Persons with Disabilities in Lagos were in pensive mood a fortnight ago following unfair and degrading treatment meted them by officials of the Lagos State Ministry of Labour and Productivity.
INN recalls that scores of Persons with Disabilities selected from Lagos, Kano and Abuja were recently sponsored by Sightsavers International to partake in an intensive training under the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour and Productivity.
Unfortunately, words got out that at the end of the training which lasted for three months and two weeks, the hopes of PWDs trainees from Lagos State to be given a trade test certificate like their counterparts from Kano and the FCT by officials of the Ministry of Labour and Productivity were dashed.
In an interview with INN, one of the affected trainees, (of the blind cluster) an entrepreneur, vocational facilitator and activist, Mr. Anuoluwayinka Isaac disclosed how the affected trainees were turned out of the Ministry of Labour headquarters in Lagos when they thronged the premises to claim their trade test certificates.
Mr. Anuoluwayinka who was a former chairman of Nigeria Association of the Blind, Ifako Ijaiye Local Government Chapter said: “On the issues of the trade test, our sponsor, Sightsavers International contacted and made arrangements for us to get the trade test at three centres. The Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Abuja was authorized to award us the trade test certificate.
“Fortunately for the Abuja and Kano batch, the ITF was able to get the task done before end of the training. The story in Lagos was however different as the trade test unit of the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Productivity have up to this moment refused to issue us the trade test certificate.”
Mr. Isaac said all pressures mounted by him and his co-trainees on those responsible for issuance of the trade test certificate to consider their plights and issue the certificates to trainees at the standard price of #5,000 paid by their counterparts in Abuja and Kano were futile. The trade test certificate unit in Lagos insisted on the exorbitant sum of #15,000 for the certificates.
“Along with some other PWDs I took it upon myself to visit the office of the trade test unit in Yaba Lagos State. Unfortunately, the kind of reception, and eventual outcome of our meeting left much to be desired by the PWDs community in Lagos State”
“The reception and the infrastructure of the place is inaccessible to persons on Wheel chairs and crutches, including the Blind.
“We were treated with disdain by officials and the director as if we are lower class human beings. We were finally asked to come individually to apply for the trade test certificate, and also prove that we have been trained.”
“This is happening despite that we have been trained by a Federal Government Ministry and Institute – namely, the Industrial Training Fund (at the industrial skills training centre, Ikeja), a department under the Ministry of Trade and Commerce – a certificate awarding institute”, he said.
Investigation conducted by INN reveals that Sightsavers partnered with Industrial Training Fund (ITF) to organize a 3-month technical vocational training for Persons with Disabilities in Lagos, Abuja and Kano.
The sponsor paid ITF between #11,000 to #150, 000 per person for the training. Each of the participants received a sum of #75, 000 to cover transportation for the 3months training duration.
Starter pack items worth between #75,000 to #140, 000 per person were provided depending on course studied. Sign language interpreters were hired and paid 10k daily for the 3months. The organisation hired mobility aides to support the blind.
Furthermore, our investigation discloses that Sightsavers only promised participants National Vocational Certificate. However, ITF advised the sponsor to encourage the trainees to get trade test certificates. While this falls outside their program, the sponsor however decided to support each participant with a sum of #5,000 to this end.
INN reports that the ITF Abuja and Kano were able to negotiate with the State Coordinator of the Ministry of labour to accept the sum of ₦5,000 for the Trade Test Certificates.
But reverse is the case in Lagos, the Lagos State Ministry of Labour did not agree with the amount.
ITF tried to advocate for the sum of #5,000 for certificates. However, sightsavers spent an average of #270, 000 to #370,000 per person for the program.
Our investigation reveals that Sightsavers supported with #5,000 per person and encouraged participants to top up the balance in order to get the certificates.
It is rather unfortunate that such people-oriented gesture by Sightsavers to improve the standards of living in the PWD communities in Lagos, Kano and Abuja (a commendable gesture worth of emulation by all) was marred by refusal by the Lagos State trade test unit under office of the Ministry of Labour and Productivity to award certificates to the trainees when due.
This is a slap in the face of the sponsor and PWD community at large. It is an act of irresponsibility and deliberate disregard to section 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which guarantees equality and freedom of all persons. Also, it violates section 1 and 2 of the National Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibation) Act, 2018, which specifically prohibits all forms of discrimination against PWDs in Nigeria. It should draw the strong condemnation of every patriotic Nigerian.
An angry reaction from a PWD in Lagos who pleaded anonymity reads in part: “ Those people in the trade test office of the ministry of Employment, Labour and Productivity have no regards for the plights of PWDs”.
“They ought to be punished by the law for this crime against the entire Lagos PWD community. I am calling for the Executive Secretary, National Commission for Persons With Disabilities (NCPWD) to investigate this issue and prosecute those found wanting. This will serve as deterrent to potential criminals posing as public servants”, the source raged. ”
Luckily for the trainees, just at the moment it seemed all hopes to get the trade test certificates was dashed, fortune smiled. Mr. James Fanope, Training Manager of the programme waded in and did everything within his power to get the certificates for the trainees.
According to Mr. Anuoluwayinka, the trade test certificates were eventually handed to the trainees – making them proud graduands. He said: “the training manager took it upon himself to contact his colleague in Kano after we submitted our passport photographs, other needed data and paid the sum of #5,000 each.
“The documents were taken to Kano and our trade test certificates came to us within two weeks, at his expense. We are now proud graduands like other trainees in Abuja and Jos “
All effort to get the reaction of the Lagos ITF Training Manager, Mr. James Fanope failed as he didn’t pick calls nor respond to text messages sent him by our reporters.