Today at the Hilton, a ROUNDTABLE MEETING was held to discuss the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities into every sector, most especially the Political Participation of PWDs.
The Speaker, House of Representatives, R.T. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila (ably represented by Hon. Nkeiru Onyejeocha affirmed that:
- That the National Assembly and especially the House of Representatives have put the requisite mechanism in place to ensure that due attention is given to the very important issues that affect the social inclusion of Persons with Disability in the country. The Hon Speaker also opined that it is the first of its kind that in the current assembly that a committee is set-aside to not only review but pay due legislative attention to the throbbing issues affecting persons with disabilities in Nigeria. The House, under the current APC-led administration, has inaugurated a committee of this nature and has duly charged them to expeditiously determine the best ways to achieve social inclusion for PWDs.
The Chairman, House Committee on Disability Hon. Princess Miriam Onuoha, lucidly affirmed the following:
- That the National Assembly especially the House of Representatives is already steering legislations on ensuring that building codes as identified in the Disability Act are put in place by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) to ensure equal accessibility of all PWDs.
- Inclusion of the interest of PWDs in the ongoing electoral act amendments is a feat that has been achieved by the House Committee. For instance, there are provisions for requirements of the use of brail for blind persons in the voting process and the use of magnifying glasses and hats for persons with albinism.
- There is also a proposal for a bill for the establishment of National Trust Fund for PWD. This will help in the provisioning of funds useful for the protection of the economic interests of PWDs.
- There is also the need to investigate the alleged violations of the rights of PWDs at the airport (where passengers with disabilities were treated utter disdain) recently and that the House of Representatives is also amongst others, probing the alleged exclusion of PWDs in the current call for application by the Federal Road Safety Corps.
- The Committee is also having engagement with MDAs to comply with the provisions of the Disability Act and are putting in place requisite sanctions that will be meted out on anyone who violates the rights of PWDs as contained in the Act.
- The Committee is also ensuring that inclusion of PWDs is mainstreamed into national planning such that will help actualize a disability inclusive budget.
- The Committee has also made frantic efforts at meeting with governors and Nigerian speakers on the need to pass and accent the Disability Act in their various States especially for States that have not done so.
- The Committee chair also encouraged the disability community to always have engagements such as this that will culminate in having meaningful outcomes that will improve legislations geared towards protecting the interest of PWDs.
- They are also ensuring that INEC help in implementing a quota for PWDs in the allocation of positions during the electioneering process at party level.
Arising from the above, the roundtable discussions led to suggestions about how to chat a reliable way forward in the following recommendations:
- That the House Committee on Disability will follow up on ensuring that assistive devices are installed in public buildings for PWDs through constant review of legislations on disability concerns. They may also actualize this by redefining global index for measuring compliance to this aspect of the Act. Additionally, concerned Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government will be occasionally audited to underscore the level of conformity to this provision within the next five years of domestication or passing of the Act as the case may be.
- That the ongoing amendments of the electoral act would totally capture the interests and peculiarities of the PWDs in subsequent general elections in the country so much so that they can participate with ease during voting and other electoral activities. Such arrangements will ensure that there is ease of voting in such a manner that the Disability community is not in any manner disoriented and excluded from the electioneering process.
In the meeting, they also urged that employers should be as Mentors and Leaders in their various organizations, in that they use their positions to fight for the cause of persons with disabilities, to enable those who are ignorant to create accessible environments for them, and make them feel important.
One striking statement made was that;
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a physical disability, deaf and blind disability. All that matters is the intellectual ability because it’s with this mindset that persons with disabilities can be fully integrated into the society”.