Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Interview at AIT- Part2

I gave in when I got more 'compelling' texts the next morning (Tuesday 10th) and ended up going to the television station with an affable man, Chike who has a mobility challenge and a visually-impaired man. I received a copy of the statement written by the president of the umbrella association for Persons with Disabilities in NGR. It was a good statement but I had an issue with the 'stipend' bit which to me, tended to project that the association would be willing to accept the 'stipend' and nothing else, should in case the government goes ahead with its insensitive, anti-people policy on the fuel subsidy removal issue.

We had an opportunity to meet two very visible high-ranking government officials who are the President's spokespeople on this controversial policy: CBN(Central Bank of NGR) Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who were at the station for a live discussion. They seemed pleasant to us when we introduced ourselves. I give some credit to both. Why? Because Dr. Okonjo-Iweala acknowledged the oversight and apologised when she was confronted about the fact that no PWD was consulted before they decided firmly on that policy. And she acknowledged that PWDs can be productive with the assistance of the government. She was reminded that the President has not signed the Disability Bill. On his part, the CBN governor informed us about the new employment policy for PWDs that CBN had just introduced at the beginning of the year. He explained that apart from trying to get more PWDs working in areas relevant to CBN, he has mandated that at least 1bank branch in each major location is physically-accessible (I took it up with his aide afterwards that they have to do something for those with hearing impairments and I insisted that they have staff who is trained in Sign Language. **shrug** If I/we don't demand, I/we don't get!! I was invited for a roundtable at the CBN headquarters as a representive of the deaf/hard-of-hearing).

They both went away with a copy of the statement which I received that morning. The big problems which I had with them was that at the time we interacted, they failed to understand that the three well-spoken and educated people with disabilities are only spokespeople for the majority who are far less-privileged. We tried to make them realise that but sorry to say, think they are still disconnected from the reality on ground.

As we all know now, the government made a unilateral decision to 'slightly' reduce the pump price from N141 to N97. The debates on everything pertaining to fuel subsidy removal (from the timing, effects on the masses to lack of transparency and corruption particlarly in the petroleum industry) are hot and raging.

The corruption in NGR is so prevalent and extremely poor governance is having detrimental effects on PWDs. I'll be concentrating on how PWDs can turn the tide by taking their civic responsibilities seriously. From events that unfolded last week ie the near total shutdown of services around NGR during the week-long strike has lent credence to the fact that the masses DO have a voice.

I stop for now with apologies for not submitting my blog entries regularly this year. And apologies for not posting a video of the said discussion with the CBN governor and the Finance Minister. I will try to retrieve a copy from AIT.

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