Persons with disabilities in Abia have appealed to Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu to intervene in ensuring the easy passage of the state disability bill intended to protect them from discrimination and other harmful practices.
The appeal was contained in a communique issued at the end of a one-day stakeholders’ forum on “state of persons with disabilities in Abia”, held on Tuesday in Umuahia and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria on Thursday.
The forum, which was organised by the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) in Abia, expressed disappointment that the sixth state Assembly could not pass the bill before the end of its tenure.
It also expressed concern “over discrimination and exclusion of Senior Special Assistants (SSAs) and Special Advisers (SAs) to the Governor on Disability Matters during state government functions with little or no access for persons with disabilities at such events.”
The communique, which was jointly signed by the Executive Director of the centre, Mr David Anyaele, and Chairman of the Joint National Associations, Mr Stanley Onyeebuchi, also appealed to the government to see persons with disabilities as equal stakeholders in society.
It requested the government to mainstream them in every sphere of the political and socio-economic life of the state.
It further urged the Abia government “not to see issues concerning persons with disabilities from charity perspective.”
It therefore urged Ikpeazu to ensure that all appointments and employment opportunities in the state complied with the provision of Section 29 of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018.
It noted that the Act provides for the reservation of at least 10 per cent of such opportunities for persons with disabilities.
The forum expressed disappointment that persons with disabilities, who were governor’s aides, had no “reasonable accommodation to aid their job.”
It lauded the governor for appointing eight persons with disabilities as SSAs but also called for an increase in the number of such appointments.
The communique also demanded for more opportunities, including appointments as commissioners, permanent secretaries, advisers, chief executives and board members of parastatals, among others.
It called for public understanding of the peculiarities faced by persons with disabilities and the additional economic burden imposed on them by their conditions.
It therefore appealed to the governor to approve the restoration of Disability Allowance for those in the state Public Service and payment of allowance to all Abia indigenes living with disabilities.
The forum called on all political appointees from the disability community to collaborate toward improving the lot of persons with disabilities, rather than working at cross purpose with one another.
The forum commended the governor for initiating different empowerment programmes in favour of persons with disabilities in all the 17 local government areas of the state.
It also hailed the state government for engaging persons with disabilities in para-sports, describing sports as an important tool for integration and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities.
The centre stated that the forum was organised “as part of the efforts to demand accountability from political appointees that served the governor on disability matters.”