The Commonwealth Scholars and Fellows Alumni Association Nigeria (COSFAN)
COSFAN held an end of year workshop and investiture of patrons event on 3 December 2019 at the British Council Hall, Lagos. The end of year workshop, titled ‘Disability Law in the Hands of All’, was organised to raise awareness of disability law and the rights of disabled people, and to present copies of a simplified version of the Lagos State Special People’s Law, produced by COSFAN, to be distributed across communities.
COSFAN National President, Dr Abiola Adimula (2010 Professional Fellow, The Haven Wolverhampton), delivered a welcome address and thanked all those in attendance for showing their support, in particular representatives of the Federal Government of Nigeria, Lagos State Government, and British Council for agreeing to be part of the landmark activity. In her welcome address she commended the Federal Government of Nigeria for passing into Law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018 and urged that the implementation of the Law be given utmost attention.
She outlined the three objectives of the event were to: make the Law accessible to all citizens; impel them to read and understand the rights of persons living with disabilities; and know their own roles or responsibilities in protecting these rights. Encouraging all State Governments to emulate what the Federal Government of Nigeria and Lagos Sate had achieved in passing the Disabilities Law, she urged that the law be domesticated and implemented at all levels.
Finally, she welcomed distinguished attendees, among which were representatives from the British High Commission Nigeria, the Hon. Minister of Education, the Executive Governor of Lagos State, and the Ooni of Ife. The event was further attended by COSFAN Patrons, Advisors, and members, and wider guests.
In finishing her welcome address, Dr Adimula presented COSFAN’s new Board Chairman, Emeritus Professor Olugbemiro Jegede (1979 Scholar, PhD Education, Cardiff University), former Vice-Chancellor, National Open University.
Presentation of 5,000 Simplified Version of Lagos State Special People’s Law
On behalf of the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Peter Thomas, Deputy Head of Mission, commended COSFAN for taking action at a time when it is most needed and producing a simplified version of the Lagos State Special People’s Law. He joined other dignitaries in the presentation of 5,000 copies of the simplified version of the Law, produced by COSFAN. These were presented to the Lagos State Government through the Permanent Secretary and Lagos State Ministry of Youth and Social Development and ten copies were given to representatives of other States in attendance for further distribution.
Mrs Lydia Giginna, Director, Education Support Services, delivered a goodwill message on behalf of The Hon. Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu. In his message, he appreciated COSFAN for organising the event, even at a time when there is high rate of violence, stigmatisation, discrimination, and other human rights abuses against persons with special needs, noting that all these would be addressed if an appropriate law for special needs is in place, as it will impose sanctions, fines, and jail terms for those who violate it.
Investiture of Patrons
The investiture of COSFAN Patrons was conducted by the COSFAN President and Board Chairman. A representative of the Patron, His Imperial Majesty, the Ooni of Ife- Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, HRM Adebisi Layade, stated the involvement of the Ooni of Ife regarding inclusivity and disability. He raised that no special funding was allocated for disability awareness and advised the government to be fully involved in providing access to education, health care, salaries for carers, and access to transportation. Another Patron, Professor Ibrahim Gambari CFR, said he was optimistic that the war against discrimination on the basis of disabilities would be won like the world won the war against discrimination on the basis of race.
Keynote speaker, Mr Oluwadamilare Ogundairo, Chairman, Joint Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) Lagos State Chapter, commended COSFAN for preaching equality. He talked about the role of government in the Lagos State Special People’s Law, and that the focus should be on the disability and not the person, and noted there should be policies in place to protect the right of persons living with disabilities and ensure compliance.
Emeritus Professor Michael Omolewa, (1975 Academic Fellow, History of Adult Education, King’s College London) spoke about disability and education in Nigeria. He said the challenge is not unavailability of laws protecting the rights of persons with disabilities but the implementation of these laws, which is a global challenge. This could be due to a lack of proper consultation when making laws or a reluctance in implementing them. He stated that everyone should take ownership of this new Law by building a strong education system, formal and informal, starting from primary school to tertiary level. He also mentioned that focus should also be given to learning taking place outside of the school setting, such as at home and in the media.
Emeritus Professor Olugbemiro Jegede spoke on Nigeria’s Disabilities Act 2018 and the roadmap to its implementation. He acknowledged that the Law is well-structured and crafted, however, the challenge has been the implementation. Pleading with the Government to assist in making sure the implementation is systemic, he hoped that one day there would be high number of persons with disabilities elected into political offices.
A goodwill message was delivered by the British Council Acting Country Director. He congratulated COSFAN for presenting the simplified version of the Lagos State Special People’s Law and the continuous support of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK. He reinforced that the British Council actively supports and promotes social mobility of disability, an inclusive model that reinforces the understanding that people are disabled by the way society is organised. He promised that the British Council will continue to support COSFAN to promote this awareness.
Following the event, attendees asked questions of the speakers and shared recommendations. The event closed with a vote of thanks by Helen Akinwande-Fidelis (2012 Professional Fellow, The Haven Wolverhampton), Chairperson, COSFAN Planning Committee.