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Gbajabiamila Would Continue To Work For The Implementation Of The Nigerians With Disabilities Law – Barr Idowu Kamaldeen

Speaker House of Representatives, Honorable Femi Gbajabiamila has declared his commitment to exploring all legislative means to work with the the other arms of government to ensure that the current thirty-one million Nigerians with disabilities as well as those who might become members of the community in future do not continue to suffer from the challenges that make life more challenging for them than others in the country.

He however expressed the hope that his efforts and those of the public spirited advocates that have committed to concluding the process of the establishment of the Nigerians with Disabilities Commission as well as the implementation of the Persons with Disabilities law would not be thwarted by the disagreements among the different interest groups within the Nigerian disability community.

In a few remarks over the weekend in Abuja, the Special Adviser to the Speaker House of Representatives on Special Needs/Equal Opportunities Barrister Idowu Kamaldeen told a group of persons with disabilities that Hon. Gbajabiamila having has consistently demonstrated his commitment to the issues through many of his activities since he was sworn-in as the Speaker of the House last year.

According to him, “without being prompted by anyone, the Speaker recently constituted a Standing Committee on Disability matters in the House, ably chaired by Hon. Miriam Odinaka Onuoha, something that has never been done anywhere in this country before he took the initiative.

Co-Founder, Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities JONAPWD, Ms. Omotunde Ellen Thompson and the Special Adviser to the Speaker House of Representatives on Special Needs/Equal Opportunities Barrister Idowu Kamaldeen discussing during a meeting on the newly established Nigerians with Disabilities Commission in Garki, Abuja…over the weekend Photo by Abayomi Adeshida

“When he appointed me to work with him on matters that would make life easier for the disability community in the country, many believed that he would make me redundant and unproductive.

“I believe that with this House Committee in place, more people would now believe that he is really ready to make a difference in the lives of the disability community in Nigeria by working with the Committee to ensure strict compliance with the spirit and letters of the act that established the Nigerians with Disabilities Commission.

“You will agree with him that upon the assumption of office as the Speaker, one of the major assignments he took upon himself was to accelerate all the process that it would take for the Disabilities act to become a law in the country.

“That was because he knew the efforts that had been put into the drafting of the Act by both local and international public spirited groups and associations.

“Particularly, the efforts of stakeholders and partners like the Texas-based Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities International that is being led by Chief Eric Ufom as well as the local non-governmental bodies like the Kpapando Foundation that have collectively advocated for the establishment of the Commission for over twenty years..

“It is regrettable however that even before the composition of the Commission, some groups within the community are already throwing some spanners into its wheels of progress.

“The only appeal here is that since nobody can single-handedly claim membership of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities JONAPWD, the various interest groups within the umbrella body should be prepared to be democratic and lobby other groups within the body to articulate the positions they have to push and get the support of majority of the body,

“This is the civil way to go so as not to cause any rancorous situation that would discourage those who worked to hard to take us this far.

“One fact remains that the estimated thirty-one million of the disability community in the country is a growing figure because many of those who are not captured today would still find themselves within the community sooner than they expect through some natural causes.

“So, the efforts of those who worked for the establishment of the Commission should be appreciated through a cooperation that is devoid of selfishness and a strong believe that the laws establishing the Commission as well as the Nigerian Constitution are capable of meting out deserving punishment to all those who fail to work with the guidelines of the law.

Earlier in her remarks Co-Founder, Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities JONAPWD, Ms. Omotunde Ellen Thompson who led the group on the visit said it was an advocacy visit to avoid the pitfalls that are capable of returning the disability community in the country to the problems that had held members of the community in the bog for a long time.

According to her, “we are all gifted in our individual ways and from the way things are going, if the implementation of the Nigerians with Disability law is not followed from its foundation, we are afraid that the future is bleak and all our efforts would come to naught.

“And if this is allowed to happen, the uprising that would visit this country would be worse than what was witnessed during the recent endsars protests that rocked the country.

“We believe that it does not take too much effort to follow the laws and avoid the skirmishes that are waiting to constitute huge problems within the disability community in the future.

“The law is clear about the composition of the Membership of the Commission. it is very regrettable that among all of the groups that are supposed to make up the Commission, it is only the member representing JONAPWD that is being handpicked and unfortunately, the preferred candidate by those who did the picking is not a popular candidate within the disability community through his pedigree and past records.

“We are appealing to those who can still correct this anomaly to hear our voice and help us to crown all the efforts of those who worked for the establishment of the Commission because there is nothing about us without us.

“If this Commission is about us and we are not asking to be the only people to run it, we appeal that we be allowed to make this important contribution so that we would all cooperate and be confident that the people there are there to protect our interests and not the interests of some political godfathers who are only going to use them as tools to further hold us down.

“We have come to you as we have gone to other places to state our position because we have seen that the Speaker House of Representatives has demonstrated that he is a leader that can help us push our position.

“You would recall that in our last letter to him where we thanked him for your appointment, we advocated the establishment of the Standing House Committee on Disability matters and he has made this year end very well for us by not only establishing the committee but demonstrating that he really meant to make a difference by appointing a female member as the Chairman.

“If this request is granted, we would not only be happy to work with the Commission, but we would be very glad that a member of the community who had committed many atrocities with the confidence reposed in him in his state is not being promoted to further make the larger community believe that the best of us is a problem to the entire society.

“As we speak today, the Nigerians with Disabilities Commission is the highest body that our members can run to for succor at our times of need, it would be unfair to hand us over to someone who would rather compound our problems than solve them for us.

“But for the efforts of many of our partners, especially the Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities International that is being led by Chief Eric Ufom. the disability community in Plateau State would have continued to suffer injustice and continuous repression from the hands of the man who was appointed to wipe their tears and protect them from the challenges that are likely to further compound their problems.

“We are not afraid of anyone because as providence has made it, our lives have been made to struggle more before we can achieve anything we wish to do in life, but this is an avoidable problem that can only be solved if the JONAPWD is allowed to choose a popular alternative to a man with dented records in public office.

“We appreciate those who are calling for a settlement of the matter, we believe that such call could only portray the leaders of JONAPWD as having been bought over if that candidate is still allowed to occupy the position and it would be an injustice to those members of the community that have been victims of his high-handedness, deliberate repressive acts and misuse of public trust.

“Rewarding such a character with a higher office would expose the larger community to unimaginable danger and make a nonsense of the entire twenty years of struggle for us to find our feet and carry our destinies in our hands.

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