The Coalition of Disability Organizations, CODO, on Monday, demanded inclusion in Presidential Task Force, PTF, on COVID-19, as they alleged marginalization.

The demand was made in a statement signed by the Interim Convener, CODO, Dr Chike Okogwu; Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, CCD, David Anyaele; Kemi Ogunjinrin; Isaac Nosa Ehigiator; Muhammad Bulkachawa; Christian Agbo; Dr. Irene Patrick Ojiugo; Lynda Katai Dung; Ayuba Burki Gufwan; Vivian Odimegwu; Patience Ogolo-Dickson; Biodun Olugbade; Mohammed Bello Suleiman; and Comrade Oyedeji Olusegun Abayomi.

According to the group government has continued to ignore them by paying lip service for the cameras with no concrete plan to address their issues raised even this period of COVID-19 pandemic, which is sign of abysmal neglect and marginalization of over 25 million Nigerians living with disabilities.

The statement reads in part, “On Saturday 4th April 2020, we had resolved to defy the stay at home order and risk our lives to disrupt the daily Presidential Task Force briefing on COVID-19 because, the government after contacting us through Hon. Danjuma Atta, the Senior Special Adviser on Disability matters to Honourable Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development pleaded with us to meet with our representatives in the Ministry’s office on Monday 6th April, 2020 to resolve all the issues we raised over the previous weekend. This meeting has not held till date.

“To our greatest irritation, the government has continued to ignore us again and again by paying mere lip service for the cameras with no concrete plan to address our issues raised in this COVID-19 season which is sign of abysmal neglect and marginalization of over 25 million Nigerians with Disabilities.

“By way of notice, this coalition, just as we did to push for the signing into law of our Disabilities Rights Act (2018) has resolved to demand for our rights even a great risks to our lives to disrupt the PTF briefings to show the world how insensitive our government is to the plights of persons with disabilities in the time of emergencies. No Retreat! No Surrender!!

“We had informed the government through making the following demands:

— The PTF on COVID-19 should present a clear-cut plan on how to provide Palliatives for persons with disabilities and the provision of the Palliatives should start immediately because persons with disabilities are most vulnerable among other social groups. Again a person with disability should be appointed to be a member of the PTF.

— The Honourable Minister should as a matter of urgency include PWDs in the CCT programme and no cash payments please as we have traceable addresses, phone numbers, bank accounts and BVN.

“Since they have failed to do the above, our members have no other choice than to come out enmasse and disrupt the ongoing CCT exercise anywhere it is being held and equally disrupt PTF COVID-19 Briefings here in Abuja and Nationwide.

According to the group their demands are baked by recognized laws including the UN Treaty where Nigeria is a signatory that mandates in its Article 4, titled General Obligation, especially, in section 4.3 that: “In the development and implementation of legislation and policies to implement the present Convention, and in other decision-making processes concerning issues relating to persons with disabilities, States Parties shall closely consult with and actively involve persons with disabilities including children with disabilities through their representative organizations.

“This was not considered as no person with disability is a member of the PTF on COVID-19. The Nigeria Disability Act 2018 prohibits all forms of discrimination against persons disability.

“The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has clearly discriminated against us. The law imposes a fine of one million naira on corporate bodies. PTF on COVID-19 should be fined.

“The rights and privileges of persons with disability include education, health care, priority in accommodation and emergencies. COVID-19 is a global emergency.

“All public organizations are to reserve at least five per cent of employment opportunities for these persons. PTF on COVID-19 is not exempt from this.

“Part 5, Article 25 of Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018 clearly states that: “In all situations of risk, violence, emergencies and the occurrences of natural disasters, the government shall take all necessary steps to ensure the safety and protection of persons with disabilities taking cognizance of their vulnerability”. This is not being followed by their actions.

It further stated that, “This Government signed Disability bill into law which provides that at a time like this, PWDs should be first priority, we are surprised that the government is not implementing the same law they enacted and demand that government rises up to their responsibility especially for over 25 million PWDs amongst whom, many of them can’t see, can’t walk, can’t hear, can’t sit or dress themselves up.

“We are demanding that government works in accordance with the law of the land as contained in the Nigeria Disability Rights Act. As the ministry sees no need to listen to us and resolve our issues in a time like this when our members Nationwide are suffering untold hardship due the lockdown, we shall be carrying out our constitutional responsibilities in FCT, States and Ward levels to ensure that we don’t just keep quiet and die of hunger. After all what is life, if it is not worth living? Everyone must die someday.”

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