Following the publication of a two-part investigative report by BONews Service, Persons with Disabilities, PWDs, in Osun State have confirmed an improvement in living conditions as they also revealed that the Osun State government has begun the establishment of a legal framework to protect the rights of PWDs in the state.
The two-part report by BONews Service had revealed the challenges that PWDs in Osun State encountered during the COVID-19 lockdown and exclusion in the palliatives distribution which exposed them to further hardship.
The report documented how PWDs in the state were being neglected, leading to death and depression, despite over 1 billion naira resources generated from various quarters.
Couple of months after the report, PWDs in Osun State have been recording massive improvement in livelihoods as they also stated that unlike the usual practice, the state government considered PWDs in the latest recruitment process of teachers for state owned schools.
Speaking with BONews Service about the latest development, Mr. Kehinde Onitiju, Chairman, Osun State Chapter of the Joint Association of Persons with Disabilities, JONAPWD, attributed the improvement in disability-inclusion in Osun State to the reports published by BONews Service as well as the various levels of advocacies and engagements carried out by JONAPWD and Disabled Peoples Organizations in the state.
Onitiju, who said some of the challenges that PWDs in the state face is as a result of the lack of a disability law, revealed that the state has begun the process of enacting a law to protect the rights of PWDs.
“Our Disability law is at the formative stage and it is currently at the Ministry of Justice. We are also certain that when it gets to the Osun State House of Assembly, it won’t meet any gridlock because the speaker of the house has proven increased interest in disability-inclusion in recent times.”
The JONAPWD Chair, who had lamented about the exclusion of PWDs in the decision-making processes in the two-part report that was earlier published by BONews Service, said, “the state government through the Ministry of Youths, Sports and Special Needs now ensure adequate consultation with different disability clusters”, adding that, “the Speaker of the State House of Assembly now has a special adviser on disability affairs, and we are also expecting the governor to replicate the same.”
Onitiju also said PWDs in the state now have access to free monthly feeding across the state.
“JONAPWD Local Government leaders are in charge and they ensure PWDs get their share because the food is for vulnerable groups; elderly, people in local communities, widows, PWDs etc.,” the JONAPWD Chair said excitedly.
Mr. Akeem Akinsola, Chairman Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB), Osun, who confirmed the distribution of the food package which started in March 2021, affirmed that his Local Government, Iwo LGA, receives 36 bags of food package every month, to be distributed to PWDs within the area.
Mr. Akinsola also revealed that PWDs are involved in the ongoing teachers’ recruitment exercise in the state. He expressed hope that some PWDs will be employed into the teaching profession by the state government.
He, however, urged the state government to give a quota to PWDs.
“I’m aware that qualified PWDs have been involved in the teachers’ recruitment exercise in the state, we’ve scaled through the examination stage and we have also been interviewed. So, I am certain that by the time selections are made, PWDs will also be selected.
“Although, we had asked for a quota to be given to PWDs but we were told that teachers’ recruitment cannot be done like that, but the good thing is that we’re not excluded,” he added.
Regarding the disability law in the state, the NAB Chairman disclosed that, “I am part of the committee that has drafted the bill and the Ministry of Justice is currently reviewing it before they present it to the State House of Assembly.
“We are also very certain of a positive reception by the House of Assembly because the Speaker has engaged the Commissioner for Youths, Sports and Special Needs which led to the drafting of the bill.”
Akinsola believes that if there is a disability law in the state, the welfare and rights of PWDs would be protected.
On her part, Bolatito Odeniyi, a person with physical disability who resides in Ejigbo LGA in Osun State affirmed that, “they started the free feeding program since March 2021 and the information I got is that the food is from the governor’s office. I got my package through my cluster association in June and I’m aware that it is being rotated to ensure that everybody gets. So, because I already got in June, I won’t get it in July.
“The food package varies every month and it could include 5kg of Semo or 5kg of rice,” she added.
Odeniyi however noted that, “we appreciate the food distribution, but we don’t want a charity based approach to disability issues, we want to ensure that our rights are adequately protected, so, if there’s another administration tomorrow, we’re sure that our concerns would matter.”