Members of the Physically Challenged Empowerment Initiative (PCEI) have called on the state and federal governemnts to create platforms and infrastructure that will put an end to segregation, discrimination, and non-inclusivity experienced by persons living with disabilities (PWDs).
The group made this call during a courtesy visit to PREMIUM TIMES’ Lagos office on Friday. They said the visit was organised in commemoration of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD).
The group expressed some of the challenges they face as PWDs living in Lagos, including lack of access to public offices.
IDPD is celebrated on December 3 every year, since 1992, to promote the rights and well-being of PWDs and to create awareness on their situation.
This year’s celebration is themed ‘Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-COVID-19 world.’
Zinna Mohammed, the coordinator of PCEI, who led the group, said there is no freedom of access to many government offices, citing the challenges their members face trying to benefit from government support programmes.
Mr Mohammed said the ineffective system, which has been in practice for over 40 years in Nigeria, in which the government doles out cash to random PWDs who have no skill to maintain and multiply the cash received has to stop.
“The government is not trying to help the people, we are not in support of dashing out N100,000 to people.
“If the government really wants to assist PWDs, they need to build institutions that can steer and empower people. What government needs to do is invest in institutions to cater for the skilling and empower of people with disabilities. That is the way out and not the current existing protocols,” he said.
Lack of access, segregation
Mr Mohammed said the inaccessibility of PWDs to public spaces is taking a toll on their inclusion in the society, citing the challenges members face with registration for National Identification Number (NIN).
“You can’t even approach many of these places, they are like are you here to beg, and send many of our members back,” he said.
Shehu Isah, another PWD, expressed the difficulty experienced by PWDs in accessing the airport, banks, like every other able Nigerian.
“It is very difficult for a person with disability, like me, in this country to have free access to the airport, bank, and other public places. It is very difficult for a PWD to go to the airport, go to the counter by themselves, and buy tickets independently like any other individual in the country.
“This is because of segregation, they sideline persons with disability. The moment you go o the airport, they assume you are a beggar and when you resist that you want to travel, you turn from beggar to troublemaker. They will gather some hefty security to bundle you out with your money and everything, just because you are disabled, he said.
Mr Isah, who used to be a shop owner at the domestic airport in Lagos (MM1), said he was ejected during the renovation of the shops to meet international standard, but was never taken back.
Mr Isah urged the Disability Commission to start acting truly on behalf of PWDs and not for a few disabled elites.
Illegal arrest of PWDs
Speaking on his unlawful arrest in Lagos, Saidu Iliyasu, a PWD, said he was arrested in October, and held at a detention centre for a month.
Mr Iliyasu, who was arrested by officers of the ‘Rescue Team’ under the Lagos State Ministry and Youth and Sports, said he was taken to the Lagos State Rehabilitation Centre at Majidun, Ikorodu, which has now been turned into a detention and holding centre for PWDs and destitute.
“I was out of my house on that fateful day to buy roasted corn and as I turned back, I was arrested by the officers and they collected the N6000 cash I had with me and other valuables. I was shouting that I am not a beggar, but they did not listen.”
Mr Ilyasu said he repairs radios and sells used phones, but had his rights violated by officials of the Lagos state government, was charged to court for street begging, and ended up paying a fine to bail himself out.
The group urged the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, and other executives to look into the activities of the “Rescue Officers” and in extension the operation of the rehabilitation centre.
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