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#ProjectEnableAfrica: The Essence of Social Integration Of Persons With Disabilities 

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The diversity of persons within a community is a prerequisite to any economy’s growth, making it essential for total inclusion within society. About 15% of the World Population lives with some form of disability, while one-fifth of the same figure experience significant disabilities. With this in mind, one needs to have a working definition of disability, which has been defined as a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major activity. As such these persons have a higher tendency to be excluded and discriminated against, both intentionally through the actions of people and unintentionally through the inadequacies of an environment. This inadvertently brings the feeling of being social outcasts, leading to emotional and psychological breakdown.

In addressing this need, the international community, namely the United Nations (UN) created the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD) as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), wherein Goal 10 – Reduced Inequalities – is specific on this need. The Federal Government of Nigeria has also played a key role in advancing the social integration of PWDs by legislating the Discrimination Against Persons with Disability Act.

In ensuring integration of People With Disability (PWD) as an integral part of the society, first, a state must ensure adequate participation of these persons within the society. In striving to achieve this, one must first consider the problems surrounding PWD, what constant issues they face in their daily lives, their struggles and the actual underlying problems of the non-inclusiveness of an environment. 

In understanding their problems, one needs to understand that certain conveniences such as easy access to transport systems, quality education, socializing with friends and several others would seem to be more of an inconvenience to PWD. Solving these problems is crucial as it is only when these problems have been solved that PWD can take a step further in participating and becoming an integral part of the society.

Before moving on to environmental steps for total inclusion, it is important to note that exclusion of disabled persons does not only emanate from external sources but likewise these persons can deliberately exclude themselves from society, arising as a result of personal insecurities due to their disabilities, always wondering what others would think about them. This is psychological, one which has to be deliberately catered for through therapy and constant counsel by professionals and loved ones. Having dealt with this, PWDs must begin to live in the new realities of their disabilities, they must accept it as who they are and move past the person they used to be, for those not born with their disability. 

Accepting one’s disability is a crucial step in being included within the society because nobody can make one feel inferior without that person’s consent, as such if they begin to accept who they are and their essence within any society, then they themselves begin to be inclusive. Lastly, PWDs have to consistently push themselves to be the better version of themselves, like every other abled person. 

Humans are generally known to push for what they want or believe in, and PWD should not do anything less than this, as when they strive for their beliefs and passion then all persons within the society begin to recognize and respect these people because of their achievements notwithstanding their disability. A good example is Nick Vujicic, born without arms and legs and yet inspires many; another good example is Nigeria’s very own Cobhams Asuquo, a musician, producer and songwriter who can play the piano, despite being visually impaired.

Having taken a look at the internal and personal inclusion by PWD themselves, it would be incomplete without considering the external factors that would contribute to the total inclusion of these persons. For one, abled persons need to be sensitized about the emotional and physical hardships of PWDs, reasons for inclusion, how to behave and respond to PWD. Once this can be handled, our society would have taken immense steps for inclusion, as many organisations would begin to respond to the need of making their facilities more inclusive.

The Nigerian Disability Act recently signed into law, protecting those with disability is indeed a commendable law and very laudable, observing from its Section 1 which absolutely prohibits any form of discrimination against PWD, to other sections prescribing penalties and regulations. The implementation of this law to the very letter is an essential step to inclusion in Nigeria, this law can be regarded as a solution but just like many laws within the state, it may become a dead law if the people, Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and government do not intentionally ensure its implementation. The first step here is proper sensitization, then ensuring that building plans being submitted to the government are inclusive, transport systems are more accessible, preference to disabled persons for service provision, be it on a queue or reserved parking or seats be respected etc.

Lanre Olagunju and Duro Femi Ajala are disability rights advocates, they wrote in from Project Enable Africa, Lagos

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Opinion

NCC To Auction 5G Spectrum 13th December, Sets Conditions

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said all is set for the official auctioning of the 3.5 Gigahertz (3.5 GHz) spectrum for the deployment of Fifth Generation (5G) technology in Nigeria on December 13, 2021.

A statement signed by the commission’s Director of Public Affairs, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, said it is adopting Ascending Clock Auction format, which is software-based, while a mock auction has been slated for December 10, 2021, as a precursor to the actual auction on December 13, 2021.

According to the statement, the Information Memorandum (IM) recently presented to the Commission at a stakeholder engagement forum provides information, conditions, obligations, financial implication, timelines and other necessary details on the planned 3.5Ghz spectrum auction.

‘‘The IM also explains the rollout obligations of the would-be eventual winners of the spectrum licence auction, whose reserved price has been pegged at $197.4 million (N75 billion),” the statement said.

‘‘The IM also states that only licensees, who make down payment of 10 per cent of the reserved bid price and with 100 per cent regulatory compliance would be allowed to participate in the auction while licensees with outstanding debts that have secured NCC’s approval for a payment plan will be allowed to participate in the auction.’’

The auction comes with a 10-year spectrum licence and a minimum requirement of an operational Universal Access Service Licence (UASL), but new entrants or licensees without a UASL will be required to obtain a UASL operational license to be qualified for the 5G licence.

The eventual licensees will have a rollout obligation plan spanning a period of 10 years, beginning from the date of award of the licence. Between the first and second year of the licence, the operators are expected to rollout service in, at least, one state in each geo-political zone.

From the third to fifth year, they are obligated to cover all the zones. Between six to 10 years, they should cover all the states in the country, according to guidelines set out in the IM.

Speaking on the planned roll out, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, said the Ministry has been working closely with the Commission to ensure that necessary spectrum resources needed for the deployment of 5G network in Nigeria to accelerate the nation’s digital economy space is made available.

The Minister said the 3.5GHz is the most popular spectrum band used globally by regulators and operators for the deployment of 5G technology, and it seems the only band available in Nigeria for immediate use by operators.

On his part, he Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, listed the various steps diligently taken by the Commission that culminated in present status of the 5G deployment plan.

He also highlighted the potential benefits from investment in 5G deployment to potential operators and investors in the country.

According to him, “Nigeria has an estimated population of 214 million, with an average growth rate of 2.6% annually. Approximately 76.46 per cent of the population is under the age of 35. In line with these demographic changes, internet penetration grew from 3 per cent in 2004 to 73.82 per cent as at September, 2021, and broadband penetration increased from less than 10 per cent in 2015 to 40.01 per cent in September, 2021.”

With the increase in mobile usage brought about by Fourth Generation (4G) technology and network performance, he said that 5G technology will leverage on this momentum, bringing substantial network improvements, including higher connection speed, mobility and capacity, as well as low-latency capabilities.

Meanwhile, the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), among others, called on the government to continue to make the operating environment more conducive for the existing and prospective licensees in the telecom ecosystem, in order to enable Nigeria to fully harness and harvest the derivable benefits of mobile technology in the country.

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Opinion

Sowore Condemns Attack On Home Of Joe Igbokwe

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Human rights activist, Omoyele Sowore has condemned the attack on the residence of Joe Igbokwe, the Special Adviser on Drainage and Water Resources to the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in Nnewi, Anambra State.

“I totally and unequivocally condemn the attack on Joe Igbokwe family house on Nnewi by arsonists. Nothing should be done to silence Mr. Igbokwe in a democratic society,” Sowore posted on Facebook.

Recall that the country home of the chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was on Sunday set on fire.

Igbokwe in a Facebook post accused members of the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) for the incident.

“IPOB invaded my house in Nnewi about now. I am sure they raised (sic) down my house giving the jerrycans of petrol being offloaded from their sienna via CCTV. To God be the glory I am still alive,” Igbokwe posted on Sunday afternoon.

The APC chieftain also shared a video from the aftermath of the attack, with an accompanying caption that reads: “Here it is. My Home in Nnewi has been sacrificed. No life was lost. To God be the glory.”

Hours after he posted the video, he deleted it from his Facebook page as well as the initial post.

Over the past weeks, unidentified gunmen have targeted known prominent names in the South-East.

Most of the attacks have been blamed on the members of IPOB, whose leader, Nnamdi Kanu, is in detention over charges of treason.

The IPOB leadership has, however, distanced its members from the attacks.

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Opinion

Is America’s Democracy On The Decline?

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By Habib Aruna

With the United States presidential election just more than a month away, the world is watching with an unusual frenzy and animated indignation the campaign between the incumbent, President Donald Trump of the Republican Party and his challenger, former Vice President, Joe Biden of the Democratic Party.

The concern of the world and indeed, lovers of democracy on what is playing out in a country regarded as the bastion of democracy all boils down to the erratic and demagogic behavior of a leader, who was supposed to be the leader of the free world. Rather, the United States President in the past three and half years, has conducted himself in a manner that is starkly different from conventional norms and tradition. He has indeed constituted himself as the real danger to the more than two centuries democratic experiment.

For a President that told the world in his January 2017 inauguration speech that he was going to pursue an America first policies, most of his utterances and actions have been antithetical to democratic principles and values. Trump has eroded all the gains made under President Barack Obama that was supposed to ensure global peace and security, and even went as far as to take side with the Russian ruler, Vladimir Putin, who is widely seen as a threat to global democratic order.

Indeed, more worrisome has been Trump’s constant attack on democratic institutions; chastising those who disagree with him, incessantly describing the media as fake and using derogatory language that belittle his high office on political opponents. Almost all his appointees who have resigned from the White House have all come out to tell the world how incapable he is and the threat he poses to the country and the world if he is re-elected for second term.

Before the emergence of Trump, United States Presidents have always been referred to as leader of the free world, presupposing the evident truism that the American democracy has been a global brand that nations of the world aimed to emulate. Countries and more than casual observers of world politics for more two centuries have followed with keen interest the evolution of democracy in the United States and not a few have used it as a veritable template.

More importantly, is the enviable way and manner power transits from one party to the other without rancor or bitterness. The world always awaits the reaction of losers in major elections. And what has become the envy of the world has been the obligatory phone calls often put across to winners by losers.

However, with the emergence of Trump, this vital democratic tradition of free and fair electoral process and peaceful transfer of power is about to be truncated. Like never before, something that is unthinkable is brewing in God’s own country. Interestingly, the man who took an oath to be the symbol of democracy and chief occupant of the Oval office is actively championing the debasement of the very system that brought him to power. He is doing everything in his power to circumvent the democratic process!

Trump has actively sought to delegitimize the results of the November election, falsely claiming universal mail-in voting intended to protect people amid the coronavirus pandemic is ripe for corruption although there is no evidence this is true. According to the Washington Post, in the five states that already allowed universal mail-in voting, Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, Utah and Washington, there have been no issues with widespread fraud.

“The only way we’re going to lose is if there’s mischief, and it’ll have to be on a big scale, so be careful,” Trump said. “We do want a very friendly transition, but we don’t want to be cheated and be stupid and say, ‘Oh, let’s, we’ll go and we’ll do a transition,’ and we know that there were thousands and thousands of ballots that made the difference through cheating. We’re not going to stand for it.”

This attack claiming Democrats are trying to cheat is also baseless when it is the President who has sought to limit resources to the U.S. Postal Service to curtail its ability to handle the influx of mailed ballots.

Trump has also said he expects the Supreme Court to decide the presidential election, meaning he intends to legally challenge the results if he loses. This is the normal template of a Banana Republic, which makes the Western countries and other democracies to be worried and concern. Because what moral ground do the Western world has to preach democratic tenets around the world when the world leading democracy cannot conduct basic elections.

For sure, it is doubtful if the founding fathers that gathered in Philadelphia in 1776 ever thought there would be a President that would stretch the system they put in place to the limit. Recovering from a victory of independence over the British and trying to find a system of government that would not put legislative and executive powers in the hands of one man, the delegates were quick to embrace the Lockenian philosophy that created an executive head but with adequate checks and balances. The three organs of government, executive, legislature and judiciary were thus created.

We have to also note that the leader of the war, General George Washington who contributed his resources to the prosecution of the war, had a larger than life image and was well respected. He was unanimously made to preside over proceedings at the convention. The decisions reached by the delegates which formed the bulk of the constitution were made with the implicit recognition of the character and patriotism of Washington.

The delegates were also not unaware that noble men; men of high integrity would be voted for to occupy the highest office in the land. For instance, the constitution did not stipulate any term limits for Presidents, knowing full well that Washington will be the first president. Washington ended up serving for just two terms and by so doing setting a precedence that successive presidents have followed till today.

There is however a lacuna in the system that the constitution did not adequately address, but the founding fathers were of the belief that the system would evolve to consummate a near perfect system, if there is enough vigilance by the people to checkmate the excessive use of power by office holders. Suffice to note the eternal advice given by the oldest delegate, Benjamin Franklin to a lady who wanted to know the outcome of their meeting: “A republic madam, I hope you can keep it”.

For sure, I don’t think the founding fathers ever thought in their wildest imagination that there would be a President that will be audacious enough to break all norms and tradition, while his party looks on sheepishly and helplessly. A president that is shameless; lacks basic decency; selfish and greedy; autocratic and dictatorial; hypocritical and corrupt and above all, poses a great danger to the very foundation of America’s democracy. He has since become a laughing stock among comity of nations.

Do we still wonder why notable figures in the country, both civilians and retired Military Generals, across party lines, have openly come out to oppose his re-election, saying the future and values of their country is at stake in this election? As we await the verdict of the United States electorate on November 8, one thing that is for sure is that the world will be a better place without Donald Trump.


Aruna, a journalist writes from Ikeja

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