A University Don, Prof. Afeisimi Badaiki, says Persons Living with Disabilities (PLWDs) needed knowledge of Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to participate actively in governance.
Badaiki, who is a Professor of Public Law with Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma in Edo State, said this on Thursday in Enugu while lecturing on “FOI Act as a Tool for PLWDs Engagement in the Fight Against Corruption’’.
The don lectured in the ongoing three-day Capacity Training for Persons with Disabilities on the Use of Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and Nigeria Disability Act being organised by the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD).
He noted that with the knowledge and right use of FOI Act, PLWDs could legally engage government and government-funded institutions and organisations to account for public financial and material usage.
“The knowledge of FOI Act will empower the PLWDs to engage various stakeholders’ especially political offices and office of public work to deliver dividends of democracy to them that will help enhance and better their living conditions.
“The PLWDs have special needs and should be given priority but unfortunate most times it is not given to them.
“So, empowering them on what to do using the act mentioned will make them stand up and demand what should be due to them and ensure that government at all level prioritise their welfare.
“With the PLWDs standing up for their rights and special privileges; the issue of them being short-changed or public officers with corrupt tendencies taking what belongs to them will be minimized or out rightly stopped,’’ he said.
Badaiki, however, lauded CCD for championing the course of enlightening PLWDs to demand what is due to them and “not begging politicians or organisations to give them their right under the law’’.
“It is good that they are thought practical ways of going about their demands using the act and ensuring transparency and accountability in the governance system,’’ he added.
Earlier, Mr David Anyaele, Executive Director of CCD, noted that the poor especially the PLWDs bears the greatest burden of corruption and corrupt tendencies since most times they are denied their basic socio-economic and political rights.
Anyaele said that the CCD through the Up-Right for Nigeria initiative was training PLWDs on how to demand transparency and accountability from leaders, public officials and those that carry out public works.
The CCD boss noted that the three-day intensive training would expose the participants on need to follow due process of obtaining official information from any public office or public work.
“PLWDs are mostly living in the rural areas where information and enlightenment on critical issues are denied them.
“After the training, they will be able to legally challenge people, who are heads of local authorities, so that what is due to them will definitely get to them,’’ he said.
Anyaele also noted that the training would also serve as train-the-trainers for those participating in the workshop to step the message down to the grassroots.
One of the participants, Mr Austin Onyeachonam, said that the workshop had exposed him to know more about FOI Act and its enormous benefits to development.
“I believe that by the end of the workshop we will start asking questions on some issues in the state and council areas.
“We will also draft FOI letters to know the current state of yearly budgetary provisions for PLWDs programmes in the state and council areas,’’ Onyeachonam, who is Secretary-General of Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD), Enugu State Chapter, said.