The Lagos State Government on Thursday said it would continue to support and provide protection for people with disabilities in the state.
Dr Babatunde Awelenje, General Manager, Lagos State Office of Disability Affairs, gave the assurance at a forum in Lagos.
Awelenje spoke at the public presentation of a research on the assessment of the level of compliance of public institutions in the state to the provisions of the Lagos State Special People Law of 2011.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, an advocacy group for the rights of people with disabilities, conducted the research and presented the report.
Awelenje said the state government was passionate about the well-being of People Living With Disabilities and that taken steps to protect their interests.
He listed some of the steps as the employment of 250 PLDs in the state civil service and the creation of a N500million Disability Fund to empower people with disabilities.
He said: “We are passionate about the well-being and the protection of people living with disabilities, and we have taken a number of steps to show that.
“For example, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode approved the employment of 250 people living with disabilities last year and I can tell you that those employed are already working at their various posts.
“Apart from that, the state government created a N500million fund in 2015 and just last year 100 PLDs were given N100,000 each, non-refundable, to support them.
“If you look at the projects such as pedestrian bridges we are executing, you will see we are incorporating things to ensure the convenience of people with disabilities.
“We have also trained some people with disabilities, specifically those with hearing issues, on the use of sign language to be able to communicate verbally.
“We have been doing this and more, and the government will continue to do its best to ensure the well-being of people with disabilities is protected.”
Awelenje said the government had also distributed items such as wheelchairs to people in need, to ease their movement.
The General Manager said LASODA had increased its presence in five local government areas including Alimosho, Ikorodu and Epe, to improve access to PLDs at the grassroots.
He, however, acknowledged that it was difficult for the government through LASODA to reach all PLDs in the state, as some opted not to be supported while the influx of others into the state had made access difficult.
Awelenje said: “The problem of people with disabilities is a complex and a multi-dimensional one.
“They are the poorest of the poor and obviously the least educated.
“We will continue to do our best to impact on the lives of PLDs, but I must point out that we cannot reach some because they do not want to be reached.
“Some say they do not want to belong to any cluster for us to reach them easily, while others are too ignorant to understand the meaning of integration.
“Also, the influx of PLDs to the state on a daily basis creates another challenge.
“However, we are doing our best we get to as many PLDs as we are able to impact on.”
Awelenje said the state government had complied significantly with the provisions of its Disability Law and would continue to seek ways of ensuring more was done.
He commended the CCD for the research and the report, saying the group demonstrated passion with PLDs with the idea.
Speaking, David Anyaele, Executive Director, CCB, said the essence of the research and the report was to monitor compliance with the Disability Law in the state.
This, he said, was with a view to highlight the areas needing improvement.
He, however, said the state government had done a lot to implement the law, but there was still need for improvement at the agencies in the provision of certain conveniences for people with disabilities.
Anyaene also called for the domestication of the law at the local government level, to enable the tier of government cater for the needs of PLDs at the grassroots.
He said: “The government has done well no doubt, but we still need to domesticate the law at the grassroots because the councils are the closest to the people.
“Also, a situation where PLDs need to be directed to ministries for certain conveniences in the agencies is not good enough. We need improvement too.
“We will continue to provide facts and data on the law in Lagos and other states to monitor compliance and ensure the well-being of PLDs is promoted.”
Also speaking, Saheed Bakare, Vice-Chairman, Lekki Local Council Development Area, urged the state government to create more awareness about its programmes for PLDs at the grassroots.
He said many people with disabilities were not aware of such programmes, urging LASODA to engage councils on its activities to bridge the gap.