Persons With Disabilities (PWDs), have urged the Federal Government to reverse Value Added Tax (VAT) from 7.5 per cent to five per cent by September and halt further increases in existing tariffs and duties.
They made the appeal under the aegis of Accelerate Disability Inclusion in Emergencies (ADIE) forum on Monday in Abuja, during a media conference.
The media conference was to address what they referred to as the ‘adverse effects of the Federal Government’s fuel subsidy removal policy on Nigerians, especially PWDs’.
Mr Jake Epelle, Founder, The Albino Foundation (TAF) Africa and a member of ADIE forum, at the conference, said that the Federal Government should also halt the introduction of new tariffs and duties for the next one year to increase the purchasing power of Nigerians, especially PWDs.
He also recommended that government should conduct awareness campaigns to educate the public about challenges faced by PWDs, emphasising the importance of inclusive transportation and the adverse effects of the fuel subsidy removal on the community of PWDs.
“These programmes should promote empathy, respect and understanding to curb discrimination and foster an inclusive society.
“The Federal Government should ensure the full implementation of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act.
“Particularly the five per cent employment quota for PWDs and incentivise private and public sector employers to implement workforce inclusion initiatives for PWDs like work-from-home options, flexible schedules and accessible workplaces.”
Ms Grace Jerry, Co-chairperson ADIE and Executive Director, Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), said that a stand-alone social protection intervention for PWDs should be initiated by both federal and state governments.
This, she said, should include establishing reliable databases of PWDs, food banks for an equitable distribution of economic palliatives to PWDs and targeted financial assistance.
“There is no clarity on how marginalised groups like PWDs will be accommodated in the economic palliatives recently announced by the federal and state governments.
“The representatives of Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) should be made members of the joint Federal Government and labour negotiating committee on fuel subsidy removal.
“They should also be incorporated into the planning, implementation, and monitoring of economic initiatives, especially those setup to manage savings from the fuel subsidy removal policy.
“A good example of these initiatives is the economic palliatives recently announced by President Bola Tinubu and state governors.”
Part of the demands of the group is that an affordable public transportation system that is accessible to PWDs by September be introduced.
The programme is expected to provide discounted or free transportation vouchers, passes, or dedicated transportation services to ensure affordable and accessible transportation options for PWDs.
This accessible transportation should include buses with adjustable ramps and handrails for wheelchair users, signage and electronic display for directions with audio announcements for the benefit of the deaf and the blind.
Also speaking, another co-chairperson, Mr Christain Agbo, said that the fuel subsidy removal has brought untold socio-economic hardship to Nigerians, especially marginalised groups like PWDs, women and youth.
“These groups of citizens represent more than 80 per cent of our country’s 216 million estimated population.
“The fuel subsidy removal has had a rapid multiplier effect on the cost of goods and services. Most Nigerians, especially PWDs have been deeply affected by the increase in transportation, food items, healthcare and other essential goods and services.”
According to Agbo, while ADIE Forum understands the Federal Government’s fuel subsidy removal policy, broad consultations and accompanying plans to mitigate the difficult implications it is having on Nigerians were not considered.
He, however, said that the forum welcomes the initial economic palliatives announced by President Tinubu in his national broadcast on July 31.
“The broadcast provided hope that the government may address the hardship arising from the fuel subsidy removal policy.
“Some state governments have also announced palliatives. OPDs are however mindful that if not well implemented, these economic palliatives will not reach the people who need them the most, as experienced in the past.”
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that ADIE forum aims at advocating for PWDs to be adequately accommodated in measures put in place by government and other stakeholders to reduce the pains brought about by the fuel subsidy removal policy.
This includes involving PWDs in the planning, implementation and monitoring of economic palliative measures, and the overall use of savings made from fuel subsidy removal policy. (NAN)