Amidst the spread of the Coronavirus in Nigeria, members of the United States-based Nigerians Living with Disabilities have petitioned the leadership of the National Assembly over the Federal Government’s delay in establishing an agency to oversee the affairs of the people living with disabilities in the country.
The groups: Organisations of Persons with Disabilities, Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities International Inc, FESTAC-USA Inc. Kaysom Holding Inc, Center for Advocacy and Citizens with Disabilities, among others, said the delay in setting up the agency was in contravention with the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018, otherwise known as Nigerians with Disabilities Act.
The petition was jointly signed by Chief Eric Ndubueze Ufom, President and Chief Executive Officer of ERPWDI; and Ngozi Pauline Ikebuaku, Executive Secretary of the organisation, on behalf of the coalition of US-based non-profit bodies advocating for the over 31 million Nigerians living with disabilities.
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had on January 23, 2019 signed the Disability Bill into law, with Section 31 of the Act providing for the setting up of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, with an Executive Secretary as the head.
Also, the President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker, House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, had on April 7 met with the the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq, against the backdrop of the ongoing Federal Government intervention initiatives aimed at reducing the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the most vulnerable Nigerians.
The leadership of the National Assembly had faulted the way the Social Investment Programme of the Federal Government was being implemented and called for an enabling legislation in line with global best practices.
Lawan and Gbajabiamila made it clear that the SIP, which was established in 2016 under the Presidency, but now under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, needed a reform to make it more efficient and effective to addressing the problems of the poorest Nigerians.
Reacting in the petition, the group called on Lawan, Gbajabiamila, other Principal Officers of the legislature, including the Clerk of the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, to come to the rescue of their members living in the country at this period of COVID-19.
The coalition urged the legislative arm to prevail on the executive towards ensuring the establishment of the commission that would help to oversee the affairs of the 31 million of their members living in the country in accordance with the law, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 2030 Agenda.
The group alleged that the intervention by various governments to cushion Nigerians plights in the country during this disease outbreak had left out the larger part of their members.
It said: “On behalf of over 31 million Nigerians and one billion persons with disabilities worldwide, 10 million Almajiris and millions of victims of terrorism, bandits, kidnapping, armed robbery, man-made and natural disasters, climate change, waste, transboundary, indoors and outdoors air pollutions and their massive health effects which causes permanent disabilities to the victims if they are not dead, we, the Nigerian-Americans with disabilities living in the United States, move to send this heartfelt very thank you note to the National Assembly’s members for the extra productive emergency meeting of the joint National Assembly with the Hon. Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Developments.
“Therefore Sir, the main focus of this petition is on the valid, arguable and verifiable subjects of civil, human, disability and constitutional questions/issues, which you discussed and clearly stated.
“We humbly and respectfully ask you to please Sir, patiently study the outcome of your meeting and our ‘COVID-19-May Workers Day: PART ONE: Chronological Order Historic Documentary Report/Petition Against the Federal Republic of Nigeria to Demand for the Immediate Establishment of an Independent Implementation Commission for the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities.’
“COVID-19 Pandemic: Therefore, we are very angry about how the Federal Republic of Nigeria has been acting during this ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic, by continuing with Nigeria’s usual well documented, known and recognised, over one Century’s old (Since 1914 Amalgamation of Nigeria), bad practices of gross marginalisation, disenfranchisement, discrimination, denial of programmes and services, etc, of Nigerians with disabilities under their direct cares.”
The group, which admitted that the National Assembly was correct in its observation that the SIP needed a reform to make it more efficient and effective, said it was disheartening that none of the real leaders of 31 million Nigerians with disabilities, 10 million Almajiris, millions of Internally Displaced Persons and others, were contacted by the Presidency and the ministry.
They stressed that the setting up of the agency would not only help to addressing the challenges of their members during the pandemic period, but in the post-COVID-19 era.