The Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD) has concluded a three-day capacity building workshop for Persons Living With Disabilities (PLWD) on the use of Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and the Nigeria Disability Act, tasking PLWD to demand accountability from the government.
The workshop aimed at empowering PLWD to demand accountability from state actors was held in Lagos under the Upright for Nigeria Campaign and sponsored by UKaid.
Speaking at the workshop, Executive Director of Council of FOI, President Aigbohan said the training was necessary and timely because people with disabilities must know how to demand accountability from state actors using the existing FOI Act.
“PLWD can use the law to track budgetary allocation made for them, by so doing they direct the government to begin to think towards things they know are their right. They can make government to be spurred to begin to develop budget along that line,” Aigbohan said.
Encouraging the participants drawn from various disability groups, the human rights activist and lawyer said his organisation is ready to assist PLWD groups to enforce their rights.
“FOI Counsel is a project of which I am one of the Directors. We assist PLWD groups, Civil Society Organisations and independent groups to enforce their rights when necessary,” he explained.
Talking about the successes his FOI Counsel has achieved in recent times, the Aigbohan said, “We have done cases in 2013 where we sued the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) with over 25 NGOs to get them audited.
“The judgment held that FOI is a fundamental right but that they don’t have the power to order the executive to audit in terms of separation of powers which we got to the Court of Appeal.
“We also had a case against the Edo State government to know the number of police posts that were actually built because they were in the budget. The government didn’t disclose it,” he explained.
Advising the participants on engaging the government on issues that directly affects them, he noted that several public buildings were not built to support PLWD on which he said the public can start to demand explanations through the FOI.
“They can write the Ministry of Urban Planning to tell us how many buildings that have complied with the structures to support people living with disabilities. When they get letters it will redirect them to enforce relevant policies,” he advised.
In his own remark, Comrade Musa M. Musa of the CCD advised participants to arm themselves with information gathered at the workshop.
According to him, participants were carefully selected to represent the various groups. “The participants were carefully selected as leaders of different clusters of disability groups. We expect that after this meeting they should step down the training they have received to other members, to put it into practice.
“We want organisations of people with disabilities to start asking government some questions; requesting information, requesting documents, asking why things are no in order.
“So we are looking at three things: To step down this training in their various organizations, to start making use of the Act in getting information and to make use of the FOI Act to stop corruption.
“CCD is ready and we have the capacity to support them. That is why we will be giving them two or three weeks window to write, we are going to be supporting them in terms of delivery, we are not only going to give them the knowledge and leave them, the centre is going to support them financially and capacity wise to engage,” he concluded.
Participants took turns to express gratitude to the CCD for the training promising to use the knowledge to engage relevant authorities on accountability.