PWDs to Nigeria Governments: Create Distinct Ministries To Handle Our Affairs

By Oswald Agwu, Abakaliki

People with disabilities in Nigeria have called on federal and State governments to create distinct Ministries to handle their affairs across the country.

The group raised the call Monday in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital during a one-day symposium to mark the 2022 International Day for Persons With Disabilities.
The event was organised by the United States Agency for International Development-funded State Accountability, Transparency and Effectiveness (State2State) Activity.

It was also part of USAID-State2State's contributions to 16 days of Activism in Ebonyi State.

Speaking for the group, the President and Chief Executive Officer, Disabled Persons Empowerment Foundation, Parkins Uzor,  lamented the high level of discrimination and social exclusion suffered by people with disabilities in both public and private quarters in the country.

He attributed the cause partly to poor budgetary allocation for the disabled and non existence of seperate Ministry to facilitate easy and direct dealing between the government and PWDs.

Uzor, a blind legal practitioner, further called on government and employers of labour to always provide PWDs equal job chances with their abled counterparts, especially in areas of equal competence.
Uzor insisted: "There should be inclusion in education, in governance, in employment and general scheme of things.

"There is this very important issue of creating a seperate Ministry for persons with disabilities to enhance the agitation for this all round inclusion.

"The disabled persons associations, including its umbrella body, the Joint Association of People with Disabilities, JONAPWD, should be well funded and given the freedom to operate.

"And the Government should deal with them directly, and not through an appointee who is not disabled in any form or manner.

"He that wears the shoes know where it pinches."

The Gender and Social Inclusion Specialist for USAID-State2State in Ebonyi, Ejiro Okotie, in an interview, explained that beyond working on the three priority areas of Primary health, Education; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, State2State, as part of its social inclusion support, build capacities for both government and non State actors towards ensuring that they are able to advocate effectively for persons with disabilities in governance reforms.

Okotie, however, observed the need to domesticate the Disability Act in Ebonyi State as a legal framework to further strengthen support for people with disabilities in the State.
She urged all stakeholders to join forces towards ensuring that the Act is domesticated in the State soon.

"At the national level, we have the National Disability Act, which was enacted in 2019.

"But it is yet to be domesticated in Ebonyi State, and the onus of ensuring that it is domesticated in the State reside in the hands of every citizen; all stakeholders, state and non state actors, including people with disabilities themselves.

"For State2State, we are more of a catalyst, and that is the reason we organize forums like this to create capacity and enabling environment for social inclusion" Okotie explained.

In separate panel discussions at the event, involving the State Chairman of JONAPWD, Franklin Odumegwu Chieme and a member, Miss Elizabeth Agbo, among others, discussants exposed some of the challenges facing PWDs to include stigmatization, social discrimination, physical and sexual abuses and molestations.
They also identified restricted access to public facilities/buildings often designed without consideration for people on Wheelchairs and other impediments.
While Chieme called for immediate domestication of the Disability Act in the State, with strict sanction for offenders, Agbo made case for compulsory ramps in all public buildings for easy accessibility to PWDs.

"One of the key challenges facing us in the State is the issue of accessibility.

"For people who are on wheelchair, it is not every building that can be accessible to us.

"This has continued to deprive us access to schools, hospitals, and other social gatherings, benefits and services provided in such institutions.

"Ebonyi State government is doing a lot in carrying us along, but it should do more, especially in providing for Ramps in public/institutional buildings" Agbo requested.

Others who spoke, including the State Coordinator, Gender-Based Violence Taskforce, Barr. Faithvin Nwanchor and the Executive Director of Catch'em Young Initiative, a Civil Society Organisation, Barr. Nkechinyere Uguru, highlighted some of their organizations' contributions towards social inclusion and welfare of PWDs in the State, leveraging on their platform.

Uguru said her Organization apart from offering Educational support services in rural areas: literacy centres, inclusive libraries and mentorship, mainly    targeting PWDs, it also trained and equipped menstrual pad dispensers to help support menstrual hygiene for such vulnerable groups.

Nwanchor also added:"Through the platform of the GBV taskforce,  the State government has now made budgetary provisions specifically for GBV activities in the State budget.
"It was not so before now.

"With the VAPP Law, provisions have been made for mobile Courts to try GBV offenders.
"Formerly, there was no such in the State.
So, in Ebonyi State, we are making tremendous progress, but more still needs to be done."

International Day for PWDs is observed December 3, every year.

The theme for the year's event is "Transformative Solutions for Inclusive Development; The Role of Innovation in Fueling an Accessible and Equitable World."

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