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Group Calls On FG, NASS To Recognize Sign Language As A Second Lingua franca In Nigeria

A Coalition Of Nigerian National Association Of The Deaf (NNAD),Association of Sign Language
Interpreters in Nigeria (ASLIN) and the LionHeart Ability Leaders International Foundation (LALIF has called on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to recognize Sign Language As Lingua franca In Nigeria.

The group made this call in press statement on Nigeria Sign Language Development, Recognition And Advocacy Project dated Thursday 24th August, 2023.

The project which is funded by Disability Rights Fund is designed to sensitize the public on Nigerian Sign Language, recognize NSL as the second national language for conducting public business and for teachings in Nigerian schools; ensure that sign language interpreters are made available at all public functions, organizations, and institutions and pave the way for further research and engagement that would enhance the development of Nigerian languages.

In a statement signed by Engr. Timothy Adejumo for NNAD, Mr. Solomon Okelola for LATIF and Mr. Samuel James for ASLIN, the group said that “As part of the advocacy efforts of the groundbreaking project titled “Development and Advocacy for The
Official Recognition of the Nigerian Sign Language (NSL) for the Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing and the DeafBlind in Nigeria”, they are calling on the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, the Presidency, the Federal Executive Council, the Senate, the Honourable Members of the House of Representatives, and the General Public to officially recognize NSL as a second lingua-franca in Nigeria for the benefit of all and sundry; and the key to ensure the all-round inclusion of Nigerians who are Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing and DeafBlind.

They recalled that in 12th March, 2021 under the National Coalition grant of the Disability Rights Fund (DRF), which centered on advocacy towards the official recognition of NSL as an official language in Nigeria, the Documentation and practical usage of the NSL by all and sundry will enable Nigerians who are Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing and DeafBlind to claim their rightful place as equal citizens of society and contribute their own quota to national growth and development.

“The United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities stressed the importance of meaningful existence for all persons with Disabilities in Article 9 (Accessibility), Article 19 (Independent Living and Inclusion in the community), and Article 21 (Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information)”.

“The achievement of these objectives with the development and official recognition of NSL is also in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, GOAL 4 (Quality Education) and GOAL 10 (Reduced Inequality)” they stated.

The group also informed that the development and use of one language will help to eliminate the misunderstandings which currently exist within the Nigerian Deaf Community due to the use of various signs misinterpreted to be American Sign Language alongside the different indigenous signs used by members of the Deaf Community from the various parts of the country.

“This causes a severe communication gap and misunderstanding during interactions with their deaf counterparts from other parts of the nation’.

“The evolution, development and use of a common language will unite the over 9 million Nigerians who are Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing/Deaf-Blind in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. It will also enable family members,, teachers, Scholl administrators, medical practitioners, policy makers and other stakeholders in the lives of these persons and members of the general public to easily interact with and enhance the all round inclusion of these unique members of the society so that they can maximize their potentials and make meaningful contributions to the development of the nation”.

The group also pointed out that it will be helpful to any individual who become deaf or develop a hearing disability at any point in time, the recognition and teaching of the NSL from the primary school level will equip learners with
which they cannot only help to enhance the all-round inclusion of their fellow Nigerians who are Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing and DeafBlind but also ensure that they can continue normal life uninterrupted time in the occurrence of any unforeseen eventuality.

“As Nigeria continues to struggle to towards actualizing the full implementation of the Disability Act, the harmonization and recognition of the NSL will position citizens who are Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing
and DeafBlind to fully exploit their inherent provisions of the Disability Law.

The group informed that Efforts from the supports from the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD) and the Disability Rights Fund, they have been able to carry out the following activities on the project:

a) Development of a Nigerian Sign Language Dictionary- the compilation and development of some word signs commonly used by the Deaf community in Nigeria which was launched on the 9th December, 2021.

It is presently undergoing reviews by the National
Center for Research and Development Council for uses in schools.

b) Drafted and submitted the National Policy on Nigerian Sign Language to the National
Commission for Persons with Disabilities.

c) Established strong collaboration, through advocacy visits, with the relevance government
Ministries towards officially recognition of Nigerian Sign Language (NSL) as official language in Nigeria, among others.

The Group made further demands such as (a) Federal Government adopting the National Policy on Nigerian Sign Language as law to aid the recognition of the use of NSL at all public functions and inculcated into teaching-learning practices in all primary schools.

(b) The project, “Development and Advocacy for the Official Recognition of Nigerian Sign Language (NSL) for the Deaf, Hard-of-Hearing and the DeafBlind in Nigeria”, be allot an annual budgetary
allocation/funding in the Nigeria budget, under the NCPWD until the stated goals are achieved.

c) The employment of Deaf Interpreters and the Interpreters for the Deaf, hard-of hearing and Deaf-Blind be given priority by both the government and private establishments in Nigeria.

d) All relevant stakeholders, government, parents of the Deaf and all public outlets to implement access to information for the Deaf community through the NSL and to push it to full implementation through
the use of various advocacy machines.

e) That Sign Language Interpretations and closed- captions should be provided on both government and private television stations and government functions/events throughout the nation for the benefit of the Deaf community.

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