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Participate in electoral processes, LASIEC urges PWDs

The Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission has urged Persons Living with Disabilities and other vulnerable populations in the state to involve themselves in electoral processes to widen the country’s democratic space further.

According to a statement on Saturday, the Permanent Secretary of LASIEC, Dr. Olayiwole Onasanya, gave this advice while receiving members of the Centre for Citizens with Disability on a courtesy visit to the agency’s headquarters in Yaba.

Onasanya said that the commission would implement strategic plans and training to ensure all-inclusive participation during the state and national elections.

He said, “In a democratic society, every citizen, regardless of ability or disability, rich or poor, has the right to elect their leaders. In pursuit of sustainable development, an all-inclusive process is a key factor that should be left out.

“LASIEC, in the implementation of her new strategic plan, established a distinct unit in the commission to carry out recommendations in various reports on how to encourage PWDs to participate and make their participation in elections very easy. LASIEC officials will continue to be trained on how PWD clusters could be assisted and encouraged to exercise their franchise.”

The Programmes Officer, CCD, Mr. Peter Ekemini, who presented an election monitoring report of the last local council poll to the commission, decried the exclusion of PWDs during elections.

“PWDs experienced systematic exclusion during previous national and state elections in Nigeria. For instance, polling materials are often sighted at inaccessible positions for PWDs to vote. We also noticed that polling booths were positioned across gutters. There were no braille versions of electoral materials for blind people.

“Special priorities were not given to these people, including persons with albinism who can’t stay in the sun for too long due to health risk. I urge LASIEC to examine the contents of this report for implementation and an inclusive electioneering process,” he stated.

FG slams new tax on telephone calls

SIM cards

The Federal Government has slammed a new tax on phone calls in the nation to fund free healthcare for the Vulnerable Group in Nigeria.

This is despite recent moves by telecommunication companies to increase the price of their services as a result of an unfavourable operating climate.

The telecom tax in the equivalent of a minimum of one kobo per second for phone calls is part of the sources of funds required to finance free healthcare for the Vulnerable Group in Nigeria.

This is contained in the National Health Insurance Authority Bill 2021 signed by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), last week.

The act includes a provision under Section 26 subsection 1c which states that the source of money for the Vulnerable Group Fund includes telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls.

The Fiscal Policy Partner and Africa Tax Leader at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Taiwo Oyedele, said, “S.26 of this new law imposes a telecommunications tax of not less than 1kobo per second on GSM calls. With call rates at about 11kobo per second, this translates to a 9 per cent tax on GSM calls.

“The tax is one of the sources of money to the Vulnerable Group Fund to subsidise the provision of healthcare to the group defined to include children under five, pregnant women, the aged, physically and mentally challenged, and the indigent as may be defined from time to time.”

According to the act, the Vulnerable Group Fund is money budgeted to pay for healthcare services for vulnerable Nigerians who cannot pay for health insurance in a bid to subsidise the cost of provision of health care services to vulnerable people in the country.

For funding, the act provides several options such as basic health care provision fund to the authority; health insurance levy; telecommunications tax, not less than one kobo per second of GSM calls; money that may be allocated to the Vulnerable Group Fund by the Government; motley that accrues to the Vulnerable Group Fund from investments made by the Council: and grants, donations, gifts, and any other voluntary contributions made to the Vulnerable Group Fund.

According to the new act, every resident in Nigeria is expected to obtain health insurance.

Recently, telecom companies wrote to the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Communications Commission, on the conditions of the industry.

The operator under the aegis of the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria proposed a 40 per cent increase in the cost of calls, SMS, and data as a result of the rising cost of operating in the nation.

100m people forcibly displaced worldwide – UNHCR

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Sunday said no fewer than 100 million people had been displaced worldwide.

According to UNHCR, the Ukraine war and other conflicts pushed the number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution over the staggering milestone of 100 million for the first time on record.

The UN refugee agency said that protracted conflict in places like Ethiopia and Democratic Republic of Congo were other factors behind the high numbers.

“It’s a record that should never have been set,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said in a statement.

“This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes.”

The UNHCR data includes refugees, asylum seekers and those displaced within their own countries.

Last week, the International Organisation for Migration (IMO) informed that a record 59.1 million people were displaced within their homelands last year, four million more than in 2020.

Conflict and violence triggered 14.4 million internal displacements in 2021, nearly 50 per cent increase over the previous year.

Meanwhile, weather-related events such as floods, storms and cyclones resulted in some 23.7 million internal displacements in 2021, mainly in the Asia-Pacific region.

Grandi urged action to address the causes of displacement, saying humanitarian aid is only treating the consequences.

“To reverse this trend, the only answer is peace and stability so that innocent people are not forced to gamble between acute danger at home or precarious flight and exile,” he said. (NAN)

Ekiti Guber: Persons With Disabilities Vow to Sue INEC if…

By Gloria Ogbu

Ahead of the June 18 gubernatorial election in Ekiti State, Persons With Disabilities, PWDs, have clamoured for inclusiveness in the electoral process saying anything short of such may attract legal action.

The PWDs are demanding that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and other stakeholders create accessible voting points and necessary facilities that would ensure their improved participation in the electioneering process seamlessly.

This submission is the outcome of a report by the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, taged “Pre Election Assessment of Independent National Electoral Commission preparedness for Persons with Disabilities Participation for June 18 governorship election.

Speaking with newsmen after the presentation, the Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, Dr. David Ayanle explained that the request of the group for inclusion was already a matter of law hence it must be obeyed so as not to disefranchise the special persons.

According to David Obinna Ayanle, the research was done to ascertain INEC’s preparedness in carrying along PWDs and ensure their security throughout the electoral process.

He charged INEC to collaborate with the security agents to ensure a credible election devoid of malpractice and hitch free.

He said: “The key reason for the research is to hold INEC accountable, urging them to train PWDs on their rights and make them understand the provision of the law which will better shape their participation in election.

“INEC should collaborate with the security agencies to reassure electorate of their safety and security, to down tension and brace up security challenges especially in some flashpoints to ensure accessible, credible, free, fair, and peaceful election.

“They should also provide Disability Desk officers at each INEC LGA offices and this position should be held by a PWD.

“INEC should also provide Umbrellas and shades for albinos or allow them vote early as 8am to avoid them being under the sun and prone to skin cancer.”

Ayanle also discouraged PWDs from being involved in vote buying and vote selling noting that it’s their civic responsibility to vote a candidate of their choice.

“Poverty is not particular with PWDs alone, but I urge you to not sell your votes because of money. It is our responsibility to discourage any form of vote buying and selling.

“It is everybody’s responsibility not just PWDs because poverty does not discriminate, as it hits PWDs, it also hit persons without disability.”

Others who spoke at the programme, including the Chairman, Joint National Association of Persons Living with Disabilities, JONAPWD, Kayode Owolabi urged INEC to take bold steps to improve their communication between them and JONAPWD, as there is an obvious disconnect and lack of proper engagement between both parties.

Make election materials and facilities accessible for all PWDs. This includes Form EC40H, polling units, and assistive resources such as sign language interpreters, tactile ballot jackets, and magnifying lenses,

Other recommendations include the need to train polling stations officials adequately to understand and respond to PWD needs, Sensitize the public on the needs and challenges of PWDs to reverse negative public perceptions and attitudes towards them.

“INEC should collaborate with the security agencies to reassure electorate of their safety and security, to down tension and brace up security challenges especially in some flashpoints to ensure accessible, credible, free, fair, and peaceful election.

Provide Disability Desk officers at each INEC LGA offices and this position should be held by a PWD.

Provide Umbrellas and shades for albinos or allow them vote early as 8am to avoid them being under the sun and prone to skin cancer.

Diversity, Inclusion, Critical for PWDs Contribution to Nigeria’s GDP

By Oluchi Chibuzor

The organised private sector under the umbrella of Nigerian Business Disability Network (NBDN) has stressed the importance of more companies embracing diversity and inclusion at the workplace.

In view of this, they agreed that when organisations create opportunities for everyone without discrimination and employ people with disabilities, they are more secured and responsible and participate in contributing to the nation’s GDP.

The call is coming as about 25 million people in the country live with disabilities and remain a critical workforce with capacity, potential and competence that can benefit any organisation.

Speaking at a Nigeria diversity and inclusion conference with the theme, ‘Eliminating Barriers Against Inclusive Workplaces In The Private Sector’, held in Lagos, recently, the Executive Secretary, National Disability Commission, James Lalu, said the country must do more in employing people with disabilities.

According to him, the country must embrace the community PWDs, while the OPS must come together to see how they can break all entry point barriers “our thinking, business and activities with regard to PWDs.

“Our productivity in the workplace increases once given the right opportunity and that is why we will support any organisation who employs anybody with disabilities with the amenities to work in that organisation. And that is why we are using this conference to urge all the OPS to do more by employing us as part of their minimum acceptability standard in the workplace,” he said.

Giving her welcome address, the Chairperson, Nigeria Business Disability Network and Head of Sustainability, Access Bank Plc, Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan, expressed satisfaction as Nigerians are starting to have these conservations to educate one another on the seriousness of inclusion.

“Respecting the rights of people with disabilities is necessary for upholding Nigeria’s values of dignity, respect, understanding, and generosity. While we may have side-lined some of these values as a nation causing us to relegate inclusion efforts, our collective duty as Nigerians is to ensure that we reignite these efforts, and consequently our values as a people.

“As we set out to drive the various agendas within our organisations, we must recognise persons with disabilities for who they are -effective agents of change whose contributions bring enormous benefits. We must better understand the importance of empowerment, accessibility, and equity in sustainable development. We must foster collaboration with other businesses, civil society, disability communities, and international organisations. This is the role of the Nigerian Business Disability Network.”

For the keynote speaker, Dr. Adebukola Adebayo, a disability inclusion consultant with World Bank, Nigeria, said barriers like low level of universal designs in the construction must be adequately catered for.

“You cannot produce different things for different people all the time and that is why the idea of universal design in the workplace is key; the tools you use, the computers you procure, the furniture can be adapted to support as many people as possible and it saves you cost in the long run.

“Also the capacity of those companies themselves to utilise the potential of those with disabilities. OPS must understand the difference between cost versus the rate of return on investment; again in the long run you will have contributed to reducing poverty and then improved productivity as an organisation and at the end of the day you save investment.

The conference attracted various human resource managers of some OPS in the country and was held in commemoration of the 11th Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which aims to promote inclusive organisational policies and position organisations to become disability confident employers and influence an inclusive employment ecosystem.

Saudi Arabia disburses N131 million to 1,960 orphans in Kebbi

By Archibong Etokakpan

The International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has disbursed N131 million allowances to 1,960 orphans in Kebbi State.

Flagging off the exercise at the Presidential Lodge in Birnin Kebbi, the state capital, Gov. Atiku Bagudu expressed gratitude to IIRO for the gesture and appealed for sustenance of the programme.

The disbursement was done through Islamic League, Kaduna Office.

The governor, who was represented by Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Alhaji Babale Umar-Yauri, assured that the present administration in the state placed premium on anything that involved orphans.

While observing that the organization was playing a critical role in assisting and educating orphans across the globe, Bagudu also described the effort as a complementary role of government.

“We will do everything possible to support IIRO to achieve its set goals and objectives and at the same time, we will assist in fishing out orphans who are yet to be captured.

“I want to use this medium to also appeal to wealthy individuals in our society to come to the aid of orphans, so as to give them a sense of longing,” he advised.

He, however, lauded the Emirs of; Gwandu, Alhaji Muhammad Iliyasu-Bashar, Argungu, Alhaji Muhammad Sama’ila-Mera and Zuru, Alhaji Mohammed Sani-Sami for their efforts in catering for the orphans.

In his speech, the Education Programme Coordinator, Muslim League, IIRO, Kaduna Office, Dr Tahir Baba-Ibrahim said the gesture was not restricted to Muslim orphans alone but it covered orphans in all religions across the globe.

He urged the benefiting orphans to be patient as a new policy was being introduced where they would be paid four installments annually as a pilot scheme introduced by the management of the organization.

Baba-Ibrahim appreciated the Kebbi government for its hospitality and assistance toward the success of the programme.

Earlier, IIRO Coordinator in Kebbi, Sheik Imam Adam Abdallah-Danko canvased for support and cooperation from all, assuring that he was selected to lead the state office not because he was better than anybody.

He advised the beneficiaries to put the gesture into good use toward a brighter future.

The organization also presented a copy of the translated Tafsir of the Holy Qur’an as a gift to Bagudu.

LASIEC assures citizens with disabilities of inclusion in election process

The Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) has assured Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD) that its strategic plans for election will accommodate activities by the group.

Permanent Secretary of LASIEC, Dr. Olayiwole Onasanya, made the remark while addressing the group when its members visited the Commission Thursday at Birrel Avenue, Sabo, Yaba.

The group, led by Peter Ekemini, Programme Officer of the CCD, had Franca Anaedum, General Secretary, Joint National Association of Persons with Persons for Disabilities, (JONAPWD), Lagos State, on the visiting team.

Onasanya disclosed that sensitization is in progress by the Commission to ensure that all persons with special needs are part of the decision-making process.

“Part of our strategic plans is to make sure that all citizens, irrespective of your level, economic status or requirements should have a voice in electing their government.

“In 2023, May 29, a new government will be coming on board at all levels, and we really want persons with disabilities to be part of the election because by that you’ll be recognized.

“And when government is making decisions, it will also know that some special people who were part of the process that brought them to positions need to be empowered.

“The issue of polling boots been sited across gutter as pointed out would be looked into, we are going to make sure that it is sited in areas very accessible,” he added.

In the same vein, Mrs Eniola Adesina, Head, Feudal Education, said that the Commission factors persons with disability into every programme and administratively, has a high percentage of persons that fall into that category as members of staff.

Adesina declared that programmes have already been outlined for the elections which capture and would address issues of persons with disability in the Commission’s day-to-day activities and beyond the elections.

“LASIEC works with persons with disabilities, a desk is already in place for this group and the idea is to handle any related issue as it were, so they are part and parcel of us.

“Special training is given to ad-hoc personnel, and in the manual, a section is devoted to persons with disability on how they should be treated on election days.

“And it is clearly stated there that such persons must be given priority, even the blind or shortsighted person are also captured in the manual,” she added.

Ekemini disclosed that CCD is running a programme, called ‘Access to Justice and Political Participation of Persons with Disabilities’, and urged the Commission to improve on its election sensitization for the group.

“There should be signs for the deaf in polling units to give them a sense of belonging and to ensure that they perform their voting rights effectively on election days.

“And that is the idea we are driving at to create more awareness on the need for persons with disabilities to participate effectively as others,” he added.

CCD, during the visit presented some documents to the Commission which included a poster, ‘Support the Implementation of Disability Act Right’.

NGO trains 200 orphans, 300 widows in Kebbi

A none governmental organization called Almajiri support initiative operating in Kebbi under the chairmanship of Alhaji Shehu Umar has said that it has trained no fewer than 200 orphans and 300 needy widows and divorcees in its routine free training in Birnin Kebbi.

According to him deaf and dumbs are among those who received training on hand trades like tailoring, knitting and pomade making for the ladies, while the physically challenged and the able almajiris among them learnt trades like welding, shoe manufacturing, tailoring and driving among others.

He added that,the center under Almajiri support initiative also have an adult literacy class with at least sixteen adults from both genders attending free literacy classes,one of the class instructors Hajia Saudat Abdullahi who lamented low patronage despite being it free, noted that, the free literacy class knows no tribe and religion every one is welcome,while decrying acute financial assistance from well to do individuals she appeal to members of the public to come to the aid of the center as they lack materials in all the sections of the center noting that lack of funds needed to give empowerments to the trained orphans, widows, divorcees, almajiris and the physically challenged is delaying the graduation.

She however, appeal to government, traditional rulers Unions and public servants to assist the center to graduate the trained persons whom she believes will impact the society positively saying even now those earlier empowered are employers of labour in their area of focus.

In addition to what the almajiri initiative is doing to discourage street begging the center gives one daily meal to each almajiri because that is the only one it can afford ” more hands are required to completely stop almajiri begging system, you cant him when you cannot give him three square meals the founder has said.

Of 18mn PWDs within working age, only 0.3% gainfully employed – World Bank

Business Disability Network, National Secretary, National Disability Commission, Mr James Lalu and Chief Human Resource Officer, MTN Nigeria Communication Plc.

By Providence Ayanfeoluwa

The World Bank Group Nigeria has said that out of 18 million People with Disability, PWD, in Nigeria, only 0.3 percent are gainfully employed.

Meanwhile, Executive Secretary, National Disability Commission, Mr. James Lalu, revealed that the federal government would launch the presidential special intervention program for persons with disabilities this year.

They said these weekend, during the maiden edition of Nigeria Diversity and Inclusion conference with the theme: “Eliminating Barriers against Inclusive Workplaces in the Private Sector” organized by Nigeria Business Disability Network, NBDN in Lagos.

In his keynote, Disability Inclusion Consultant, Dr. Adebukola Adebayo, said that the government can reduce the level of unemployment among PWDs by providing the standards, policy, guidelines on accessibility; raises awareness for disability and direct support for organizations willing to employ PWDs through assistive technologies.

Adebayo said: “Years back, we use to struggle to engage the private sector but am happy we now see the private sector converge for our sake, it is a huge leap as far as disability inclusion is concerned.

“We are about 30 million people with disability, of that population, about 18 million are of working age, and of that 18 million, only about 0.3percent are gainfully employed and again of the small number that is employed, many have reported various barriers they experience in their place of work,” he said.

On his part, Lalu said: “We acknowledge that the disability community is on the street, but for us we are expected to launch the presidential special intervention program for persons with disabilities this year. It is going to bring a beautiful initiative.

“It is going to bring a massive skill acquisition program for persons with disabilities. We would provide mass empowerment for PWD. The law bars street begging, yet PWDse are on the streets begging, it is wrong for any person to be using PWDs to beg in the streets to raise income for some people.

Our collaboration with the Inspector General, IG of Police is to make sure that we set up a taskforce across the 36 states of the federation to make sure we deal with this issue. This year we want to start training for the Police Force, disability officers has been established in all the 37 commands in the country where we would start training to provide protection for persons with disabilities and avoid them being used for begging.

“We want to ensure we reduce the discrimination so that people can change the negative judgment they hold against PWDs. We need the data of any organisation that employs PWDs, so that we can give assistant to the employer on any incentive needed to assist them. It is our duty and responsibility to provide opportunity for PWDs.

“The disability commission is going to collaborate with NBDN, we would do everything possible to bring other business partners into this forum to ensure we do what is necessary to improve the quality of life for persons suffering from disability in Nigeria.

Earlier, in her opening remark, Chairperson, NBDN, Mrs. Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan, said that the network was born out of the many gaps with respect to inclusion of persons with disability.

Laniyan said: “We see that businesses have a key role to play in bridging those gaps, so we needed to come together to constitute those network to see how we can collaborate to bridge those gaps to make organizations work place ready for PWDs to ensure that in essence we are inclusive in our approach and we are sustainable. “You would find that PWDS are innovative, to ensure we are not losing out on all those skills and talent, we came up with the NBDN.

“About two years ago a few of my colleagues came together to create the network, following the path of the Global Business and Disability Network of the International Labour Organisation. The network is now a growing community of companies committed to taking steps through policies, programmes and our operations to bring about lasting and transformative change concerning disability inclusion in the private sector,” she said.

CBN breaks silence on withdrawal of Naira notes from circulation

From Benjamin Umuteme

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has disowned reports saying it would soon withdraw naira notes from circulation.

In a telephone conversation with newsmen, Saturday, in Abuja, the Director, Corporate Communications Department of the CBN, Mr Osita Nwanisobi, said the statement purportedly to have been made during a stakeholders’ engagement on eNaira adoption in Asaba, Delta state was misconstrued and therefore called on the general public to disregard such in it’s entirety.

According to reports, the statement was said to have been made in Asaba, Delta State during a stakeholders meeting.

According to Mr Nwanisobi, the digital version of the Naira is meant to complement the existing currency notes and therefore, will circulate simultaneously as means of exchange and store of value.

On the benefits of adopting the eNaira, the spokesman hinted that the digital legal tender aside from the safety and speedy features, it will also ensure greater access to financial services by the underbanked and unbanked populace thereby enhance financial inclusion.

Mr Nwanisobi therefore, urged members of the public and business owners to embrace the digital currency, the eNaira as it offers more possibilities.

The eNaira was formally launched into circulation by President Muhammadu Buhari in October 2021.

Almost One Billion Children and Adults with Disabilities and Older Persons in Need of Assistive Technology Denied Access, According to New Report

World Health Organization (WHO)

A new report published today by WHO and UNICEF reveals that more than 2.5 billion people need one or more assistive products, such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, or apps that support communication and cognition. Yet nearly one billion of them are denied access, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, where access can be as low as 3% of the need for these life-changing products.

The Global Report on Assistive Technology presents evidence for the first time on the global need for and access to assistive products and provides a series of recommendations to expand availability and access, raise awareness of the need, and implement inclusion policies to improve the lives of millions of people.

“Assistive technology is a life changer – it opens the door to education for children with impairments, employment and social interaction for adults living with disabilities, and an independent life of dignity for older persons,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Denying people access to these life-changing tools is not only an infringement of human rights, it’s economically shortsighted. We call on all countries to fund and prioritize access to assistive technology and give everyone a chance to live up to their potential.”

“Nearly 240 million children have disabilities. Denying children the right to the products they need to thrive doesn’t only harm individual children, it deprives families and their communities of everything they could contribute if their needs were met,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “Without access to assistive technology, children with disabilities will continue to miss out on their education, continue to be at a greater risk of child labor and continue to be subjected to stigma and discrimination, undermining their confidence and wellbeing.”

The report notes that the number of people in need of one or more assistive products is likely to rise to 3.5 billion by 2050, due to populations ageing and the prevalence of noncommunicable diseases rising across the world. The report also highlights the vast gap in access between low- and high-income countries. An analysis of 35 countries reveals that access varies from 3% in poorer nations to 90% in wealthy countries.

Affordability is a major barrier to access, the report notes. Around two thirds of people with assistive products reported out-of-pocket payments for them. Others reported relying on family and friends to financially support their needs.

A survey of 70 countries featured in the report found large gaps in service provision and trained workforce for assistive technology, especially in the domains of cognition, communication and self-care. Previous surveys published by WHO note a lack of awareness and unaffordable prices, lack of services, inadequate product quality, range and quantity, and procurement and supply chain challenges as key barriers.

Assistive products are generally considered a means to participate in community life and in wider society on an equal footing with others; without them, people suffer exclusion, are at risk of isolation, live in poverty, may face hunger, and be forced to depend more on family, community and government support.

The positive impact of assistive products goes beyond improving the health, well-being, participation and inclusion of individual users – families and societies also benefit. For example, enlarging access to quality-assured, safe and affordable assistive products leads to reduced health and welfare costs, such as recurrent hospital admissions or state benefits, and promotes a more productive labour force, indirectly stimulating economic growth.

Access to assistive technology for children with disabilities is often the first step for childhood development, access to education, participation in sports and civic life, and getting ready for employment like their peers. Children with disabilities have additional challenges due to their growth, which requires frequent adjustments or replacements of their assistive products.

The report makes recommendations for concrete action to improve access, including:

1. Improve access within education, health and social care systems
2. Ensure availability, safety, effectiveness and affordability of assistive products
3. Enlarge, diversify and improve workforce capacity
4. Actively involve users of assistive technology and their families
5. Increase public awareness and combat stigma
6. Invest in data and evidence-based policy
7. Invest in research, innovation, and an enabling ecosystem
8. Develop and invest in enabling environments
9. Include assistive technology in humanitarian responses
10.Provide technical and economic assistance through international cooperation to support national efforts.

Workplace: Stakeholders make case for Nigerians with disabilities

….Say PWDs can contribute to country’s GDP

The Nigerian Business Disability Network (NBDN) has emphasised the need to respect the rights of people with disabilities in the workplace, saying this would uphold the country’s values of dignity, respect and generosity.

It lamented that some of these values have been sidelined thereby relegating the inclusion efforts, even though the collective duty is to ensure the efforts are reignited.

Chairperson, NBDN, Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan stated this at the Nigeria Diversity and Inclusion Conference, tagged: ‘Eliminating Barriers against Inclusive Workplaces in the Private Sector,’ held to commemorate Global Accessibility Awareness Day, in Lagos.

She stated that Nigeria is still in the infant stage of promoting a comprehensive and coordinated manner toward disability inclusion, whether with human rights or sustainable development.

According to her, “The 2018 legislative action has triggered a response across the country, one of which is this network, committed to raise awareness and stand as the voice of the private sector for disability inclusion in Nigeria.

“Although, most of our members are still on the journey to assess and bridge the gaps regarding disability inclusion in our workplaces, we are glad to see some semblance of progress. In my organization, we took the first step in carrying out a voluntary disability-ready assessment with the support of Sightsavers Nigeria, a fellow member of the Network.

“This gives us an honest picture of where we are and shows where we need to improve in line with global best practices and local regulations”, she said.

In his keynote address, Disability Inclusion Consultant World Bank Group, Nigeria, Dr. Adebukola Adebayo lamented that 0.2 percent of persons with disabilities are gainfully employed adding that a number of them go through barriers.

He stressed the need to create opportunities for everyone without discrimination, adding that when companies employ people with disabilities, they are more secured and responsible.

Lamenting the challenges, he said, knowledge and awareness are the biggest challenge. While communication barrier is another aspect aside attitudinal, institutional and environmental. Adding that, there are many corporate communication flows that did not consider people with disabilities.

His words: “People with disabilities will profit more on a virtual environment working process with the use of assistive technology as well as provision of workplace therapist.

“The potential benefits in employing people with disabilities are that they are focused and resilient on the job thereby making the company improve on productivity and investment”, he added.

He however called on government at all levels to do more around media disabilities awareness campaign.

Also speaking, Executive Secretary, National Disability Commission, James Lalu, applauded the initiative taken by various private sectors to collaborate in the diversity inclusion saying discussing the issues around disabilities and contribute to their welfare would guarantee their protection and promotion.

“We are going to collaborate with NBDN to make sure that the idea planted is passed across the federation.

“Disabilities community are on the streets and for us, we are expected to launch the presidential special intervention programme for persons with disability which would bring about skill acquisition program.

“We have submitted the list of persons with disabilities to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and Bank of Industry, is also coming up with beautiful initiative to strengthen industrialization for persons with disabilities with assistive devices among others.

“We will have massive empowerment programme for persons with disabilities especially the people on the street.

“It is painful to use persons with disabilities to make business. We are collaborating with the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba. to deal with the issue. We are training the police in the whole federation in this regard”

In his reaction, Executive Director, Project Enable, Olusola Owonikoko harped on the need for promoting inclusion for disabilities in the workplace, saying this would contribute to the Gross Domestic Products of the country.

“Over the years, we have been promoting inclusive employment and we believe that the network provides a better platform where Private Sector can collaborate to help one another to drive disability Inclusion especially in the workplace.

“The biggest message from the conference is that there is productivity in disability and persons with disabilities can add immerse value to economy at national, companies’ level, we can influence bottom-line.

“Discrimination is out dated. Let us give persons with disabilities equal chance based on what they are able to do and if we continue to do this, we will see that through diversity and inclusion, we can drive value collectively for ourselves and organisations”, he stated.

Visually impaired Nigerians relive battles with stigma at Delta programme

By Okungbowa Aiwerie

Bespectacled Nkem Ofili walked gingerly into the crowded main hall of Labour House in Asaba, the capital of Delta State last week escorted by a female volunteer in blue jeans. Led into a blue plastic chair in the middle of the hall, he sat in rapt attention as he listened to the visually impaired comedian, who doubled as the compere, thrilling the audience with jokes.

Ofili oozed confidence and self belief as he sat, calmly soaking up the convivial atmosphere. Across the hall, many other well dressed youths chatted animatedly in clusters while others engaged in quiet conversation with neighbours as they savoured a rare opportunity to socialise.

Although the occasion was an awareness campaign meant to sensitise the public about the challenges faced by the visually impaired, many other persons living with various forms of deformity (PLWD) were present at the event. Hence the occasion designed to mark the annual national conference of the Delta State chapter of the Nigeria Association of the Blind turned into a carnival of some sort.

The event themed “Competence the Way Forward and Not Disability” attracted several government functionaries including the Executive Secretary of the Delta State Bursary and Scholarship Board, Mr Sunday Orishedere; the Delta State Commissioner of Police, Dr Mohammed Ali and a host of other dignitaries.

The group’s coordinator, Joshua Odjovworor, in an address, praised the Delta State Government for supporting PWDs in the state through its scholarship scheme, adding that enrollment of PWDs into various skill acquisition schemes by the state government was unprecedented.

He berated the society for discriminating against PWDs, noting that the various skills showcased by the visually impaired persons at the conference would help dispel such notion.

The Commissioner of Police, Dr Mohammed Ali, expressed sadness that many physically challenged individuals in the society have to beg for alms even as he urged public spirited individuals to assist government in creating empowerment schemes for them.

He also admonished PWDs against indulging in criminal activities, stressing that the law will take its cause regardless of whether a person is physically challenged or not.

He assured that the police was committed to protecting their rights and would continue to support their cause.

Addressing the gathering, an expert, Dr Isioma Edozien, listed the effects of visual impairment to include stigmatization, loss of independence and low productivity. She noted that if a child was born blind, there could be delayed social, emotional and cognitive skills which could lead to low level educational achievements on the part of the child.

Edozien debunked the notion that visually impaired persons are incompetent, stressing the need for societal support to enable visually impaired persons attain high level of confidence the society would embrace. She said although visual impairment is an obvious disability just like other physical conditions it attracts not only pity but also resentment.

She said a lot of people evince sentiments of pity or resentment because they are not only misinformed but were beclouded by the myths and lies handed down over the years. She lamented that the Nigerian environment was not friendly to the visual impaired in the society.

Edozien commended the Delta State Government for setting up five specialised schools with teachers that can handle children with hearing, visual, and other forms of deformity across the state. She stressed the imperatives of investing in modern teaching equipment, as modern teaching aids help in teaching concepts to special needs children.

She recommended inclusion is an effective strategy in special needs education, stressing that inclusion rather than exclusion was the right model.

In spite the obvious physical discomfort suffered by the visually impaired, however, Nkem Ofili believes that the greater danger to the well being of PLWDs is stigmatization and rejection.

Ofili, an Information Officer in the Delta State public service, recalls that he was initially rejected by his mother-in-law when he proposed marriage to his wife, adding that he has many friends who were unable to get wives in spite of their great financial conditions because they are visually impaired.

He said: “Yes, it is normal in our clime. When you make advances, the society tends to reject you due to discrimination. But we thank God for financial stability.

“One was able to surmount the challenge, but I am aware that some of my friends have faced greater challenges on this issue.

“My own case was divinely inspired. When my present wife got to know me, she did not believe that I was blind.

“When she came to my office, she did not know that I was blind. I led her to an office for more privacy. She had a deep belief in me.

“When people like my mother-in-law and my wife’s siblings tried to dissuade her from the relationship, my saving grace was my father-in-law who spoke out for me.

He said his biggest challenge is trying to explain his affliction to his curious four-year-old daughter who often complains that God has failed to answer her prayers to restore his sight despite her constant supplications.

For Pastor Stanley Omenagbo, a mathematician who runs ex-mural classes in Ogwashi-Uku, Aniocha South Local Government Area, lack of awareness among opthalmologists was a far greater challenge than winning the love of his wife.

He recalled that after he was diagnosed with complicated cataract of the eye and dislocated lenses, he realised that doctors were ill equipped to handle rehabilitative therapy.

He said attending the awareness programme has helped him as he hoped to get more information on his condition.

Joshua Odjovworo, coordinator of the youth wing of the Nigerian Association of the Blind, Delta State chapter, recalled that he was kept indoors after he went blind because of stigmatization but succeeded by a dint of hard work.

His words: “It was not easy at the beginning. I was 19 years and was locked indoors because of stigmatization.

“The stigmatization often starts within the family circle. But God helped me out. I vowed that if I could fight my way out, then I might as well help others.”

He said he was motivated to lead the advocacy for the visually impaired because of discrimination.

He said: “Many in the society look down on persons with visual impairment, so I deem it fit that I should work to improve their lives by ensuring they get educated or learn skills so they can contribute to the development of the nation.

“We want to earn the respect we deserve. Many parents hide their visually impaired children at home, preventing them from interacting with their peers.

“This advocacy gives the parents hope as the children, through education, become self sufficient.”

Odjovworo who studies Political Science at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, said the current ASUU strike was a burden for students with disabilities, stressing that funds meant for their upkeep have been exhausted while there is no end in sight for the impasse between federal government and ASUU.

His words: “It is hitting us badly. If you have a sponsor and you are given money for an academic session, with the prolonged strike, all my money is exhausted. How do I go back to my sponsor to get fresh funds? I am pleading that ASUU and Federal Government find a middle ground on this issue.”

Azubuike Obah, a 400 level student of the Department of History and Foreign Relations, University of Benin, and captain of the Nigeria Blind Football Team nicknamed “Power Eagles”, said he feels unhappy when people judge him solely by his disability.

Although Obah’s lectures usually are on the second and third floors in the Faculty of Arts, he says he faces little challenge climbing up and down the flight of stairs, but called for accessible public buildings.

He said he had no faith in the Disability Law 2019 passed by President Muhammadu Buhari , stressing that even though the law has been passed there is no assurance that its contents will be adhered to or offenders punished.

“I am expecting feedback from the DPO. I did not forget,” he said.

FAAN inaugurates App for airport taxi

Capt. Rabiu Yadudu, Managing Director, the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) has inaugurated Taxi App loading booth at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja (NAIA).

Yadudu, who was represented by the Group Capt. Usman Sadiq, Director of FAAN Security Service, said in his opening remarks on Thursday, that the move would definitely increase the country’s Gross Domestic Products.

”The project is planned to be operated under the Public and Private Partnership(PPP).

”The FAAN TAXI App is to enable air travellers to book online for a taxi to the airport and from the airport.

”It is also aimed at eliminating touting and analogue ways of operating taxi at the Airport as anyone could book the FAAN taxi at the airport and move just like other transport Apps.”

According to Yadudu, the project will improve safety, security and comfort and further ensuring development in Aviation sector.

“This is a good development. We fair changes naturally. Sometimes, when change occurs we will be proud of it. I am assuring taxi and commercial drivers that this will actually lead to laudable development.

“it is in furtherance conformity with international standard and will equally add to Gross Domestic Products of Nigeria.

“ This laudable project is as a result of careful planning, negotiation and some meetings of relevant stakeholders. I hope everybody will key into this project and work towards its success,” Yadudu said.

FAAN boss urged the commercial body to support the project`s sustainability and enforcement for the hope of generality of Nigerian people.

In his address of welcome, Mr Kabir Mohammed, FAAN Regional General Manager, North Central, said that commissioning of the App was a resolute action to move from analogue to digital at all airport in the nation.

Mohammed commended all stakeholders that had contributed in one way or another to the success of the project.

“Today, history has been made by moving from analogue to digital. This is just the beginning. We need your cooperation. We want to assure that Abuja airport is working very hard.

“ This is actually a new narrative brought in by the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, “ he said.

Contributing, FAAN Director of Commercial, Mr Sadiku Rafindadi, said the authority had started automation and would not go back.

Rafindadi added that MMIA would be the next to observe commissioning of the App then to be followed by Port Harcourt Airport and so on thought out the country.

“Today marks the first day of commissioning FAANTAXI App. We have been working for this quite a while by meeting the stakeholders. We are ready to move forward.

“Abuja is taking the lead and we are proud of NAIA. We are moving to Lagos, next will be Port Harcourt international Airport and then the rest of the airports.

“The major aspect of Aviation is for safety, security and comfort. With Nigerians behind us, we are moving forward. Automation indeed improves revenue, “ he said.

One of the drivers, who operates at the airport said the drivers were allowed to register their vehicles with the FAAN Taxi without any fee and expressed confidence that the project will help sanitise the airport.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that others in attendance included FAAN Director of Engineering Mr Ali Maina, FAAN Director of Finance and Account, Mrs Adenike Aboderin and FAAN Director of Human Resources and Administration, Mr Noris Anozie.

CBN to phase out N5, N10, N20 currency notes

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Friday in Asaba, Delta State, said the lower denomination of the nation’s currency including N5, N10 and N20 would soon be phased out of circulation.

While the said lower denominations have almost become worthless owing to the declining purchasing power of the naira, CBN said it was wasting money printing the notes which end up being abused by members of the public.

However, the apex bank said it has come up with the e-NAIRA initiative that would promote financial inclusion and cashless economy.

Speaking at a sensitisation exercise at the popular Ogbogonogo Market, Asaba, Dr. Aminu Bizi explained that traders in onions, sachet water, pepper among other commodities would be educated on how to use the e-NAIRA account to do transactions.

Bizi who is a consultant with CBN on e-NAIRA stated that the digital platform of transaction is fast, accessible, free and safe with over 99.9% success rate.

The e-NAIRA has come to stay. Why do you need cash if the onion seller, akara seller, chemist man or Keke/Okada operator have e-NAIRA account?

“Do you need to go to POS and cash money while ordinary Keke man can receive N50 via transfer?

“We are planning to meet with the union of Keke to sensitise them and give them a bar code.

“You have your e-NAIRA, before you even get down, you scan the Keke scanner bar code and you pay him his fare of N50 or N100.

“So why should you go and queue to withdraw money? Is it not for you to spend? So if these market people accept e-NAIRA, people don’t need to cash.

“So very soon, you may not be seeing N5, N10 or N20 notes in circulation because CBN is using money to print these notes, and at the end of the day this N5, N10, N20 will be abused.

“Go and see the woman selling corn, fish, they are squeezing these notes, at the end of the day, CBN is losing to reprint more notes to replace the mutilated ones,” he stated.

Bizi assured that the e-NAIRA account cannot be hacked by fraudsters.

“What I mean by that is that no yahoo can penetrate your e-NAIRA to take your money. Even if someone force you to collect your pin number or password, he can be traced because you cannot move e-NAIRA to another bank account.

“I have e-NAIRA, I cannot move funds to your bank account but I can take money from my bank account to my e-NAIRA.

“And I can take back my money in e-wallet to my bank account. So no chance for fraud. It is free, all marketers are free to accept e-naira,” he added.

Secretary to the State Government, Patrick Ukah who was represented by the Director of Finance and Account in the office, Benson Ojoko, lauded the apex bank for the initiative to further reduce the volume of physical cash in circulation.

Branch controller of CBN in Asaba, Mr. Godwin Okafor who was also represented by the Head of Customer Service, Bright Orji said the apex bank was committed to promoting digital transactions to reduce the risk involved in carrying cash.