By Kehinde Akintola
Federal Government on Friday reiterated its resolve toward the implementation of programmes aimed at ensuring effective rehabilitation of millions of People living with Disabilities (PWDs) across the country.
The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Dr Nasir Sani-Gwarzo gave the assurance in Abuja, at the opening of the 2-day ‘Conference of Directors responsible for the rehabilitation of persons with Disabilities in Nigeria’, drawn from the 36 states of the federation and Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
According to Dr Sani-Gwarzo, the conference was aimed at enhancing the skills and knowledge of State Directors in the specific areas of programming such as resource mobilisation, programme/project planning & management, as well as monitoring and evaluation.
“The objectives of this gathering include: providing a platform for experience sharing, brain-storming and learning lessons on issues affecting the well-being of PWDs, as well as charting a way forward on effective service delivery for PWDs in the country.
“It is pertinent that Directors and Chief Executives responsible for the rehabilitation of PWDs in Nigeria from all the states and FCT meet annually, to continuously deliberate on issues affecting PWDs; with a view to coming up with implementable decisions that will improve the quality of lives of PWDs to enable them to contribute meaningfully to national development, as well as keeping abreast on current and emerging issues and how to effectively programme for PWDs,” Dr Sani-Gwarzo noted.
Some of the programmes and activities implemented by the Ministry include: the training of visually impaired adults at the Nigeria Farmcraft Centre for the Blind, where 55 of them graduated in the 2021/2022 session and 47 of them are currently enrolled for the 2022/2023 session; regularly providing Assistive Devices and empowerment tools to over 5,000 individual Persons With Disabilities through Federal, State and Disability focused NGOs; developed a National Roadmap on Local Production of Assistive Technologies for PWDs in Nigeria and recently presented it to the general public; carried out assessment visits to 36 States and FCT on Local Producers of Assistive Technologies for PWDs and enhanced the capacities of 71 Teachers; and Parents/Caregivers of Children with Special Needs in six states of Adamawa, Kaduna, Lagos, Imo, Oyo and the Delta States.”
In the same vein, the administration has also identified over 106 Local Producers of Assistive Technologies across the 36 States and FCT and has successfully built the capacities and provided cash support to 48 Local Producers of Assistive Devices across the states of the federation; trained PWDs from the South-East, South-West, North-East and North-Central Geo-Political zones on Income Generating Activities and provided them with cash support to facilitate the establishment of their businesses; built the capacities of 30 visually impaired persons in North East Zone on Activities of Daily Independent Living; and currently training 20 Women and Girls with Disabilities and some Care Givers of Children with Disabilities in a certificated 3 months skills development programme by Industrial Training Funds, Abuja Office, as the first phase of a pilot.
“You will recall that in early 2019, the present Administration signed into law, the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act after suffering many years of setbacks. The Act is to provide for the full integration of PWDs into society which led to the establishment of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities vested with the responsibilities for education, health care, social, economic and civil rights of PWDs and other related matters.
“In line with this present Administration’s signing into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018, it is pertinent for the States to domesticate this Act for effective service delivery to all PWDs across the country.
“It is therefore believed that this forum will accord us all the opportunity to rub minds, deliberate and come up with concrete steps towards ensuring that the target group-the disability community, for which we serve, gets our best.
“Though a lot has been achieved since our last meeting, it must however be emphasized that so much still need to be done. I, therefore, want to challenge you all to brainstorm on ways of improving the quality of life of PWDs in Nigeria with implementable recommendations that will help us all achieve our collective mandate,” he urged.
On her part, Director, Special Needs, Mrs Nkechi Onwuke explained that the Conference was organised for State Directors and Chief Executives in charge of the rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities in the various States of the Federation, including the FCT.
According to her, the history of the Conference of State Directors in charge of the rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria dates back to the then Rehabilitation Department of the then Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, where the Directors meet supposedly on annual basis.
“Hence, with the creation of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs Disaster Management and Social Development, the Department of Special Need finds it important to continue with the idea.
“It is in this light that the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development deem it fit to hold this conference towards promoting activities that enhance the interaction, mainstreaming and empowerment of Persons with Disabilities for a more sustainable economic, socio-political growth of the nation and to chart a way forward.
“These conferences are aimed at resolving emerging issues affecting the overall survival, care and development of Persons With Disabilities in Nigeria. Therefore, the objectives of this year’s Conference include: provide a platform for experience sharing, brain-storming and learning lessons on issues affecting the welfare of PWDs; chart a way forward on effective service delivery for PWDs in the country.
“It is also important to note that the State Directors and Chief Executives here have just completed a 2-day capacity building on some specific areas of programming which included: Resource Mobilisation, Project Planning and Management as well as Monitoring and Evaluation which was intended to enhance their skills and knowledge on these areas.
“The crux of this meeting is precipitated on the fact that we all as active stakeholders need to do more for our target population. As we may be aware, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) constitute a social group that is vulnerable to societal discrimination and negative public perceptions.
“They also face attitudinal barriers from the community, family members and service providers alike, as well as environmental and communication barriers. These barriers have not only reduced their voices and participation in programme planning but also their access to essential services.
“They equally face systemic marginalization that leads to lower economic and social status, increased risk of violence and discrimination, barriers to access education, health care, information and services and justice as well as civic and political participation. These, thus hinder their participation on an equal basis with others.
“The Ministry will continue with its conscious efforts towards addressing issues that relate to Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria in general. We are aware we cannot do this all alone, hence the need for more effective collaboration with all stakeholders, especially our state counterparts,” she noted.