British High Commissioner to Nigeria Celebrates IDPD, Calls For Change In Disability Cultural Framework

The Albino Foundation Public Notice

The Albino Foundation Public Notice

By Oliver Nweke Francis

The Acting British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Gill Atkinson, has commended the government of Nigeria for putting in place a disability legal framework.

She called for a change in the disability cultural framework  presently operating in Nigeria.

The Acting High Commissioner made the call in Abuja at an event organized by British High Commission to mark the 2023 International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Gill Atkinson expressed concern on how difficult it is for PWDs to reach their full potentials in Nigeria.

The variance and sometimes absence of data on PWDs is a matter of great concern, as it hampers developing adequate framework for disability inclusive.

She said “the government of Nigeria ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2007, it signed the Discrimination Against Persons with Disability Prohibition Act in 2018, and also, recently, we have seen the Violence Against Person’s Protection Act Domesticated in many states in the country.

So the legal framework is there. But the important thing to me is that it’s not just the legal framework. It’s the cultural framework. It’s the accepting, it’s the understanding that we are normal people, too. PWDs needs the legal framework, but also need that cultural and moral framework.

The Acting High Commissioner opined  that disability advocacy is a course she has championed for the last 4 to 5 years here in Nigeria. “That’s because I have a disability. I have epilepsy. It came on as a complete surprise when I was in my early 30s, not so good experience, I can tell you.

“But coming to Nigeria has made me realize just how fortunate I am. I have an employer who has continued to support me through my job. I lived in a country with framework that supports people with disabilities and in a culture which not completely, but generally reasonably accepts disability. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to continue with my life and my career with the occasional accident in the middle.

“Then I came to Nigeria. This country is a wonderful country, be proud of your country. But then I read some statistics, statistics, I don’t know numbers may be. So the first one is, how do you support disabled people here? When I get one figure that says there are 3 .3 million people with disabilities in Nigeria. Another one that says there are over 25 million people with disabilities. How does Nigeria develop its network, its support, its framework, and its public services? When you don’t even know how many people you’re supporting and then you add that into the unemployment rate of 62.5 % for people with disabilities. And even in a country with very high unemployment, that’s awful.

62.5 % of the disabled community are not fulfilling their capabilities and perhaps feeling as though they’re not contributing to their family and their country and their life.

“One of the reasons I’m hosting you tonight, and one of the things I’ve tried to do over the last 4 years is through my presence, my advocacy, my speech is to demonstrate that a successful life is entirely possible, and we’re seeing you here demonstrating that to me. I am a public figure, I have a presence and profile in Nigeria. So being open about my disability, I hope, helps you a little in your future lives. We shouldn’t pretend its all bad.

To me, the work that the organizations represented here today does is absolutely vital, because what you are all showing is that your real people, you are doing your jobs, you’re working in your environment, you’re succeeding despite the additional challenges that you face.

All I can say to you is thank you for the work you’re doing. I wish I was staying here longer to support you, but along with the rest of the British High Commission, I remain committed to the support that we gave to the disabled community, through our projects, through our programs and through our advocacy.

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