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CCD Calls On President Jonathan To Assent To Disability Bill, Decries Exclusion Of PWD’s In Electioneering Campaigns

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CCD Calls On President Jonathan To Assent To Disability Bill, Decries Exclusion Of PWD’s In Electioneering Campaigns By Joseph Onyekwere

The Centre for Citizens with Disabilities ( CCD) has called on President Goodluck Jonathan to assent to the disability bill recently passed by the National Assembly without delay so as to reduce the pain and agony of living with disability in Nigeria.

The group in a press conference held in Elomaz Hotel, Maryland, Lagos today commended the National Assembly for transmitting the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Bill to Mr. President for his assent.

Addressing the conference, CCD executive director, David O. Anyaele said: “Interestingly, this is the second time this bill is coming to President Goodluck Jonathan’s table and third time we will be begging for assent on the bill.  This bill provides prohibition of discrimination against persons with disabilities, right to access to public premises, accessibility aid in public building, provision for situation of risk and humanitarian emergencies, service at queues, Prohibition of use of Person with disabilities in soliciting for alms and penalty, freedom of movement, right to free education, inclusive education, free education for special education personnel, participation in politics, and establishment National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, among others.”

Anyaele noted that the bill will be a legacy bill as no President has ever signed such bill in the history of the country.

Also, the group expressed worry that issues affecting people with disabilities are not being raised in the ongoing electioneering campaign.

Anyaele said: “CCD is worried that political parties across board and their candidates are silent on issues of concern to Nigerians with disabilities in their electioneering campaign, even when you see on the television a sign language interpreter for Presidential candidates campaign, yet we continue to observe a culture of silence among political party candidates on issues of critical concern to Nigerians with disabilities.

“Issues such as disability law, inclusive and accessible education, and unhindered access to healthcare, vocational training, access to job opportunities, rehabilitation and integration of Nigerians with disabilities are some of the issues of critical concern to Nigerians with disabilities that are missing in the electioneering campaigns among political parties.

“CCD calls on National, State and Local Government Chairmen of all the political parties to advise their candidates to mainstream disability issues in their electioneering campaign by addressing issues of concern to Nigerians with disabilities.”

The group did not spare the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in relation to its plan to accommodate PWD’s in the coming elections. “CCD is shocked that INEC is doing little or nothing to enhance equal access to eligible Nigerians with disabilities in the 2015 general elections. We are surprised that INEC is careless on ensuring that adequate measure is taken to create access to polling booths on equal bases with other citizens at the polling units.

“The reliance on charity based approach to addressing issues of concern to persons with disabilities’ participation in the 2015 general elections is worrisome.
This approach had affected their participation in the voter registration and it is weakening their desire to go for PVC collection centre as most of the venues are inaccessible to the physically challenged.

“What this means is that eligible Nigerian with physical disabilities may not go out to vote due to neglected issues of concern to eligible citizens with disabilities by INEC. CCD calls on INEC to make adequate arrangement to ensure that eligible Nigerians with disabilities collect their PVCs to enable them participate in the elections”, he stated.

Similarly, CCD also expressed concern over the preparedness of the security agencies.  The Centre said the security agencies are not saying much with regards to their plans to effectively provide security during the elections. It made particular reference to the Nigeria Police, saying the Police  is yet to disclose their plans to ensure effective policing of the elections to minimise voter apathy. “CCD calls on the security agencies to publicly disclose their election plan so as to enhance public confidence during the elections. Assurance of adequate security will encourage Nigerians with disabilities and other vulnerable persons to go out to vote”, Anyaele advised.

The group also urged citizens to resist any step to cause violent before, during and after the elections. It hinges it’s appeal on the fact that violent causes disability, while disability causes poverty, and poverty causes untimely death.
“CCD encourages citizens to engage the politicians on issues not religion, ethnicity, or hate speech. CCD calls all eligible citizens to be law abiding and ensure that they pick their PVC as it is the only licence to vote. CCD also calls on the citizens to create space for persons with disabilities to cast their votes with minimal struggle on the voting days”, the group said.

Anyaele recalled that CCD recently published it report on enhancing access to justice among persons with disabilities. The research report, which is part of our project activities on Enhancing Access to Justice for People Living with Disabilities in Lagos State, is supported by Justice for All Programme of the Department for International Development (DfID), he said. According to him, it highlighted issues bordering on access to justice sector service providers such as police stations, courts, Alternative Dispute Resolution centre among persons with disabilities and Lagosians with disabilities response to access to justice.

He pointed out that part of the key recommendations is the need to sensitize leaders of associations of persons with disabilities on access to justice, and create awareness on the rights of persons with disabilities among others.

“CCD is pleased to announce to you that about six Cluster Group leaders of Association of persons with disabilities in Ikorodu, Surulere, and Amuwo-Odufine Local Government Areas of Lagos has been sensitized on issues of access to justice and persons with disabilities. “CCD has also produced Braille version of the report, posters, fliers and stickers for public awareness.

“CCD is currently running a radio program on access to justice and persons with disabilities on Radio 1, 103.5 FM Lagos every Tuesday by 8.45pm. The purpose of the radio program is to reach as many audiences as possible with message of inclusion of persons with disabilities in justice sector service delivery”, he said, adding that CCD is also monitoring and evaluating the impact of the project to the targeted beneficiaries.

The also highlighted some of its challenges. These, he said include the strike action embark upon by Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) early this year. “The strike affected our plan to hold sensitization program for Justice Sector Service providers on access to justice and persons with disabilities in Ikorodu, Surulere and Amowo-Odufin Local Government Areas of Lagos State.

“As the nation look forward to February 14 and 28, 2015 for the Presidential and Governorship elections, the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities has been following the process to the elections with the objective of appreciating the preparedness of all actors to enhance equal access to electoral process for eligible citizens with disabilities.

“It is important to state that more than 19 million Nigerians are living with different forms of disability. Over 60% of Nigerians with disabilities are 18 years and above with more than 80% of them living in the rural areas with minimal access to social infrastructures”, Anyaele revealed and appreciated the media for their support for the rights of persons with disabilities.

He urged the media to continue to sustain their interest on issues that affects this most vulnerable group – persons living with disability so as to ensure inclusive reportage on 2015 general elections.

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