The Executive Director of Project Enable Africa, Mr Olusola Owonikoko, has tasked stakeholders on unified efforts towards implementation of the Persons with Disabilities Prohibition Act.
Owonikoko, who is also the founder, made the call during the Disability Inclusion and Leadership Awards and dialogue night in Abuja.The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Project Enable is a community development initiative, founded in 2014 to advocate for the rights and empowerment of persons with disabilities in Nigeria.
The organisation believed that everyone deserves a good quality of life and that no one should be discriminated against on the account of their disability.
The group works to empower persons with disabilities; sensitise the community to the need to reduce discrimination and stigmatisation and advocates for the disability rights at all levels.
Owonikoko said it took Nigeria 18 years to pass the bill into law, which he said should not have been so, owing to the importance of the law in uplifting the welfare and living of PWDs.
According to him, efforts must be made to prevent a recurrence.
“It is easy to just believe that we have an Act and just move on but let’s not forget that if we don’t document history and pay attention to it, we will repeat it.
“There are still so many bills and acts around disability that will be passed; we need to understand how those ones will not take 18 years because the Nigerian Disability Act took that long years of advocacy and struggle, ” he said.
Owonikoko said that as the organisation joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disability, it was important to know that the full implementation of the Act was essential for the promotion of disability rights and social inclusion for persons with disability.
He noted that the DIAL awards aimed to “celebrate the tenacity and resilience of persons with disability in Nigeria, to showcase a documentary worked on in partnership with the Columbia University in New York.
This, lle said this was really about documenting the processes that led to the Nigerian disability Act and to recognise and appreciate those who made the bill happen.
“A number of persons with disability struggled in a movement, advocated, spent their money and made strategic moves that went above and beyond to ensure that we get to a place where we now have the disability act.
“What went wrong, what should have happened, what should have been done better? These are the conversations we will be having and showcase through the documentary.
He said the documentary could subsequently get things done faster for the community and everybody could see the struggles, the challenges, the things that persons with disability faced through the documentary, ” he said.
The NGO boss said that post COVID-19 had been tough on everybody but even tougher for persons with disability.
He said “holding forth, trying to make ends meet, driving economic activities and even running their families required some sort of commendation.
“We are here to award them with the 2023 disability, inclusion and leadership award recognition of their efforts, “he said.Executive Director, Global Hope and Justice, Mr Paul Ihekwoaba, said the DIAL award was a call for all to continue to strive for the betterment of humanity, irrespective of where they found themselves.
Ihekwoaba spoke on the importance of the award to pioneers of the struggle that birthed the law, saying it had been a very tough fight as some were pioneers since the return of democracy.
According to him, “We are not where we want to be, but we are no longer where we were yesterday.
“We must give credit to the Former President, Muhammadu Buhari because it was under his regime that he found the wisdom to sign that bill into an Act.
“it was a bill that lingered in the National Assembly all through but under the leadership of the then Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the bill passed and President Buhari signed it into law.
“It didn’t just stop there, we give more thanks to President Buhari because he gave teeth to that Act by establishing the Commission and today we have the National Commission for Persons with Disability, headed by Mr James Lalu.
“And for the very first time, the president was also able to create the office of Senior Special Assistant on Disability.
“There are tangible and intangible achievements so far through effort of the commission and the activities of Organisation of Persons with Disabilities, have sustained that advocacy that makes disability issues visible,” he said.
High points of the event were presentation of awards where Senior Special Assistant to the President on Disability Matters, Mohammed Isa was honoured with Disability Inclusion and Accessibility Leadership Award among many other awardees.
Isa’s award was in recognition of his enormous contributions to the struggle that led to the enactment and signing into law of the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018.