By Chibuike Nwabuko, Felix Ugboja
CEDAR SEED Foundation in collaboration with other pro-disability organisations like Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), convened a national dialogue to discuss the challenges faced by people living with disabilities in Nigeria on Monday at Denis Hotel, Wuse II Abuja.
The theme of the event which had several stakeholders in attendance was: ‘’National Dialogue on Disability Rights and Inclusive Development in Nigeria.’’
According to Lois Auta, Founder of Cedar Seed Foundation, the dialogue is to address challenges faced by People living with disabilities and to also recognise how issues of disability are gradually beginning to dominate public discussion and attract several political stakeholders in the country.
According to Auta, 25 million Nigerians are living with one form of disability or the other, with majority of them in rural areas where they live in very poor and dehumanising conditions.
‘’Persons with disabilities are treated as second class citizens, excluded from development process. We all need to stand in solidarity with them. We have fundamental human rights as citizens. We have potentials and abilities like every other person. We are looking for opportunities and support to enable us live independently and achieve our dreams,’’ she said.
According to Auta, despite Nigeria ratifying the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities on 30 March 2007, and its optional protocol on 24th September 2010, persons living with disabilities are yet to be mainstreamed into the political, social, economic and educational space in Nigeria.
‘’Over ten years after the Nigerian government ratified United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, it has failed to pass the National Disability Bill into law. This has increased the plight of persons living with disabilities, and has made the country practically uninhabitable for them.’’ She bemoaned.
Idayat Hassan, the Director, Centre for Democracy and Development also noted that the inability of the Nigerian government to pass the National Disability Bill into law has compounded the problems of those living with disabilities which include issues of access to health care, inaccessible polling units, lack of a political quota system that recognises them, infrastructural deficit in terms of taking cognisance of people living with disabilities while designing and building public infrastructures, violence against those with disabilities among others.
Amina Oyiza Yahaya Bello, the wife of the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello who was also present pledged her commitment to the disability rights bill. According to her, Kogi state is already in the process of domesticating the bill into law in the state.