Renewing hope for Persons with Disabilities

The Centre for Citizens with Disabilities is a non-governmental organisation that has, on many occasions, raised concerns about the population of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in the country. The argument of the organisation has been that without an accurate figure on PwDs, it will be difficult to make adequate plans for their wellness. It alleges that the 2006 Nigerian census recorded 3.2 million people as living with disabilities, or 2.32 per cent of the total population of 140 million people in that year which, according to it is inaccurate. It then enjoined the National Population Commission to cooperate with the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development for a fair capturing of the PwDs in future census. Concerned persons living with disabilities have also observed that the ratified United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of 2007 and its Optional Protocol in 2010 have no any impacts on the management of PwDs across the country. According to them, the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, charged with submitting reports on progress might not have been doing so, thus limiting the understanding of disability to a treatise of welfare and charity, resulting in total neglect of the several rights of the PwDs. For instance, Mr James David Lalu, the pioneer Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, explains that it takes 20 years struggle to recognise the rights of Persons with Disabilities (PWD) in the country. 'There are a lot of things to put in place in a particular building before you can achieve an effective accessibility. 'One of the efforts we are making is to create a programme to bring together experts on accessibility, within and outside the country'', he explains. See also Commission urges NASS to establish Disability Trust Fund Similarly, Mr Abdullahi Usman, President, Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, notes that many PwDs are live in abject poverty 'and if you go to some parts of the co untry, they engaged in street begging because they are not educated enough to know the dangers of it. 'Our members needs skills acquisition training. If the Federal Government can help us to admit our members into skills centres to acquire different skills, we will appreciate that''. Concerned by this condition of the people living with disabilities, President Bola Tinubu's administration through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, announced a new policy direction under the Renewed Hope Agenda that in every social intervention programme undertaken by government, 10 per cent of such would be reserved for PwDs. Suspended Minister of Humanitarian Affairs Betta Edu, who announced the new policy while inaugurating various empowerment programmes for persons with disabilities in Abuja, said that the President directed that the disability community should be given priority in all intervention programmes of government. 'Already, we are into conditional cash transfers for 15 million househ olds; out of this figure, 10 per cent is reserved for the disability. 'So, we are happy and very proud of the disability commission for pushing on all fronts to ensure that the Renewed Hope Agenda is actually achieved,'' she noted. 'We are providing Point Of Sales (POS) machines to persons with disability across the country so that they can be the last mile distributors of the funds to people living in villages and hard-to-reach areas. 'We also gave N130, 000 each, as scholarship to some physically challenged students in tertiary institutions. 'Beyond this, we have also been able to bring officials of the Corporate Affairs Commission to carry out proper registration of their businesses and N20 million has been released for that purpose. See also Commission urges persons with disabilities to embrace sports for improved mental health 'We are having several other interventions such as giving out grants to associations linked to persons with disabilities,' she said. Edu said that the Federal Government wou ld be committed to supporting the educational needs of citizens, persons with disabilities inclusive. She also said that the ministry would collaborate with the Ministries of Finance, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education, among others, to eradicate poverty in the country. 'Some people are poor because they do not have access to education while others are poor because they do not have access to quality healthcare services or are poor because they do not have access to jobs,'' she observed. She said that the ministry had been given a full department to coordinate the overall national responses on issues relating to persons with disabilities in the country. Sharing similar sentiments, Mr Abdullahi Usman, President, Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, therefore, commended the president for the gesture and for rectifying the African Charter on Human Rights and the rights of persons with disabilities in the country. Usman, however, decried the slow level of implementation of the pr esidential directive which he said that only half of his members had so far benefited from the intervention programme. 'First, we must appreciate the government of Tinubu with the Renewed Hope Agenda and for his wonderful job of ensuring that there is equal opportunity for all citizens. 'All we are asking for is to have equal opportunity where inclusive society will be guaranteed because nothing about us is without us,'' Usman pleaded. Ms Chisom Onyekwere, one of the beneficiaries of the Renewed Hope intervention programme that got POS machine, also expressed gratitude for the gesture. See also Multi-stakeholders approach crucial in implementing Abia disability law- Group 'I am a living witness of the Renewed Hope intervention programme and for me, the president has made impact in this one year of his government because I was given POS machine and a token of N100,000 to startup my business through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs,'' she said. Mr Halilu Gayam, Chairman, Nasarawa State Association of the Deaf, however said that his members had yet to feel the impact of the Renewed Hope intervention programme. 'We in Nasarawa State have yet to feel the impact of president's intervention but we use to see in television as other states benefit and we hope our turn will come. 'Majority of our members in Nasarawa State are well educated because we have special needs school and the areas we would need Federal Government support is job opportunities,'' he said. Also, Ms Brisca Aaron, Executive Secretary, Bauchi State Agency for Persons with Disabilities, said that the state had benefited from the Federal Government's intervention programmes. 'The policy has been implemented in Bauchi State because the state is benefiting from the relief materials and other social interventions of the Federal Government to persons with disabilities under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. 'Bauch is the first in the North-East region of the country to domesticate the discrimination against Persons with Disabilities Law and we have strong synergy with the Federal Government in promoting disability inclusive projects, especially as it relates to their education, health and social wellbeing,'' she said. Observers, nonetheless, believe that Tinubu means his promise on the Renewed Hope Agenda when he said that it would leverage the nation's population and resources with main focus on unleashing the nation's full economic potential. (NANFeatures) **If used please credit the writer and News Agency of Nigeria Source: News Agency of Nigeria