The Federal Government has affirmed its commitment to inclusive quality educational and employment opportunities for the blind and visually impaired persons (VIPs) just as it urged Nigerians not to despise but assist them as respectable members of society.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, made these declarations in his office when the blind and visually impaired community visited him on the occasion of the International White Cane and Safety Day 2019 on 15 October 2019.
The SGF, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, General Services Office (GSO), Mr. Olusegun Adekunle, further assured them that Government would facilitate speedy passage of the revised Copyright Bill which would, among other things, domesticate the provisions of the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled.
Addressing participants at the awareness walk organised by the Nigeria Association of the Blind in collaboration with the Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC) to commemorate the Day, the SGF assured that the Federal Government shared the aspirations of the physically challenged people for more employment and quality education in the country.
Stressing that Government would ensure that blind and visually impaired persons have access to published materials to enhance their literacy in line with provisions of the Marrakesh Treaty, he noted that the ratification in 2017 of four major copyright treaties showed this administration’s commitment to a wholesome and functional copyright system that would serve the needs of Nigerians and grow the creative sector for national development.
“The white cane is a symbol of strength in addressing challenges. We do not see disability in being blind or visually impaired. The blind have achieved much despite their physical challenge. Among them are authors, administrators, lawyers, doctors, etc. I call on all Nigerians to respect and support everyone with the white cane”, he stated.
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari on 24 August 2017 ratified four copyright treaties, namely the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT); the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT); the Beijing Treaty on Audio Visual Performances; and the Marrakesh Treaty.
In his remarks, the Director-General of Nigerian Copyright Commission (NCC), Mr. John O. Asein, stated that the Commission would live up to its mandate to make the copyright system work for every sector of the creative industries and for the blind people in Nigeria.
Mr. Asein expressed gratitude to Government for all the efforts to make the blind enjoy fullness of life in Nigeria, adding: “I thank the President for signing the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act and for ratifying the four WIPO Treaties, including the Marrakesh Treaty”.
The Director-General said the Commission would partner with all relevant arms of Government and stakeholders to ensure the early passage of the Copyright Act. On the Commission’s efforts to take advantage of the flexibilities allowed under the Treaty, he assured the blind and visually impaired that modalities were being worked out to enable the blind have easier access to published works from all over the world. “We will do everything in our power to ensure that blind and visually impaired students do not miss out on quality education. We are committed to helping more blind and visually impaired Nigerians to read,” he stated.
In a press statement to mark the Day, the Director-General noted that the International White Cane Day was dedicated annually to celebrate the abilities and successes achieved by the blind and visually impaired people in a sighted world and to honour those who have distinguished themselves in various walks of life as professionals, public servants, entertainment practitioners, among others.
“In furtherance of Nigeria’s ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty, the Nigerian Copyright Commission is supporting a project under the Accessible Books Consortium of WIPO aimed at capacity building assistance; provision of accessible books and assistive technologies to persons who are blind and visually impaired in Nigerian schools,” he announced.
“The project, which is designed to address the book famine experienced by the over 500,000 students of school age in Nigeria, will also promote inclusive publishing and build the capacity of authorised entities to take advantage of the provisions of the Marrakesh Treaty,” he added.
The Director-General stated that the Commission in celebration of the immense contributions of the blind and visually impaired persons, particularly in the creative sector, recalled “with pride the achievements of the Nigerian popular music producer, Cobhams Asuquo who, despite being blind, has gained international recognition as a frontline entertainment entrepreneur.”
President of Nigeria Association of the Blind (NAB), Mr. Ishaku Adamu, observed on the occasion that President Buhari’s Government has done a lot to improve the wellbeing of people living with disabilities by signing the Disabilities Act and also ratifying the Marrakesh Treaty.
Commending the Secretary to the Government of the Federation for his goodwill and support for physically challenged people, Mr. Adamu stated: “We ask for domestication of the Marrakesh Treaty through the early passage of the Copyright Bill, to enable blind people access to printed materials and books in accessible formats. We appeal for more education, scholarship opportunities and employment of more blind persons in the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of Government”.
The theme of this year’s celebration is “My Safety, My Productivity”.
Vincent A. Oyefeso
Director, Public Affairs