The European Union Ambassador, Samuela Isopi has lauded the Albino Foundation for championing the cause of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs), describing the Foundation as a worthy partner of the European Union. Speaking on her private visit to the Foundation in Abuja, Ambassador Isopi said the EU is happy and proud to partner with Albino Foundation, noting that through the foundation, the EU has been able to promote and impart values dear to the union, including ongoing political and human rights inclusivity in the country. With enduring partnership and commitment such as has been demonstrated by Albino Foundation, Isopi hinted that Union would not hesitate to expand its engagement with the disability community to include support in education, healthcare, and empowerment.   In her words, “You know that human rights inclusivity is something which is very much part of the DNA of the European Union, this is very much of our union, our values on which the European Union is founded. And this is why the promotion of these values is also something which is always at the centre of what we do, in our partner countries, or what we do with our partner countries, is always something that is the centre of our actions, of our policies, and of our cooperation with our partner countries. and institutions. “And we are very happy and also very lucky here in Nigeria, to have the Albino Foundation but also all of you as one of our partners or our allies in this journey. In this long journey. So, I have to say thank you because our role is actually to support you. So please, I really want to thank you and congratulate you. There had been a foundation, the commission and all of you for the impressive achievements that have been made possible by your commitment by your action. Speaking on the expanded interest in PWDs inclusion Ambassador the EU Ambassador said it was a direct fallout of recommendations of the 2019 election observation missions geared towards ensuring that no one, especially the disability community, is not left behind in 1023 and future polls. “As you know, this was one of the key recommendations of the European Union Election Observation Mission. Observe the elections in 2019. And this more exactly, to be more precise is recommendation number 30 of the final report, which indicates that parties be legally required to have policies on the political participation of persons with disabilities and also require INEC to provide devices in all polling units and Information and accessible.
“The rights of persons with disability is also one of the seven priorities which have been defined and our human rights and democracy country strategy for Nigeria. We know how important your contribution to society is. We know how important it is not to leave anyone behind and we will continue to work together. There have been great achievements. I think I can say, Jake, also in the framework of the electoral process, We have seen important improvements” she stated. Earlier in his address, Ambassador Jake Epelle, founder/CEO of Albino foundation disclosed that the EU had only recently extended its partnership with the foundation, making it possible for the foundation to champion the inclusion of PWDs in the electoral process. Ambassador Epelle hinted that the foundation will soon launch a nationwide campaign to create awareness for inclusivity in the electoral process and in line with the mandate of its partners to ensure that at least 100 PWDs scale up the ladder into both elective and appointive positions in the next three years. He added that the EU had through its robust engagement with the Independent National Electoral Commission,the foundation and other stakeholders supported and funded relevant provisions in the 2022 Electoral Act that deals squarely with PWDs inclusion in the electoral process. The foundation seized the occasion to unveil a new management team as well as take delivery of a 2022 model Prado Jeep, presented to the foundation by the European Union to enhance its operations.
Ambassador Jake Epelle, the Founder/ CEO of Albino Foundation, has warned candidates and political parties in the 2023 elections not to take the votes of the 16 million PWDs community for granted, stating that the disability community has the numbers to change the outcome of the coming general election. He has there urged the parties and their candidates to run a PWD-inclusive campaign and lend support to efforts of Civil Society Organizations working to ensure an inclusive election and society. While commending the efforts by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC ) in ensuring that disability issues are mainstreamed into electoral throughout the electoral phases, he urged political parties, as gatekeepers to political decision-making, to support disability inclusion in politics. “To become more competitive, it is important for parties to adopt practices that increase the inclusivity of underrepresented communities. These actions will help build and maintain a broader base of constituent support and earn citizens’ trust”, Epelle added that electoral umpire has “taken steps to remove barriers that restrict full participation of PWDs as voters and several measures have been put in place to ensure that persons with disabilities are included in the country’s electoral processes.” Before public political campaigns started, the Albino Foundation demanded the following in the interest of inclusivity:
  1. Involvement of PWDs in campaign committee set up.
  2. Campaign materials should be produced in accessible formats to reach different clusters of PWDs; the visually impaired and persons with albinism.
  3. As enshrined in the 2018 Disability Act, political parties must ensure that locations and settings for meetings and campaign activities are accessible to all PWDs, including party offices.
  4. Provision of sign language interpreters for the hearing-impaired community.
  5. Provision of adequate security network for persons with disabilities during campaign activities.
  6. Strengthened internal democracy, whereby political parties allow PWD members to fully participate in the activities, including running for elective positions.
  7. Political parties should subsidize election costs for Persons with Disabilities, taking into account the socio-economic inequalities.
The Albino Foundation (TAF) team paid a courtesy visit to the Chairman, National Population Commission (NPC), Honourable Nasir Isa Kwarra to seek partnership in ensuring a disability inclusive exercise in the upcoming National Census, alongside the programme officer, Disability Rights Fund, Barr. Theophilus Odaudu. TAF founder, Amb. Jake Epelle disclosed during the visit that a disability guideline for an inclusive process will be developed to support the commission’s work on inclusivity and asked for the Chairman’s buy in on the initiative.  He said that the Foundation is willing to serve the commission in any capacity to ensure a smooth collaboration and inclusive process, including training the trainers that will eventually train the commission’s staff. Amb. Epelle also expressed willingness of the foundation to support the NPC achieve a successful digital census, revealing that the foundation is developing an app that will provide support in the receiving real time eyewitness reports in form of vides and texts. The Honourable Chairman and his state commissioners welcomed the TAF team, with assurances of their willingness to partner with the foundation for the upcoming census, on the area of inclusivity.
In his response, the Executive Chairman of NPC, Hon. Nasir Isa-Kwarra, assured that necessary measures were already in place to ensure a successful digital census next year, adding that it would be a disability inclusive exercise. He further said that preparations are in place for disaggregated data for persons with disability and the albinism community, emphasizing that all Nigerians will be counted. In his words, “All exercises we’ve carried out so far, we included people living with disability. And that includes members of the albinism community. Also, when we do our major recruitment, whether it’s for ad hoc or permanent staff, I assure you to include members of the albinism community. “We’ve already captured the needs of people living with disability including the albinism community and we will produce disaggregated data. Not just of the members of the albinism community but where they reside, because it’s a population and housing census. “We will partner with you and create that capacity other African countries haven’t created. We want to conduct a census that leaves no one behind, because every Nigerian counts, and we would count every Nigerian.” The honourable Chairman promised to set up a technical committee responsible for driving inclusion in the upcoming 2023 census, and honoured Amb. Jake with a recognition plaque for his effort towards the recognition and respect of persons with disability to ensure a more inclusive country.
The National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD) have assured The Albino foundation of its readiness to formalize a partnership and collaboration through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Chairman of the Commission, James David Lalu, gave the assurance when he received a Management team from the Albino foundation, Led by the Chief Executive Officer, Amb. Jake Epelle, at the Commission’s meeting room in Abuja. Amb. Epelle endorsed the interventions made by the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD) and expressed willingness to execute the five strands of the European Union disability inclusion project geared towards a more inclusive, participatory, and representative democracy in Nigeria, with guidance by the commission. In his words, “We want to also identify with commission by letting you know some of the strands of the project and officially communicate to you that Albino Foundation is the face of disability in the European Union, and we are doing this project not only by ourselves but guided by the commission. So, we would be communicating with your team, briefing you every step of the way, asking for your open collaboration and partnership” Amb. Epelle asked for the Executive Secretary’s recommendation of sign language experts who will work at the national assembly, but will be under the foundation’s payroll, using the existing project budget for a three years engagement. According to him, the nominees will go through standard interview process using criteria that will be developed, making sure the right persons are hired. In Response, Executive secretary of The National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD) highly commended the projects rolling out from the Albino Foundation as it is a way of sending a message to the political leaders that PWDs can participate in the system. According to him, “we are very much interested to partner with the Albino Foundation to achieve all of these very beautiful programmes that you’re rolling out”.
“Election votability is something very important and sensitive. Disability community as we are today in Nigeria, we must demonstrate our voter capacity and voter capability in the nation today. Our proper participation in the political process is something that is very important to showcase the strength of the disability community for these politicians”. Mr. Lalu voiced his total commitment and willingness to collaborate with the foundation especially in the area of Data sharing for better information and planning, adding that the commission is working towards harmonizing their common sign language into a national sign language and the expansion of the sign language dictionary. The Executive Secretary suggested signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Albino foundation, to enable the commission to identify its primary role and work towards achieving success on the programmes. He added that the commission is willing to commit ten million nairas (10,000,000) of their funds for the year to support the fight against skin cancer for persons with albinism. He gave assurances that his partnership with the Foundation will guarantee sustainability, as whatever the commission does with the foundation will be included in their budget going forward, so that whenever the foundation’s funded program ends, the commission will continue and inject it into their system. Mr. Lalu presented a copy of the 2022-2026 strategic plan document to Amb. Jake Epelle, intended to prioritize the activities of the commission and ensure that the nation tap from the potentials of persons with disabilities, culminating in inclusion of persons with disabilities in all areas of National development.
The Albino foundation (TAF) team together with cluster heads of persons with disabilities paid a courtesy visit to the FCT commandant, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Peter Samuel Maigari, to make contribution to the developing guideline for understanding disability inclusion in Nigeria, and interact towards the protection of PWDs against discrimination. The Albino foundation founder, Amb. Jake Epelle stated objectives for the courtesy visit, adding that the FCT commandant’s willingness to identify with Persons with disabilities will be a morale booster in the struggle for inclusion. He also encouraged the Commandant to get a wheelchair ramp for the corps’ building, as this act will foster disability inclusion within the commission.
The FCT commandant, alongside five (5) deputy commandants in the corps, welcomed the TAF team and congratulated TAF founder, Amb. Jake Epelle with a recognition plaque for the foundations’ efforts and contributions towards a more inclusive Nigeria.  He assured the team that he will look into the developing guideline and make inputs, especially on the area of security, while accepting to work with TAF’s specification in getting a ramp in the commission. Commandant Peter also encouraged the TAF team to pay a courtesy visit to the Commandant General of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), adding that the commandant general’s buy in will give the advocacy around disability inclusion a bite.

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