The Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) has called on the Ebonyi government to enact the National Disability Act, signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
The association made the call on Friday in Abakaliki at a bimonthly meeting organized by the Economic and Social Empowerment of Rural Communities (ESERC) in cooperation with the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative.
Mr. Franklin Chieme, Chairman of the National Association of JONAPWD, said the domestication of the Disability Act in Ebonyi would go a long way in overcoming many of the challenges faced by members.
He said the group had made several attempts to get the state government to initiate a process that would lead to the adoption of the Ebonyi version of the national disability law.
Chieme expressed his displeasure that since the law was passed in 2019, all efforts by the union to get the Ebonyi government inside have been rejected by bureaucratic bottlenecks.
“Since this Disability Act came into effect in 2019, all of our efforts to domesticate it in the state have failed as the government foiled efforts to do so.
“We are marginalized in practically everything, including political office and even in the way our public buildings are designed and built, we are neglected.
“We are viewed as subhuman and without a law to protect our rights we are only at the mercy of the leaders.
“The law, when domesticated, will provide us with legal tools to contest most member ill-treatment.
Mr Ifeanyi Nwokporo, JONAPWD coordinator in the central Ebonyi Senate Zone, consisting of Ezza North, Ezza South, Ikwo and Ishielu Local Government Areas (LGAs), called on governments at all levels to prioritize the welfare of people with disabilities.
He regretted that people with disabilities suffer from discrimination and other forms of neglect and stressed that domestication of the Disability Act would significantly address the challenges.
“The meeting is a welcome development because it offers us a platform to express our feelings about our challenges and also to receive answers from the ESERC.
“We believe that the ESERC, as part of the EU-UN Spotlight initiative, will take up this fight and ensure that the state government and the Ebonyi House of Assemby accelerate action to pass the Disability Act,” said Nwokporo.
One attendee, Mr Sunday Ede, said public buildings were not designed to accommodate people with disabilities, making it difficult to access most of the state’s public facilities.
“For example, when you go to the hospital, you have to go to different departments for one thing or another, and that limits access,” he said.
Mr. John Chukwu, a participant, noted that people with disabilities received subhuman treatment in the state and were considered to be inferior.
“We are treated as second-class citizens and with contempt. This is mainly done by the politicians who use us for cheap advertising in the election campaign, ”he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ikechukwu Nwaogu, ESERC’s project manager, promised during his response that the organization would take the lead to ensure that the disability law is domesticated in the state.
He said stakeholders and the Ebonyi House of Assembly were campaigning for a process that would eventually lead to the domestication of the law.
“Our organization will support your struggle to make the dream of domestication of the Disability Act come true and help you meet other social and economic challenges that members face.