreneurs will always rely on debt to finance that. Exclusion from regulated financial services drives the PWDs into unregulated, often exploitative financing. For instance, the exclusion of women with disabilities from transactional services often means that the modernisation of their work is taken out of their control and into the hands of others,” Adamu said.
He added that the association’s efforts to meet with the management of the apex bank on the barriers faced by the visually-impaired and other PWDs had been futile.
“From our end, we have tried to engage the CBN, and we have sent several letters and none of our letters was replied to. They refuse to grant us an audience to discuss these issues so that we can resolve it and this is in sharp contravention to the United Nations on the rights of the PWDs, particularly article 12 that talks about equality before the law and article 9 that talks about accessibility, and it is against our SDG 10. It is high time the apex bank started thinking of how to promote inclusion in the banking sector in Nigeria.
“Three weeks ago, some PWDs staged a protest around the CBN and they were teargassed and some of them were injured. This is not right in a democratic government.
“What we are asking is for the bank to be inclusive. We are not asking that they should give us money, we are only saying they should centre their policies to be inclusive of our people.
“We are calling on the CBN to immediately start engaging with the leadership of the PWDs so that we can promote inclusion. We call on the bank to appoint a focal person who is a PWD who has an understanding of disability issues to assist the bank in terms of promoting inclusion.
“We call on the CBN to apologise to the 31 million PWDs in Nigeria for deliberately excluding them from benefitting from the financial and economic empowerment.”
Adding, the Head of the Education Committee for NAB, David Okon, said the CBN policies did not support transformative solutions for inclusive development, accessibility, and equitability.
“I happen to work with the financial sector for a living and I get calls practically every day from our people complaining bitterly of this discrimination by banks against PWDs.
“We have done so much so that we can have a dialogue to make services accessible and equitable but we met a brick wall. We need to take a holistic look at this problem but up till now, the banks have not been able to yield to our call neither has the CBN helped to call them to order.
“Some of us are planning that we are going to have a very serious protest, whether we are going to lie on the street and let them kill all of us. In the next few weeks, if the CBN does not answer us.”
Okon also called on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to assent to the newly passed Copyright Bill to remove legal barriers for persons with print disabilities.