The distribution of assistive devices to people with disabilities in Plateau State to commemorate the International Day for People with Disabilities (IDPD) put smiles on over 1,000 persons. ACHOR ABIMAJE (Jos) reports.
People living with disabilities on the Plateau will not forget in a hurry penultimate month, when they smiled home following the distribution of over 1,000 wheel chairs and hearing aids to them by the Plateau State government to ease their movement and communication.
The occasion was the commissioning and mass distribution of assistive devices to people with disabilities in Plateau State to commemorate the International Day for People with Disabilities (IDPD).
As the 2019 election is around the corner, politicians will stop at nothing to ensure that they bring succour to every segment of the society with the aim of winning their support in the general election.
The new development in the state has been viewed by many as not unconnected with the move by the state governor, Simon Lalong, to endear his administration to the people.
But whether politics or not, the persons affected with disabilities in the state are happy over the equipment recently given to them and which, in no small measure, assisted their conditions.
Unlike in the past that disability was synonymous with inability, government at all levels have resolved to carry every individual along, irrespective of their physical conditions or status, so as to achieve overall developmental objectives.
However, the theme for this year’s IDPD, which is: “Empowering Persons with Disabilities and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality,” is indeed apt and timely, considering that it focuses on the empowering of persons with disabilities for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development.
The move by governor Lalong cannot be faulted going by the theme, which emphasises empowerment and equity.
It has been argued that Disability Policy is an ambitious plan of action that is first among equals in Nigeria as it is by and large, leaving no one behind, in the journey to achieving a peaceful and prosperous environment where the dignity of an individual, and equality among all, is placed on the front burner, as enunciated by the United Nations.
Speaking at the event, which is the largest gathering ever in the state by people with disabilities, governor Simon Lalong, said that no fewer than six persons with disabilities, including members of the state cabinet, have been appointed into government stressing that this is the highest by any state government in Nigeria.
According to him, he has, again, given approval for additional 53 employment slots for the Disability Commission for the establishment of final offices and improved service delivery to the grassroots, stressing that the successes recorded in the pursuit of the disabilities’ cause are many.
Lalong added that in 2017, the state government, in collaboration with Tolaram Charity Foundation, distributed about 500 free artificial limbs to amputees in the state, having approved and paid the requisite counterpart funds.
“Government also recently granted approval for the training of two persons with disabilities on orthotics and prostheses in Malaysia for one year and six months. They have since returned home to contribute their quota to state and national development. Government also recently approved the sum of N3.7m to support a student with hearing challenge to complete his fees at Gallaudet University, USA.”
According to him, the state government is also partnering with OTTOBUCKS in Germany to build a world class workshop where artificial limbs of global standards are to be produced in the state at low cost while he has also given approval for the conduct of baseline survey of persons with disabilities.
The state governor also disclosed that partnership is ongoing in all districts to enable the government map out effective strategies for the inclusion and empowerment of persons with disabilities, noting that the survey is the first of its kind in Nigeria.
He further stressed, “Next month, I will commission the survey report, strategic plan for the commission and a standard website to promote the commission to the international community.”
Governor Lalong further commended the Mobility Aids Appliances and Development Centre (MAADEC), London for the kind donation of 550 Wheelchairs and Tricycles, 280 Crutches, 150 Blind Guide Canes, 10 Walking Frames, and 50 Walking Sticks to the state.
He warned the beneficiaries of the assistive aids that government has been made to understand that some people with disabilities who received such aids in the past later sold them out noting that while government continues to do the best it can to help everyone maximise their potentials and contribute their quota to nation building, they must refrain from such ingratitude and unpatriotic act and make the best use of what “you are taking back home today”.
In his opening remark, the chairman of Plateau State Disability Rights Commission, Mr James Lalu, said the commission is charged with the responsibility of ensuring the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and creating the enabling environments for persons with disabilities.
He pointed out that it is gratifying to disclose that the commission has vigorously pursued its mandate with astonishing speed and outcomes, saying it has secured for people with disabilities, donors’ assistance and support, such as the mobility aids, which they are commissioning and distributing.
According to him, the commissioning of these materials is a timely intervention, some promissory, in the areas of improved access to quality education, access to health services, construction of accessibility facilities, mass empowerment projects, skills development in modern technologies, among others.
Lalu, stressed that immediately he came on board, they commissioned and distributed 500 artificial lips to persons with disability free of charge as quite a number of their amputees benefited from the gesture while they realised the need for partnership with a view to improving the life of the physically challenged and as such, visit the US, British, European Union and Australian Embassies in Nigeria to seek for partnership.
According to him, the Australian embassy has supported the commission with 20 million naira in the area of capacity building for the physically challenged, stressing that they are working with the Plateau State House of Assembly to train them on the role they could play in the society by conducting workshops for them on leadership.
He explained that a lot of persons with disabilities are holders of PhDs, Masters Degree, First Degrees, yet they are not gainfully employed. He said the commission has secured employment for 21 physically challenged, adding the state government has magnanimously approved the employment of 53 others into the state civil services by governor Simon Lalong.
According to him, plans are on the way for all MDAs, local government service commissions to have at least two physically challenged persons in their employment in the state urging government at all levels to allocate certain positions to people living with disabilities because they are suffering in silence across Nigeria.
Lalu appealed to federal and states government to ensure that they create a tax system that can tackle needs of the physically challenged group. The chairman further said five per cent of revenue accruing to federal government and state governors should go into the account of persons with disabilities or states should remit their contributions as counterpart funds to address their needs.
Speaking to our correspondent shortly after the event, three of the beneficiaries, Isah Ahmadu, Buba Audu and Grace Iliya commended the state government for coming to their rescue by providing them with bicycles to ease their movement in the state.
According to the trio, previous administrations had neglected them saying that the over 1000 beneficiaries and their families would continue to be grateful to the government for standing by them.