The National President of JONAPWD, Abdulahi A Usman speaking at the International Disability Day

International Disability Day, which is a very important day in the lives of persons with disabilities is marked on the 3rd of December every year to mobilize support for critical issues relating to the inclusion of persons with disabilities, promote awareness raising about disability issues, and draws attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all. The 2023 theme, “United in action to rescue and achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for, with, and by persons with disabilities.

In line with the objective of the day, JONAPWD commemorated this important day on the 30th of November and focused its discussions on “Advancing Post-Moratorium Agenda of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities” in Nigeria.

At the meeting, key speakers spoke on Assessing inclusive policy-driven adoptions and adjustments in national development agenda(s),Building on existing mechanisms of accountability for the realization of rights for persons with disabilities, particularly as it concerns the inclusion of marginalized groups within the disability movements, and Improving authentic partnership toward ensuring the full enforcement of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act by 2024.

Jake Epelle, Founder/CEO TAF Africa and Ujahdeen Suleiman, Disability Inclusion Advisor (CBM Global-Nigeria)
In the middle, James Lalu, the Executive Director, NCPWD
Abel Akhere, Deputy Director, Special Needs Education, Federal Ministry of Education
Chike Churchill Okogwu, Founder, Innovative Ideas Development Services, speaking at the International Disability Day
Dr. Linda Odeh, the Chief of Party for PALLADIUM, speaking at the International Disability Day
The House Committee Chairman on Disability Matters, Dr. Bashiru Dawodu
Ekaete Umoh, the Nigeria Country Director for CBM Global, speaking at the International Disability Day

Kole Shettima, the Country Director for MacArthur Foundation, in his key note address, thanked FCDO for sponsoring the event. He mentioned that the big question now is “What are we going to do to ensure that our commitments do not go to waste?” There is the assumption that only physical disabilities exist whilst there are other disability types. He hopes that from the beginning of 2024, we can begin to hold people accountable for the commitments they have made. He mentioned
what CSOs can do to indicate commitment. They include the following:

  1. CSOs need to audit their offices, in terms of accessibility as we cannot be found wanting ourselves.
  2. All staff in our organizations need to be trained to understand disability concerns. This will ensure that everyone in the organization speaks the same language.
  3. We must evaluate our spending patterns (budget allocation in regards to disability matters)
  4. Community development and the use of shame awards to organizations who are not doing well. He also pointed an attention towards what we are doing to ensure that the different needs of persons with disabilities are taken into cognizance (recognizing the challenges)
  5. We must think about justice and the overlapping interconnectivity and intersectionality. He ended his address by mentioning that Macarthur is committed towards ensuring that it lives up to its values towards the movement.

The Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, James Lalu, in his remarks mentioned that certain ramps are inaccessible for persons with disabilities. He also hinted on plans to train accessibility consultants for 6 months in 2024. The training personnel are coming from the UK and India. Also, he pointed out that a lot of people are unaware that accessibility is beyond ramps; they think that once they provide ramps, they’ve done the needful. He also mentioned that the end of the moratorium gives us the legal framework to work with. In January, there will be an understanding by the public that ignorance is not an excuse. He also commended JONAPWD for their maximum support, advise, and demands, as its ensures that the Commission is always on its toes.

Dr. Linda Odeh, the Chief of Party for PALLADIUM, highlighted the theme of the disability day, “United in action to rescue and achieve the SDGs for, with and by persons with disabilities” She mentioned that Nigeria recognizes the ratification of the UNCRPD, signing of the Disability Act, and the recently ratified African Disability Protocol. As the grace period is coming to an end, it is important to evaluate how far we have come, especially in regards to inclusive programming. She called on development partners and donors to put in more resources to push for more inclusion. She also mentioned that Inclusion can be guaranteed by improving accessibility. Our efforts put together will ensure a future where the rights of persons with disabilities is guaranteed.

Theophilus West Africa Program Lead (Disability Rights Fund) acknowledged working with the disability community over the years to enforce disability matters. He mentioned a meeting he attended in Maputo, where a link was shared with him to inform about the ratification of the African Disability Protocol; he was excited but noted that merely ratifying the protocol is not sufficient as its enforcement is the major issue and requires urgent attention. We need to enforce what has happened in the past, and even though it is expensive, it is important. He highlighted that most buildings are inaccessible and pledged the support of DRF I seeing that this gap is bridged. To truly succeed, we must truly leave no one behind and work with the youth who are the chief drivers of this process.

Ekaete Umoh, the Nigeria Country Director for CBM Global, mentioned that they stand in solidarity with all that has been said in the goodwill messages of previous speakers. She spoke about a period where the Disability Bill went missing and everyone come together to find it. The Bill was later signed into law and this was all because of collective efforts. She pledged that CBMG will continue to work to ensure that the law translate into rights. She was also elated that International Disability Day is gradually moving away from the charity model; in time past, all that was done was to gather people and share certain palliatives and wear T. Shirts.

The National President of JONAPWD, Abdulahi A Usman, observed all protocols and thanked everyone for honoring the invitation. He stated that the meeting was an accountability mechanism for stakeholders. The meeting will identify stakeholders needed to ensure each right of persons with disability is fulfilled.

The House Committee Chairman on Disability Matters, Dr. Bashiru Dawodu mentioned the importance of the Disability Act and noted how important the meeting is seeing that moratorium period is coming to an end in a few months. He stated the importance of creating more awareness to ensure that the entire public has adequate information about the provisions of the Act. He urged CSOs to continue their advocacies, stay strong, and be aware that they are not alone.

Dr, Sunday Udoh, stated that the goal is to ensure a society that is truly equitable. He stated that the real work is about to begin now that the moratorium is almost over. He urged stakeholders to ensure that the contents of the Act are fully implemented. He brought to the attention of participants that the Act has been translated into the 3 major Nigerian languages; this is to ensure that language is not a barrier and that no one is left behind. The Ministry of Information, National Information Agency, should join hands to ensure that contents of the Act are fully disseminated. Persons with disabilities must be free from all forms of discrimination and live life to the fullest.

At the end of the meeting, the National Secretary of JONAPWD, Ishaku Adamu, thanked everyone who made out time to honor the invitation and hoped that participants had learned from the event. He also mentioned that the support of everyone in the community is needed to move forward. He prayed for a safe trip for everyone to their various destinations.

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