The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said he will direct the Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation to mandate all television broadcast stations in Nigeria to use sign language interpreters on their channels during the broadcast of programmes, and particularly during the news broadcast as an action to promote the inclusion of person with disabilities in society. He said this at the FRCN Annual Lecture, tagged ‘A National Dialogue on Disability Inclusion’ which took place on the 14th of October 2021 at the Shehu Musa Yar’ Adua Center, Abuja.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed presenting his speech at the event

The Minister made this commitment while addressing issues raised during the plenary session at the FRCN Annual Lecture, for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in Nigeria. Some of the issues raised were, better financial empowerment of persons with disabilities and proper inclusion in the entire electoral and political process where dedicated slots for candidacy are given to them.

A member of the audience, Monsurat Abdulwasiu, the Former Abuja Association of Deaf Women Leader, specifically poured out her heartfelt dissatisfaction with the poor concern for deaf people in society. She said there are no sign language interpreters in TV broadcast media and in the hospitals. She said, she just watches the news and tries to figure out what the newscasters could possibly be saying but she is mostly lost since there is usually no sign language interpreter. 

Mrs. Monsurat Abdulwasiu making her contribution during plenary

The FRCN Annual Lecture is a dialogue session held in October of every year to bring together stakeholders and set the agenda for national discourse on pressing national issues to bring suggestions and positive solutions to national issues. The 2021 edition of the Annual Lecture is done in collaboration with the Albino Foundation with the theme: ‘The Imperative of Disability Inclusion in National Transformation.’  

In attendance was, The Senior Special Assistant, Media and Publicity to the President, Mallam Garba Shehu who extended the goodwill of the presidency and shared some activities of the government to support persons living with disabilities like the setting up of a disability commission and giving a directive for offices to be made accessible for persons with disability.

The Director-General of The FRCN, Dr. Mansur Liman who was the chief host of the event opened the occasion with a welcome speech where he said, though we live in the 21st Century where countries are making progress, in Nigeria and Subsaharan Africa, persons with disabilities often face stigma and unfair treatment which has a negative impact on their social inclusion. He said the lecture is timely considering the need to mainstream and include persons with disabilities in all sectors of society, in governance, and in national integration.

The Co-host and Founder of The Albino Foundation, Mr. Jake Epelle, said he is certain that the annual lecture would open a new narrative for the disability community in Nigeria. The Ambassador of the European Union to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mrs. Samuela Isopi, represented by the Programme Manager, Political Governance and Democracy Section, Mrs. Laolu Olawummi, called for the implementation of the rights of the disability community.

The guest speaker, Director General Institute for National Transformation, Prof. Vincent Anigbogu, represented by Professor of Political Science, Emeka Aniagolu, said the daily challenges faced by this group need to be addressed to give them a sense of belonging.

The panel discussants which was made up of representatives from academia, civil society, and the European Union, threw light on the intricate issues that affect these marginalised groups. Mrs. Ene Ede, the Executive Director, Equity Advocates, and Gender Advisor, Search for Common Ground brought to fore the special challenge faced by women with albinism who were experiencing menopausal symptoms and the mental and psychological health misconceptions that comes with it. 

Panel Discussants at the FRCN Annual Lecture

The Coordinator of the European Center for Electoral Support, Mr. Hamza Fassi-Fihri drew attention to the importance of making persons with disabilities a part of the decision-making process of governance. While speaking, he said, for persons with disabilities, “If you decide for us, without us, you decide against us.” 

Professor Mutiullah Olusupo, a lecturer at the University of Abuja, said, there are different models of approaching persons with disabilities. He said one of the popular models is the charity model where persons with disabilities are cared for as though they are being done a favour. However, he said, the right model for the society to adopt is the human rights model, because every person with disability has the same rights as any other person in the society does. Olusupo said that “there is no good governance where 29 million people are being excluded from the process of governance.”

As an outcome of the FRCN Annual Lecture, It is expected that disability inclusion in Nigeria would improve and would allow accessibility so that persons with disabilities can fully participate in activities such as education, politics, social interactions, and entrepreneurship and reduce their risk of violence, poverty, unemployment, poor health, and marginalization in their communities.

Story: Ehizogie Ohiani


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