The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Tajudeen Abbas had approved the engagement of a sign language interpreter in the lower chamber during plenary and other legislative proceedings.
The Chairman House of Representatives Committee on Disability, Dr Bashiru Dawodu, said this on Friday in Abuja at a news conference organised by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and coalition of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) in Nigeria under the aegis of Accelerate Disability Inclusion in Emergencies (ADIE) Forum.
Hon. Dawodu said Speaker Abbas had recently given an approval to have sign language interpreters in the lower chamber during proceedings.
He said, “We have had some discussions with the Speaker and he has obliged us that for the first time, we will have sign language interpreters during plenary so that PWDs in that category can understand deliberations in the House. I will vigorously pursue your recommendations because I agree with what you have said.”
He also pledged support for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in the country, assuring that he would use his office to promote their cause.
He, however, challenged them to not relent in demanding their rights which are not given on a platter.
In her goodwill message, the Senior Resident Director of the NDI, Kelley Jones, said she was aware of how much ADIE Forum members appreciate the support of the House of Representatives Committee, on Disability Dr. Bashiru Dawodu and urged Nigerians to see the PWDs rights as a national cause.
Addressing their demands, the ADIE Forum, laments that the plights of PWDs has worsened, especially in the face of fuel subsidy removal and high cost of living and demanded a reversal of the 7.5% Value Added Tax VAT to its initial 5% as part of measures to ameliorate their plights.
Those who spoke for the PWDs were Grace Jerry, Co-chairperson, Accelerate Disability Inclusion in Emergencies ADIE Forum, and Executive Director, Inclusive Friends Association (IFA); Christian Agbo, Co-chairperson, ADIE Forum; and Executive Director, the Qualitative Magazine; Jake Epelle, Founder/Chief Executive Officer TAF Africa, and Member, ADIE Forum; Lois Auta, Chief Executive Officer, Cedar Seed Foundation; and member, ADIE Forum; Betty Mube, Women Leader, Joint National Association of Persons With Disabilities (JONAPWD), FCT Chapter; and, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Chair, Board of Trustees, Amnesty International Nigeria.
They said that the removal of the fuel subsidy by the federal government has brought untold socio-economic hardship to Nigerians, especially marginalized groups like PWDs, women and youth.
They among others urged federal, state, and local governments to immediately introduce an affordable public transportation system that is accessible to PWDs that would include buses with adjustable ramps and handrails for wheelchair users, signage and electronic display for directions with audio announcements for the benefit of the deaf and the blind.
They added, “The federal and state governments should initiate a stand-alone social protection intervention for persons with disabilities PWDs, including establishing reliable databases of PWDs, food banks for an equitable distribution of economic palliatives to PWDs, and targeted financial assistance.
“There is no clarity on how marginalized groups like PWDs will be accommodated in the economic palliatives recently announced by the federal and state governments. This recommendation will address that. The federal government should reverse the Value Added Tax VAT from 7.5 percent to 5 percent by October 2023, and halt further increases in existing taxes, tariffs, and duties, as well as the introduction of new ones for the next one year to increase the purchasing power of Nigerians, especially PWDs.
“We had also proposed this to begin to take effect in September but that has not been achieved. Also, we have noted commentaries from the federal government about reducing the number of taxes in the country from about 62 to a single digit. We believe that this and our recommendations above are most desirable.
“Government should conduct awareness campaigns to educate the public about the challenges faced by persons with disabilities, emphasizing the importance of inclusive transportation and the adverse effects of the fuel subsidy removal on the community of persons with disabilities. These programs should promote empathy, respect, and understanding to curb discrimination and foster an inclusive society.
“The federal government should work towards disability-inclusive budgeting to facilitate effective implementation of disability-inclusive policies towards a robust social protection system for vulnerable Nigerians, especially persons with disabilities. There is no better time for this than now, when the 2024 budget is being developed.”
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