Centre advocates removal of barriers for PWDs in politics, justice

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By Adeyemi Adeleye

The Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD) on Thursday called on the three tiers of governments to intensify efforts at removing barriers of discriminations against People With Disabilities (PWDs) in politics and justice system.

The CCD’s Programme Officer, Mrs Christiana Njoku, made the call in Lagos at a two-day programme for PWDs, entitled “Capacity Building Workshop For Aspiring Politicians with Disabilities”.

The forum was organised in partnership with VOICE Nigeria.

Njoku called for the implementation of the rights of PWDs to  political inclusivity.

“PWDs are aware of their rights to participate in politics, but not as much as they ought to—hence, the reason why CCD organises the training to create more awareness, advocates and encourages them.

“We call on the government to address the barriers of discrimination that PWDs face during electioneering,” Njoku said.

According to her, the aim of the workshop is to equip aspiring politicians with disabilities with the essential leadership information and skills required to participate and excel in politics and governance.

“This programme is one of the activities of a project on enhancing access to justice, political participation and governance in Lagos State.

“Before now, we’ve engaged relevant stakeholders including The Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), INEC and Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) to create awareness.

“Just recently, before this programme, we trained LASIEC officers; we built their capacity on how they can help to enhance equal voting access for PWDs,” Njoku said.

Speaking, Tolani Ojuri, a PWD with Albinism, who is the State Chairman of Albinism Association of Nigeria, said that more ought to be done to encourage PWD in politics and justice system.

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Ojuri said: “Aside being a dirty game, it is more challenging for persons with disabilities to participate in politics due to the societal and environmental barriers they face on the long run.

“I believe that this workshop will definitely enlighten PWDs and improve their capacity to ably participate in politics and governance with their able-bodied counterparts.”

According to him, INEC and other electoral bodies are well aware of PWDs, and much awareness has been ongoing to provide assistive devices.

He listed some of the assistive devices to include magnifying glasses, braille and other things to help PWDs exercise their voting rights.

Ojuri said: “Now, the awareness is for PWDs to participate as both electorate and as candidates for political offices.

“With this workshop, we’re putting more emphasis on PWDs taking part in the political process at the party level, coming out as candidate.

“It is not necessary that a PWD comes out to run as a candidate, but having PWDs getting involved in the political process—in the areas of advocacy, party participation and in the various levels of governance.”

He called on INEC and other stakeholders in the political space to pay more attention to this.

“It is not just making provisions for PWDs on election day; there’s so much to be done in accommodating PWDs in the political space,” he said.

Ojuri advised PWDs to become more active participants in politics, saying the political space was open for them just like their able-bodied counterparts.

Mr Afolabi Kayode, a visually impaired PWD, who represented PWDs in Alimosho Local Government Area (Ward F), said that the training should be a continuous programme to keep enlightening PWDs on their rights of political participation.

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Reiterating that PWDs had been segregated from politics, Kayode, who described himself as an APC card carry member, said his aspiration was to become a Special Adviser for PWDs in his local government.

He urged PWDs to carry themselves with high esteem and express themselves at political meetings and rallies.

Speaking, Mr Temitope Agbabiaka, a Physically challenged Councillor, Representing Apena, in Isolo Local Council Development Area (LCDA) and who is physically challenged, urged PWDs to participate in politics.

According to him, there is much more for the PWDs to do to gain access into the political space.

Agbabiaka said: “I happen to be the chairman of PWDs in my ward, and the Secretary General of the National Association. of PWD—physical disability in Lagos State.

“On my part, I have been doing what I could do as a councilor to motivate our people to take active participation in politics.

“However, considering the total participation of PWDs in politics, we’re still far behind.

“So, we need more awareness and also to encourage the government to implement the rights of PWDs to participate in politics.”

The councillor, who noted that APC had been encouraging physical disability cluster, however, said”the blind and the deaf are far behind in political participation”.

“Whoever wears the shoes knows where they pinch. I would like to implore the government or the ruling party to establish offices of Special Assistant or Special Adviser on Disability Matters in all local government offices.

“Let these offices be held by a PWD so that our challenges can be taken there.

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“I believe this will surely encourage PWDs to participate more in politics,” he said. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)

Edited by Kevin Okunzuwa/Vivian Ihechu

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