By Emmanuel Elebeke
UYO—Worried by the continued deprivation and total neglect of physically challenged persons in Nigeria, Journalists Against Poverty, JAP, initiative, yesterday took to the streets of Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital to protest the exclusion of what it called a critical segment of the nation’s population by government.
JAP is a development driven group of journalists, focused on ending poverty and corruption in Nigeria.
While protesting, the group expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which government at both national, state and local levels, especially the law makers have shown disinterest in passing the Disability Bill that will improve the lives and protect the rights of the persons living with disabilities in Nigeria.
The group which has been on a workshop visit to Uyo, in partnership with ActionAid, took to the streets of Uyo with placards with various inscriptions such as: “Disability is not a crime; Journalists say Yes to Fisability bill; Persons living with Disabilities are also Nigerians, Protect their Rights!; 25 million Persons with disabilities in Nigeria deserve better inclusion; do not deny persons with disability friendly facilities”.
A leading member of the group and veteran journalist, Mr. Isine Ibanga, who spoke during the protest, said the continued exclusion of persons living with disability by the Nigerian government is no longer acceptable and world be resisted.
Ibanga, who put the rough estimate of persons living with disabilities in Nigeria at 25 million, said the figure is more than the population of five African countries put together.
:Such huge population of individuals in Nigeria should not be partially neglected and deprived of their fundamental human rights particularly in area of the basic needs of life such as access to quality Education, good healthcare services delivery amongst other needs.
“For too long, most State House of Assemblies which Akwa-Ibom State House of Assembly is among have refused to pass the Bill that would favor and protect the rights of these group of people in Nigeria.
“So far, only five States House of Assemblies out of the 36 states in Nigeria had passed Bill in favour of the Persons Living with disabilities which is quite low and disappointing”, he added.
Also speaking, another member of the group, Mr. Dan Otti, said Nigeria lag behind several and small African countries which had domesticated the Disability law, even when the country is a signatory to several Conventions and international treaties that support and protect these group of people.
For him, “not only those who are physically handicapped are the only persons living with disabilities. He said disability can come in different forms.”
“Disability could be any short and long period of impairment in any part of human body.
“Disability could be in your skin, it may just be in one of the fingers of your hands, or eyes, nose and ears or any temporal or permanent impairment to any of these body parts could make anyone look disabled” he added.
The protesters took the protest to NUJ Secretariat, Uyo chapel, the state owned newspaper, The Pioneer Newspaper and Akwa Ibom State Broadcasting Service, ABS.
The group vowed to press on until the Bill is passed and assented into law at all levels of government.