*Presents C of O to FCT PWD Community
*Government’s preoccupation is to improve relationships among ethnicities, religions – VP
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, says the Federal Government is proud of its accomplishments especially in the Social Investment Programme, adding that the social protection inherent in it is an entitlement of the citizens, including Persons Living With Disabilities (PWD), regardless of which administration or political party is in power.
In another development, the Vice President stated that government must also strive to build national cohesion by supporting the implementation of initiatives that will improve relationships among ethnicities and religions in the country.
Those views were expressed today, when he received on courtesy visits to the Presidential Villa, delegations from the FCT People Living With Disabilities Community and the “Reading Against Intolerance Initiative” – a national campaign aimed at promoting unity and tolerance among primary school children in Nigeria.
Speaking to the delegation of FCT PWD Community led by its chief, Alhaji Suleiman Mohammed, the VP said “Government has a duty for providing for persons with disability. We believe that as a matter of law, as a matter of policy, and our government must provide for those who have disability and who for some reason or the other, may not be able to work in ways that those who have no disability may be able to.”
Continuing, he noted that “it is not a favour, it is government policy and people must enjoy it as government policy, that is how things are done. We have tried our best to put in policies for the right things to be done government after government, so that it becomes normal for a government to do those things. I hope and pray that the next government will do the same thing.”
In fact, the Vice President also referred to the Act signed by President Muhammadu Buhari – Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2019, saying by policy and law, the entitlements of the PWD are already in place.
Referencing the Federal Government’s Social Investment Programme (SIP), the VP said implementing social protection for poor people is important even if a difficult task to achieve.
According to him, “the Social Investment Programme is one of the biggest in Africa. We provided for young people who had no employment (N-Power); we provided Conditional Cash Transfer for the poorest Nigerians, although it was only 1 million, we were able to provide for.
“We provided TraderMoni, MarketMoni, for 2.4 million traders. The Homegrown School Feeding Programme, where we were able to provide feeding for 9.5 million children every day. We are proud of the fact that we were able to provide these services to the people.”
The VP also observed some of the challenges in implementation, noting that “some of these things are very difficult to do not because of money but it is difficult to find people of integrity who will deliver these projects in the same honesty and concern for the people that those who designed the programme had. The President of course is one that you know, is very concerned about the underprivileged. But you cannot deliver big programmes without honest people which is why I am extremely proud of the work that has been done by our Community Engagement people.” (The VP was referring to the Community Engagement Unit of his office).
The VP expressed hope that successive governments would build on the template already established by the present administration, noting that “we must see improvement, in our part of the world, things are tied to individuals, it shouldn’t be, especially when it comes to matters that affect the dignity of our own people. And these things must keep improving.”
While commending the FCT People Living With Disabilities Community for their perseverance and commitment to demanding for better welfare for its members, Prof. Osinbajo said “we must continue to pursue this as entitlement for people with disability because of the law and policy of government. Let’s be hopeful that the coming months and years will be better and fruitful.”
Earlier in his remarks, the spokesman of the group, Alhaji Muhammad Dantani, thanked the Vice President for all that he has done directly and indirectly for the People Living With Disabilities (PWD) community in Nigeria and particularly in the FCT, describing the VP as the “father of the fatherless, hope for the hopeless and voice to the voiceless.”
The highlight of the meeting was the presentation of Certificate of Occupancy to the PWD Community in the FCT by the VP.
The PWD Community in the FCT with about 5,000 persons currently reside at Karmajiji, Abuja. They were resettled there over 25 years ago but the parcel of land is no longer adequate to accommodate the community. A request for assistance from the Vice President was sought in 2018 following which the Office worked with FCT authorities and got a larger parcel of land allocated to the community.
In another meeting held earlier with promoters of the ‘Reading Against Intolerance Initiative’, Prof. Osinbajo emphasized the need to keep supporting programmes that will imbibe the culture of tolerance among young Nigerians in schools.
According to the Vice President, “the whole idea of national unity and national bonding is a deliberate action that should be undertaken by those in power at a particular point in time.
“…it should be the preoccupation of government especially a government that is committed to national unity. It must be our preoccupation that we see to it, tell the stories, introduce the narratives that improve the relationships between ethnicities and religions otherwise we are always going to find situations where people are living in their own ethnic camps and there is a lot of suspicion.”
Continuing, he said, “unless you are able to address that, you will always find that you just go into those fault lines as soon as you have any important issue, it is the fault lines that emerge.
Commending the ‘Reading Against Intolerance Initiative’, Prof. Osinbajo noted that “it is important to get young people to understand very quickly, and very early, what the issues are. It is also really crucial that we are able to get the buy-in of governments and it is done on scale.”
Earlier in his remarks, the Director General of the Office for Strategic Preparedness and Resilience, (a.k.a Early Warning Center) Mr Chris Ngwodo, said the ‘Reading Against Intolerance Initiative’ programme was an important addition to what the office was doing, noting that it is in line with its programmes on peace building and conflict prevention.
On his part, the Director General of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr Garba Abari, said the agency was in partnership with the ‘Reading Against Intolerance Initiative’ to deepen outreaches to schools with the view to promoting history education as part of a broad strategy for peace building across the country.
In the same vein, the coordinator of ‘Reading Against Intolerance Initiative’, Mr John Adoga, said deep-rooted intolerance and tension among ethnic groups, especially between the minorities and the major ethnic groups across Nigeria, prompted the conceptualization of the campaign.
He said the ‘Reading Against Intolerance Initiative’ is aimed at promoting the culture of tolerance among young Nigerians in primary schools by distributing books with strong themes and messages about the holistic history of Nigerian icons.