C’River: TAF Africa, Disability Rights Fund sensitize stakeholders on laws against discrimination of persons with disability

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By Kelvin Obambon

TAF Africa, formerly The Albino Foundation, in collaboration with the Disability Rights Fund, has organized a one-day stakeholder sensitization on the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act (2018) and the Cross River State Disability Rights Law (2021).

The event which took place at the Monty Suite in Calabar Monday, also featured a technical session for the development of a framework for disability inclusive public sector governance in the state.

Declaring the event open, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Lands, Dr (Mrs) Pauline Obutte, expressed delight to be part of the conversation that would change the narrative on issues around disability rights in the state.

According to her, “A meeting like this is coming at the right time because we have a new government with the people first mantra. That means that everybody in the society is important in governance. There is no room for discrimination. Everyone counts and should be counted. I am delighted to be in our midst, and I am more delighted to learn of this organization and to see that we have stakeholders who are interested in addressing the problem of discrimination against this people with disabilities.”

A representative from the Ministry of Social Welfare and Community Development, Mr Stephen Okimba, in his remarks, said there is need for Cross River to chart a way forward in disability rights and inclusiveness in governance, especially that the Governor Bassey Otu-led administration is people centric.

Okimba, a director of rehabilitation in the ministry, said by participating in the stakeholder sensitization meeting to develop a framework for the inclusion of persons with disability in governance, the ministry was doing a very serious work for the state, adding that it is the hope of the current administration to carry everyone along.

On his part, Mr Jake Epelle, the Chief Executive Officer and founder of TAF Africa, said the choice of Cross River for the implementation of the project was based on the fact that the state is receptive to initiatives that promote the rights and welfare of persons with disability as exemplified in the enactment of the Cross River State Disability Rights Law (2021).

Speaking further, Epelle said “When it comes to implementation government can produce a framework for the implementation of a particular law. It is a critical stakeholder that implements that’s why we are working directly with critical stakeholders, robbing minds with them and exposing them to best practices when it comes to implementation.”

He, however, stated that the Disability Rights Law ought to culminate in the establishment of the Cross River State Disability Commission, hence “We are interested in ensuring that the Disability Commission which is the government’s arm that will implement the disability law is established.”

“We want it to come to fruition and we are prepared to give every support, from the legislature to the executive, to the judiciary and of course to the civil society to ensure that this Commission is established and we expose them to the best practice and also go a little bit further by providing the necessary tool that they will need to implement the law. The general public also have a responsibility to be drivers of the implementers of this law,” he stressed.

Earlier, Mr Uche Enyioha, Corporate Services and Communication Manager, TAF Africa, said the event was put together to bring government agencies, ministries and stakeholders in Cross River State to sensitize them on the existing disability rights law of Cross River State, as well as the discrimination against persons with disability prohibition act 2018.

Enyioha who coordinates the disability rights funded intervention to enhance the participation of persons with disability in elections and governance in Cross River, said the idea behind the stakeholder sensitization was to bring participants up to speed with the provisions of the act and to also let them know what the expectations of the public are.

According to him, “We also wanted to develop a framework of inclusive public sector governance which will be what we called a standard operating manual for disability inclusive governance in Cross River State. With what we were able to achieve today we are sure that the message can be pass down. There definitely will be several more engagements of this kind. We will be interacting with the different stakeholders on a bilateral level. We have initiated the process and it will definitely continue.

“What we have done is to further build on our draft. After now we intend to further work on the inputs and articulate the submissions that have been made and of course present that to the state government, and hopefully we will find approval to properly adopt it as a working document for all MDAs.”

The facilitator at the workshop, Dr Owoade Adeleke, who dissected the various provisions of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act (2018) and the Cross River State Disability Rights Law (2021), however regretted that the state has not done enough in the implementation of both laws.

The University of Calabar don opined that Cross River ought to have emulated the federal government which, after enacting the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act (2018), followed it up with the setting up of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCWD) in 2020.

He said the implementation of Cross River State Disability Rights Law (2021) would have gained momentum if that a Commission was put in place to drive and enforce the provisions of the law.

Adeleke therefore urged civil society organizations to be relentless in their advocacy for the advancement of disability rights and the establishment of Cross River State Disability Commission.

Members of various clusters of organizations of persons with disabilities were also in attendance at the workshop.