Participants at a training organised by the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) say there is urgent need for security and judiciary personnel to help enhance the civic space for effective participation of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).
The event, “One-day Training of Security Formations and Justice Providers on Disability Rights and Effects of Shrinking Civic Space on Persons with Disabilities in Lagos State’’, had the theme: “Enhancing Civic Space and Disability Rights for PWDs in Lagos State”.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that participants included personnel from the Nigeria Police Force, Lagos State Command; The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Judiciary, PWDs, Media among others.
Civic space can be referred to as the political, legislative, social and economic environment which enables citizens to come together, share their interests and concerns and act to influence and shape their societies.
Mr Patrick Allan, a Facilitator and Legal Officer, in his address, described civic space as a set of conditions that allowed citizens to express themselves.
According to him, security agencies have a major role in ensuring that these spaces are accessible, safe and inclusive for PWDs.
“ There’s discrimination and stigma that regularly go with People with Disabilities; they need to constantly speak up against such negative stereotypes.
“This means they need the civic space to be able to do that.
“Physical barriers and lack of accessibility are some of the major challenges. It’s something that they need to have spaces that allow them to freely interact with other members of society.’’.
According to him, at present, legal protections for people with disabilities are inadequate.
“In some cases, the implementation is not in the best form, and in some cases, they are simply a work in progress.
“So, a lot of responsibilities rest with the judicial personnel to actively protect, promote an environment in which persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in the conduct of public life without discrimination’’.
In an interview with NAN, Lukman Salami, a legal practitioner, said there was need to re-orientate the public on the societal challenges faced by PWDs.
According to Salami, who is the Chairman of Nigerian Association of the Blind, Lagos state chapter, a major challenge is discrimination, which leads to not being accepted and not being recognised in the society.
“We’re being discriminated against, we are not totally accepted in the society and not recognised even when we try to do our best to tell the society that disability is not in ability, and that we are equal to the task just like counterparts.
“The proposed ways of getting it right is reorientation of the public.
“That the so-called cultural belief that disability amounts to inability is no longer the situation; people that are disabled are not productive, not because of inability but because of the societal discrimination and lack of acceptance in the society.
“If they are accepted and not discriminated against, they can be useful and contribute to the society as their able counterpart.
“So, re- orientation has to come and we will follow that through, through systematic advocacy and awareness and there must be a proper implementation of the disability law at the federal level as well as the state level.’’
Commenting on the training, Mrs Florence Austin, Administrative Finance Manager of CCD, representing CCD’s Executive Director, David Anyaele, said the forum had been able to strengthen the capacity of the security agencies as well as judiciary services who participated.
She said it would be more fruitful if after the training, the participants put into practice the knowledge acquired.
“This is because we are looking at the regulations and other executive orders and activities of the security agencies as well as judiciary services that shrink the civic space of the civil outsource activities and programmes.
“This is to both the interest of the public as well as the humanitarian activities we are carrying out, to ensure that the rights of PWDs are not being infringed upon.
“We have recorded some incidents where PWDs were brutalised, when they were having their peaceful protests. We see the need to sensitise the stakeholders relevant in promoting this cause.
“And also ensure that their policies are shown to be more inclusive, for them to understand that there are provisions in the disability act that highlight their rights.
“They are human beings and there is the need for their rights to be respected,’’ she said.