By Waliat Musa
As Nigeria joins the rest of the world today to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), the over 31 million community of Persons Living With Disabilities (PLWDs) in the country has called on government at all levels to quit paying lip service to their plights and match words with actions by implementing the various domestic laws and international conventions.
The IDPD is a day set aside by the United Nations since 1992 to promote a better understanding of disability issues with a focus on the rights of PLWDs in every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities.
The theme for the 2021 IDPD is ‘Leadership and Participation of PLWDs toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world,’ with a focus on their empowerment for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as envisaged in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
To mark the IDPD, Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), David O. Anyaele, observed that this year’s event is the third commemoration of the day since the passage and assent by President Muhammadu Buhari of the Disability Rights Act that is designed to protect the more than 31 million citizens with disabilities.
Expressing his anxiety over the condition of the disabled in the country, he said: “We are worried that 36 months after the passage of the Disability Rights Act, only 13 states have demonstrated measures to adopt the Act. We commend states like Lagos, Anambra, Ekiti, Ondo, Plateau, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Kogi, Niger, Kwara and Niger. We call on the state governments yet to adopt the National Disability Rights Act to do so without further delay. This is important because failure in this regard is an indirect endorsement of discrimination and other harmful practices against citizens with disabilities. It is important for state governments to make inclusion and participation of citizens with disabilities in governance and development programmes a priority, as it is very expensive and difficult to live with disability without government support.”
“We are concerned that 34 months after the passage of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018, citizens with disabilities are still left behind due to none implementation of the Act by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). This is evidenced by the none provision of necessary measures to enhance access to buildings of these MDAs, and the inclusion of citizens with disabilities in their programmes and activities. We are also worried that many states across the federation are struggling to budget for the integration and rehabilitation of citizens with disabilities. Even when they are budgeted, PLWDs hardly benefit from such provision. However, we commend states like Lagos, Plateau, Ondo and Anambra that have taken measures to not just pass the disability bill, but also taken steps to create offices for disability affairs in their states.
“We are worried that more than 18 months after President Buhari gave directives to MDAs to pay special attention to the peculiarities of PLWDs in the formulation and implementation of their policies and programmes, and where suitable their employment, nothing has been done in this regard.”
Acknowledging that Nigeria has signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities including its optional protocols, Anyaele said the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) would not be achieved if state and non-state actors continue to discriminate, isolate and marginalize PLWDs in Nigeria. The CCD boss further urged the President to assent to the Electoral Act as it contains new provisions to address the disenfranchisement of PLWDs in the conduct of elections.
“We are marking this day at a time Nigerians are awaiting the assent of the President on a Bill for an Act to Repeal the Electoral Act No. 6, 2010 and Enact the Electoral Act 2021, to regulate the conduct of Federal, State and Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory elections. The Bill provides for the removal of the barriers that hinder citizens with disabilities from participating in the electoral process on an equal basis with others. We called on President Buhari to sign the Electoral Bill without further delay in order to open the space for necessary actions towards 2023 general elections.”
The Director-General of the National Centre for Women Development, NCWD, Dr. Asabe Vilita Bashir, in her statement, disclosed that there are over 27 million Nigerians living with some form of disability. She noted that all hands must be on deck to support and integrate this significant group to the society so that “they can build practical life skills that lead to enhanced independence and provide a path to recovery for those who feel isolated.
“NCWD will continue to advocate the rights and needs of PLWDs and foster the effective use of ICT that are accessible, adaptive and affordable. National blindness and visual impairment survey in Nigeria conducted between 2005 and 2007 showed that 4.25 million Nigerians aged 40 are visually-impaired or blind. The figures for the blind and deaf are significantly higher today and have impacted the country’s workforce negatively. ICT as a strategic option has the capacity to enable PLWDs to take advantage of the educational system, entrepreneurship and job opportunities available in the country.”
A non-governmental organization, Project Enable Africa, which is at the forefront of disability inclusion has instituted the Disability Inclusion and Leadership Awards (DIAL). According to the Executive Director, Olusola Owonikoko, it will serve as a platform “to appreciate, acknowledge and reward PLWDs and others who might be without disabilities but are championing disability inclusion.”
Keynote speaker at the DIAL event held in Lagos, and CEO, Background Check International (BCI), Kola Olugbodi, urged the society to include PLWDs in all activities and ensure their talents are harnessed for the betterment of the community and state. “The disability community is like a closed community that many people don’t know what’s happening there. And many don’t even give them the opportunity of even being showcased, or to see what we are doing, because I also belong to that community. So, this is just to make the world know that PLWDs are doing great things as entrepreneurs too and they need to be celebrated. We want the world to know that we are not all beggars. Of the over 200 million population of the country, we have large numbers of us doing great things and whose voices must be heard.”
“Part of our inclusive drive is to ensure that we are considered as a priority in society. For instance, in the area of the election, PLWDs should be allowed to participate in all processes of the election with some protection for the community. The inclusiveness also includes having PLWDs in politics and governance. We are Nigerians and also human beings. We are most marginalized in all facets of our society and national life, but things have to change.”
Moderator at the event, Mrs. Dolapo Agbede, a human resource management expert, called on the private sector not to wait for the public sector in driving the inclusion of PLWDs in society. “Because leadership is going to be crucial to what’s going to be possible for the disability community, which I belong to, this conversion needs to be taken beyond every December 3 for action to match words and policy statements. I am visually impaired myself, you know, since 2007, due to glaucoma, so healthcare in this country needs to improve. But back to the subject, a lot has been done in getting the society to recognize that PLWDs matter too.”
Distanced working, digital skills and emotional intelligence are what businesses in Nigeria are looking for from jobseekers, according to a new report. The Labour Market Assessment 2021 report, published by Inclusive Futures, also highlighted that while these attributes are possessed by many PLWDs, job seekers feel businesses continue to consciously discriminate against them. “Businesses across Nigeria have been disrupted by the pandemic and are looking at how to build back inclusively but only a few among them are thinking of ensuring they are disability-inclusive,” said the Country Director for Sightsavers in Nigeria, Dr Sunday Isiyaku.
“Our report shows that employers are recognizing that distanced working is the new norm, requiring digital skills and prioritizing soft skills like empathy and resilience. But at the same time, job seekers with disabilities feel they are still being discriminated against, whatever their capabilities. People with disabilities have the skills to bring huge benefits to businesses but generally aren’t being considered,” he said.
While progress has been seen in Nigeria with the enacting of the Discrimination against People with Disability (Prohibition) Act, requiring companies to reserve five per cent of their workforce to peoples with disabilities, the report highlights that leaders of organizations of people with disabilities feel that the Act is little known or acted upon.
HR Director, West Africa Unilever, Ola Ehinmoro, said: “More work needs to be done to socialize the Disability Act in Nigeria. However, organizations like Unilever are pushing the frontiers by driving internal inclusive behaviours and deploying PLWDs to value across its West Africa markets.” Inclusive Futures is a flagship disability development inclusion programme funded by UKAID. It brings together global leaders and specialists from 16 organizations to test and deliver innovations for people with disabilities in education, healthcare and livelihoods.
ACCORDING to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than one billion people experience disability, and this figure is predicted to rise, due in part to population ageing and an increase in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases. WHO said it is committed to supporting member states and development partners to fulfill their commitment to leave no one behind, by addressing disability inclusion in the health sector.
Director General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus
For the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the number of children with disabilities globally is estimated at almost 240 million. “This new research confirms what we already knew: children with disabilities face multiple and often compounding challenges in realizing their rights,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore.
“From access to education to be read to at home, children with disabilities are less likely to be included or heard on almost every measure. All too often, children with disabilities are simply being left behind.”
The report includes internationally comparable data and covers more than 60 indicators of child well-being – from nutrition and health, to access to water and sanitation, protection from violence and exploitation, and education. These indicators are disaggregated by functional difficulty type and severity, child’s sex, economic status, and country.
The report makes clear the barriers children with disabilities face to participating fully in their societies and how this often translates to negative health and social outcomes.
We at Imo State Business Link Magazine urge states in the Eastern Region which are yet to implement the Disability act to do so immediately. It is important not to discriminate against fellow Nigerians because of their disability. And we are committed to follow up the development within the Eastern States.