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NIGERIAN ELECTION 2007: MORE THAN 19 MILLION NIGERIANS WITH DISABILITIES FRAUDULENTLY DISENFRANCHISED
Africans In America News Watch, New York
Chief Eric N. Ufom President of Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities International, Inc, Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities of Nigerian in the Diaspora, and founder of Mental Health Voter Empowerment Project of Nigeria

Houston, Texas, March 18, 2007—Media and public briefing by Chief Eric Ndubueze Ufom, President of Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities International, Inc, Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities of Nigerian in the Diaspora, and founder of Mental Health Voter Empowerment Project of Nigeria, to inform the public about the first and only invitation given to Nigerians with disabilities to attend interactive session between persons with disabilities, Nigerian politicians and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on March 20, 2007.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Again this is the first time in the history of Nigeria election that such invitation is given to people with disabilities in Nigeria.

This briefing was organized with support from USAID-Nigeria and Pact-Nigeria.

I thank our supporters for recognizing and including more than 19 million Nigerians with Disabilities as a constituency of consequence, in Nigeria’s 2007 political process haven been disenfranchised by President Olusegun Obasanjo and his administration, INEC, political parties, and civil society organizations (CSOs) in the past.

On August, 2006, President Olusegun Obasanjo launched United Nations Joint Donor Basket Fund (JDBF) in Abuja; where $30 million (3.8 Billion Naira) was pooled together by four donor nations, European Commission (EC), the British Department for International Development (DFID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The JDBF is managed by UNDP under the guidance of INEC, with the aims to enfranchise Nigerians with Disabilities, Women, Youths and other marginalized groups without discrimination, through safeguarding their rights that will increase the capacity for them to have say in any political process, which will further deepen Nigeria’s democratic values and make it real.

The Fund is also, for use in providing technical assistance, capacity building, electoral training programmes, electoral staffing exercise, police sensitization, voters’ registration, training of ad-hoc staff, public outreach, assistance to promote citizens’ participation in the electoral process by supporting civil society organizations to carry out voters’ education for Nigerians with disabilities, youths, gender mainstreaming, domestic election observation and mandate protection activities.

United Nations Development Program (UNDP) administers these funds as a form of grants to CSOs of Nigeria for 2007 election monitoring, voter education, etc.

I, Chief Ufom call on UNDP, INEC, President Olusegun Obasanjo administration to explain to Nigerians and four donor nations the reasons why they failed to comply by the mandates set by the United Nations treaties to promote and protect the integral rights and human dignity of disenfranchised more than 19 million Nigerians with Disabilities during upcoming May 2007 election.

On March 30, 2007, at the United Nations Headquarters, New York, Nigeria and other Nations will be signing a groundbreaking first new human rights treaty of the twenty-first century as adopted by the General Assembly on December 3, 2007, to protect and promote the rights of persons with disabilities and a major shift in the way the world and Nigeria treats its 650 million and 19 million disabled people respectively.

Specifically, the significance of the Convention are as follow:

Establishes international standards regarding the rights and freedoms of people with disabilities

Clarifies human rights principles in the context of people with disabilities

Provides an authoritative model for governments to use in shaping national law and policies

Creates more effective mechanisms for monitoring the rights of people with disabilities

Establishes common bases for greater participation and self-sufficiency of people with disabilities worldwide

Provides for consultation with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, underlining the IDA and IDC motto of “Nothing about us without us”.

Article 29: Participation in political and public life:

         States Parties shall guarantee to persons with disabilities political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others, and shall undertake to:

         (a)         Ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, directly or through freely chosen representatives, including the right and opportunity for persons with disabilities to vote and be elected, inter alia, by:

         (i)         Ensuring that voting procedures, facilities and materials are appropriate, accessible and easy to understand and use;

         (ii)         Protecting the right of persons with disabilities to vote by secret ballot in elections and public referendums without intimidation, and to stand for elections, to effectively hold office and perform all public functions at all levels of government, facilitating the use of assistive and new technologies where appropriate;

         (iii)         Guaranteeing the free expression of the will of persons with disabilities as electors and to this end, where necessary, at their request, allowing assistance in voting by a person of their own choice;

         (b)         Promote actively an environment in which persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in the conduct of public affairs, without discrimination and on an equal basis with others, and encourage their participation in public affairs, including:

         (i)         Participation in non-governmental organizations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country, and in the activities and administration of political parties;

         (ii)         Forming and joining organizations of persons with disabilities to represent persons with disabilities at international, national, regional and local levels.

One major reason for granting this press conference is to sincerely thank Mr. Andrew Silski, who is in charge of Nigerian Desk and ECOWAS at the United States Department of State, Washington, DC, for his candid advice and support.

During a joint visit to his office at the State Department by my organizations and ANAC on July 3, 2006, Mr. Silski specifically encouraged me to apply for funding that would have enabled us to successful conduct 2006 annual convention, mentorship, HIV/AIDS, & Polio Days, for more than 19 million Nigerians with Disabilities, to include, real democratic, economic, social and human rights reforms conferences, which should have taken place from November 28-December 4, 2006. Mr. Silski promise and guaranteed to us, $25,000.00 (Twenty five thousand dollars), for immediate release before the release of the total fund requested.

Federal Ministry of Sports and Rehabilitation and all other ministries, are supposed to fund the projects as budgeted by Federal Republic of Nigerian National Assembly. As a result, Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities International, Inc. declined to apply for the State Department grant as guaranteed by Mr. Andrew Silski, because of our belief that it is not the responsibility of the United States to finance our annual national convention that was stonewalled by Nigeria government since 2004.

However, Mr. Andrew Silski’s vision was correct. That convention did not take place because Nigeria Federal Ministry of Sports and Rehabilitation refused funding the convention citing absence of budget while at the same time funding the entire sporting events.

My group recently discovered some of the reason(s) why our entire valid projects mentioned above, including Mental Health Voter Empowerment Project of Nigeria and non-signing of the only disability law enacted by Nigerian National Assembly since January 1, 2003, may have been due to our inability to bribe any person from our Nigerian mission to the United Nations, Embassy, INEC, Nigerian National Volunteer Services, Nigeria Heart of African Project, Nigerian office of the Presidency and National Assembly.

Recent Africans In America, Inc.’s event slated to present to Mrs. Inna Marym Ciroma the Nigerian Minister of Women affairs and Social Development and other women leaders from Nigeria the serious, complex, valid, long-neglected and ignored cases of human trafficking, denial of formal education and medical needs of Mrs. Marthina Okeke a 68 years old woman, in New York and Mrs. Celestina Ifeacho Joseph (child trafficking, violence against women, sexual abuse, child laborer, denial of formal education and serious medical needs) who was trafficked into the United States at the age of 10-years old by a Houston, Texas based Nigerian human traffickers and modern-day slave holders was an eye opener.

The event was disrupted by a surrogate of Nigerian government in United States in conspiracy with a very high level worker within the Nigerian Mission to the United Nations who sought bribe from Mr. Bonaventure Ezekwenna, CEO, Africans In America, Inc.

The surrogate in question had also contacted me via telephone in an attempt to intimidate and silence me, while the Houston based child trafficker out-rightly threatened me during an encounter; an incident, which had already been reported to the police.

I wish to mention that I have also discovered what I believe to be a conflict of interest whereby a well respected legal practitioner digressed himself by allowing the child trafficker to use him to conceal and cover-up this human trafficking case in Houston, Texas.

From the left: Chief Eric N. Ufom, Ambassador Bashir Wali, Ms. Dorothy Mbanefo, Dr. Chijioke Wigwe

Many progressive initiatives we have put together designed to attract resources to over 19 million Nigerians with disabilities (such as: Mental Health Voter Empowerment Project of Nigeria, annual convention, mentorship, HIV/AIDS, & Polio Days, real democratic, economic, social and human rights reforms conferences just to mention only a few) and submitted to Dr. Chijioke Wigwe and Ambassador Bashir Wali who represent Nigeria at the United Nations have surprisingly been stonewalled and not acted upon.

I must mention that my groups have volume of horrible and disappointing tales about the team representing Nigeria Mission to the United Nations, the Federal Ministry of Sports and Rehabilitation and Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.

I am therefore calling on Nigeria government and their agencies to cleanse the above mission and ministries and pay serious attention to the welfare of people with disabilities, including the victims of human trafficking both in the homeland and those stranded in foreign countries.

Members of Mental Health Empowerment Project of Nigeria comprising Mental Health Association of Nigeria, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Polio Survivors and Post-Polio Health Association of Nigeria

Unbridled and shameless corruption, bribery and kickbacks eating away the fabric of Nigeria state and mitigating against welfare and support for people with disabilities, including victims of human trafficking must be put to serious check.

Venus Ilagan (Philippines) Chairperson, Disabled Persons International, Yannis Vardakastanis (Greece), President of the European Disability Forum (EDF); and Gedion Mandesi (Tanzania), Vice-President, Rehabilitation International for African Region will speak on behalf of International Disability Caucus (IDC) and International Disability Alliance (IDA) at the United Nations Headquarters, New York on March 30, 2007 at the signing ceremony.

Thank you for your support.

Contact:
Chief Eric Ndubueze Ufom, President and Founder
Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities International, Inc,
Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities of Nigerian in the Diaspora
Mental Health Voter Empowerment Project of Nigeria