Nigeria calls for establishment of ECOWAS agency for disability Affairs


…To Seal Offices Not Accessible to Persons With Disability 

Nigeria government has called for the establishment of the ECOWAS Agency for Disability Affairs (EADA)

This, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Mr. Abel Enitan said would ensure an all-inclusive region, where persons with disabilities in member states are not left 

Enitan said this would add to help in the integration of all regional policies and strategies on disabilities. 

The Permanent Secretary said this on Thursday in Abuja  at the opening of a-two day maiden edition of meeting of ministers in charge of disability inclusion in West Africa. The meeting is meant to adopt the region's action plan for the inclusion of disabilities. 

He advises member states that are yet to ratify the relevant disability instruments to do so quickly. 

He said: “In order to make an all-inclusive region for persons with disabilities in member states, Nigeria is calling for the establishment of the “ECOWAS Agency for Disability Affairs” EADA to integrate regional disability policies and strategies for rehabilitation and equal opportunity in the community, as well as provide a mechanism to protect, promote, support, and respect the actions of people with disabilities. 

“This affirmative action must be viewed through the prism of human diversity, while ensuring that individuals with disabilities have as many opportunities as possible to participate in all levels of decision making in ECOWAS, in the spirit of “Nothing about us without us,” so that no one falls behind.”

The Permanent Secretary also stressed the importance of disability inclusion, which he said “remains  a critical issue in the region, with millions of individuals experiencing barriers to empowerment initiatives and social protection, among others.”

He challenged the ECOWAS Commission to employ people with disability “as part of the Commission's effort to prioritise  inclusion.

He added that based on human right,  “disability is a part of human diversity that must be respected and supported in all its forms, people with disability have the same right as everyone else in society.”

Speaking on what Nigeria has done to ensure inclusion, Enitan said  Nigeria ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of people with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2007 and passed the Discrimination Against Persons with Disability (Prohibition) Act 2018 and subsequently approved the establishment of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, with the mandate to coordinate and implement activities that ensure the inclusion of persons with Disabilities into society in areas such as education, healthcare, employment, civil rights, and related matters, as outlined in the Act. 

ECOWAS Commissioner for Human Development and Social Affairs, Prof Fatou Sow Sarr, on her part, stressed the vulnerability of people living with disabilities. 

Sarr said the regional body has intensified efforts and is working with various bodies to initiate programmes to provide palliatives.

She also revealed that the Commission was currently implementing a pilot project in Togo and Nigeria which will provide assisting devices to children with disabilities.

This programme, she said, is expected to cover other member states in the future.

Meanwhile, public offices not accessible to people living with disabilities will be sealed, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Special needs and equal opportunities, Mohammed Abba-Isa, has said. 

Abba-Isa said that President Bola Tinubu is expected to launch the presidential Committee for accessibility this third quarter.

The Committee, according to him, has been saddled with the responsibility of implementing the country's disability Act.

Abba-Isa said Ministries, Departments and Agencies that fails to restructure to accommodate easy accessibility for people with disability will be sealed as part of the implementation policy of disabikity inclusion.

The presidential aide noted that the grace period given to the offices had expired.

He spoke in Abuja  at the opening of a two day maiden edition of meeting of ministers in charge of disability inclusion in West Africa. The meeting is meant to adopt the region's action plan for the inclusion of disabilities. 

He said, “Mr. President has mandated my office to make sure I implement the regional action plan. 

“We are going to launch accessibility committee. We are going to engage with all the MDAs. 

“We are going to launch a presidential taskfoce all because if you look at the moratorium or grace period given to all these buildings to modify or adjust has passed, the five years moratorium period.

“ So we are now in the implementation stage and Mr  President has given us the mandate.

“ All these offices that did not comply we are going to seal them because we are at the implemetation stage. “

He stressed that Ignorance of the law is not an excuse. 

So we are liaising with the Ministry of Humanitarian and Povery Alleviation, other agencies and the National.Commission for Persons with Disability to set up the committee and Mr  President will soo  launch the committee. 

He said the committee is going to checkmate all the charade against accessibility of public buildings by people with disabilities. 

He however said it is going to be a gradual process since the Act was recently signed into law. 

Citing the case of United States, Abba-Isa said despite 35 years of existence of the law, there are still some buildings that are not accessibile for people with disability.

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