Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. It’s great to be with you today. Before I begin I would like to thank the conference organizers, Inclusive Friends Association and Grace in particular, for their tireless advocacy on behalf of persons with disabilities.
Nearly 30 million people – or about 13.5 percent of Nigerians – are living with some form of disability, a huge section of the population – more than the entire population of Nigeria’s neighbor to the east, Cameroon.
Nigeria is a signatory of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which promotes the full integration of persons with disabilities and carries the force of national law. As such it is obliged to do all it can to facilitate access of these populations to the political process.
Given this obligation, U.S. assistance in Nigeria aims to support greater participation of the disabled in society and help them cope in an environment that is often ill-prepared to meet their needs. Fully inclusion of this large community is a key tenet of strong democracy in Nigeria.
Through USAID, the United States supports efforts led by Nigerian civil
society and advocacy organizations working to improve access to their civic right to participate in the political process, such as the Inclusive Friends Association.
Ahead of the recent elections, IFA conducted media outreach on International Day of Persons with Disabilities and advocated for their electoral inclusion, including support for a draft National Disability Bill. It also worked with INEC to introduce tactile balloting to assist visually impaired voters to vote independently in the 2019 general elections.
These are just a few examples in which development partners have supported Nigerians’ vision of greater inclusivity and how we are moving towards it.
We are pleased to be on this journey with you and look forward to today’s discussions on lessons learned. We hope to integrate best practices for greater inclusion in advance of the Kogi and Bayelsa off-cycle elections and many more opportunities to help advocate for disabled communities in the future.
We look forward to a day when the principle of inclusivity is a key element of the Nigerian democratic system. Thank you.