By Becky John
The Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, an NGO, on Friday said the delay in signing the Disability Bill into law by President Goodluck Jonathan had continued to expose persons with disabilities (PWDs) to institutionalized exclusion. The Executive Director of the NGO, Mr David Anyaele, made the assertion at a news conference held in Lagos against the backdrop of the just-concluded general elections.
“All provisions made by the Independent National Electoral Commission during the polls were based on charity and minimally adhered to by the ad-hoc staff managing the polls.
“Voting units were placed in inaccessible environment,’’ Anyaele said.
He urged the president to sign the bill into law as it was the surest way of guaranteeing inclusion, participation, access to electoral process among persons living with disability in Nigeria.
“The bill provides for prohibition of discrimination against PWDs and awareness about the plight of PWDs by the Federal Ministry of Information.
“Accessibility of physical structures, roads, sidewalks for PWDs, and for road transportation vehicle owners to provide facilities for PWDs.
“Also, adequate standard of living and social protection for PWDs and participation in politics and public life,’’ he said.
The director said that the organisation during the just-concluded elections, observed a low turnout of PWDs at the polls. He said, “This may not be unconnected to their ability to register during voters registration and collect their Permanent Voter Cards (PVC).
“Most of the voter registration venues were situated in an inaccessible environment to PWDs such as cross drainages, halls with staircases as priority posters were also missing in the units visited.
“These are some of the factors that may hinder PWDs from participating in the electoral process. “
Anyaele said that the only way PWDs could participate and contribute to social development of the country was to engage policy makers on issues of equal opportunity and inclusive development programmes.
“At CCD level, we are implementing a project on access to justice which opens space for policy makers and justice actors.
“It will enable them to design their programmes and policies in such a way that PWDs will participate on equal basis with others.
“We are also conducting a research on access to social infrastructure that showcases the extent or the level of access to such infrastructure that is pertinent to participation.
“We intend to use this document to engage the incoming government, ruling party and other policy makers.
“This is to ensure that they appreciate disability issues, as well as take appropriate measures to open space for PWDs to participate.
“These are some of the things we are doing to ensure that Nigerians with disabilities participate and contribute to the social development of the society,’’ he said.