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SSAP Abba Isa Commits to Implementing ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on Disability Inclusion

Abuja, Nigeria — In a significant move towards enhancing disability inclusion across West Africa, Hon. Mohammed Abba Isa, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Special Needs and Equal Opportunities, has pledged to implement the newly validated ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on Disability Inclusion. This commitment was made during the inaugural meeting of Ministers in charge of Disability Inclusion in West Africa, held in Abuja.

Hon. Abba Isa speaking to Journalists

The meeting, convened to validate the regional action plan, began with a motion from the representative of the Gambia to adopt the draft agenda. This motion, seconded by the representative from Sierra Leone, set the stage for the proceedings. The regional action plan prioritizes several key areas:

  • Establishing disability inclusion as a standard for measuring good governance across West Africa.
  • Creating a think tank of experts and PWDs from various Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) to advise the ECOWAS Commission on disability inclusion.
  • Treating disability inclusion as a fundamental human rights issue.
  • Strengthening partnerships between the ECOWAS Commission and development partners.

Commitment to Action

In his goodwill message, Hon. Abba Isa stated that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has mandated his office to implement the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on Disability Inclusion. To achieve this, the office has initiated the Beyond Disability Project, aimed at promoting inclusivity and accessibility for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Nigeria.

Group picture Of The Participants At The Meeting

“The Beyond Disability Project will be officially launched on June 27, 2024, at the Presidential Banquet Hall, Aso Villa, Abuja, at 11:00 am,” announced the SSAP. “Our collaboration with ECOWAS will significantly enhance our efforts towards disability inclusion. We look forward to working closely with all stakeholders to achieve our shared goals.”

Enforcing Accessibility

Hon. Abba Isa further announced that the Federal Government would soon begin sealing public buildings that fail to provide access provisions for PWDs. He explained that the grace period for compliance had elapsed, and an accessibility audit of public buildings would commence once presidential approval was granted.

In an interview with journalists, the SSAP emphasized the importance of experience-sharing among regional ministers. “Disability is a peculiar issue, and each member state has its unique challenges. This meeting was essential for drafting the Regional Action Plan for Disability Inclusive Development, aligned with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.”

A Regional Effort

The meeting, chaired by Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Poverty Alleviation, Mr. Abel Olumuyiwa Enitan, highlighted the need for establishing an ECOWAS agency for disability inclusion. Enitan stated that this would provide sustainable and inclusive development, announcing the election of a three-man bureau, with Nigeria automatically a member. Liberia, Guinea Bissau, and Côte d’Ivoire were also elected by member states present at the meeting.

The ECOWAS Commission plans to support two member states with assistive technologies, demonstrating a commitment to improving the lives of PWDs. The representative from Liberia, the Head of the Disability Commission, commended Nigeria for its leadership and achievements in disability accessibility and inclusivity, sharing positive experiences from his visit.

Ensuring Social Inclusion

Professor Fatou Sow, ECOWAS Commissioner of Humanitarian Development and Social Affairs, assured that the sub-regional body would provide the necessary support to ensure the social inclusion of PWDs becomes a reality. Her commitment underscores the collaborative effort required to achieve meaningful change across West Africa.

A Call to Action

As Nigeria takes the lead in implementing the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan, Hon. Abba Isa’s commitment marks a significant step towards creating a more inclusive society. The launch of the Beyond Disability Project on June 27 will be a pivotal moment in this journey, emphasizing the importance of inclusivity and accessibility for all.

In his concluding remarks, Hon. Abba Isa reiterated, “The Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu aligns with this regional action plan on disability inclusion. We are mandated to implement this plan, and we will ensure that every building that doesn’t comply with accessibility standards is sealed. This post-moratorium era is about action and enforcement.”

As West Africa moves forward, the collective efforts of regional leaders, stakeholders, and advocates will be crucial in achieving the shared goal of a more inclusive and accessible society for PWDs. This commitment to action and enforcement will ensure that no one is left behind, and everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

Press Release signed by Lanre Oloyede, Chief Press Secretary to the SSAP.

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