Kaduna State Government has signed the Disability Bill into law but not much has been known about details of the law. Can you briefly explain what this is all about?
Well, first and foremost, I think people know about the bill, because we’ve been talking about it for quite a long time, and people with disabilities have been agitating for the law to be passed. Their agitation was borne out of the fact that it has been passed at the national level, so they wanted it passed at the state level and this is something that we had been advocating for. And fortunately, it has now been passed into law. The law has to do with the rights of people with disabilities – right to health, right to education, right to security, and also right to accessibility, especially to public buildings. There is also the provision for the Disability Trust Fund in the law. The fund takes care of various issues. So, in a nutshell, this is what the law contains, this is what the law is all about; and then very soon, we are also going to have the Disability Regulations.
Last month, you reportedly told newsmen that Kaduna state is set to establish a Disability Trust Fund. When will the fund be established?
How will it operate? Who will run it? Well, it is embedded into the Disability Law, although the Disability Trust Fund has been approved long time ago by the Executive Council. The Disability Trust Fund is like any other trust fund, where you find people of goodwill towards the plight of people with disabilities, philanthropists and what have you, including the government, providing funds to address their concerns and needs. The Disability Trust Fund will also have a Board of Trustees, a body, which will be saddled with the responsibility of seeing to the day-to-day running of the fund and at the same time, monitoring it generally. This is to check abuse. These days, once there’s funding, people tend to abuse it, but if we have a Board of Trustees in place, comprising people who are trusted, those that have integrity, people will also be willing to support the Trust Fund with resources. As for who will operate it? It will be guided, because we already have the code of ethics, the framework is in place; the guidelines of how it will run are spelt out. We will just dust the document and pass it to the governor for approval.
As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) built a new Children’s Home. How is this home different from the Orphanage that Kaduna State Government is currently running?
Well, an orphanage is a place where abandoned children or babies are kept and taken care of by the government. Some of the babies were handed over by their parents, especially those that were born out of wedlock, or children from adolescent pregnancies, and so on. So, these are the kind of children we have at the orphanage, and they are normally given out for adoption to those that are interested, families that are capable of taking care of them, families that are not blessed with children. The difference between that and the Children’s Home is that with the Home, we are looking at children that are at conflict with the law.
These are children that violate the law, but can’t be detained or taken to the prison, so we believe that this Home will serve as a rehabilitation centre for them. These children can come to the Home from their parents’ homes. There are those that we accommodate for a period of time at the Home. We allow them to go through a process of rehabilitation, give them psychosocial support, training and skills acquisition.
They will also go through normal classes, so they don’t miss school, and they will be from 17 years downwards. Someone who is 18 years and above is an adult, so the Home is not a place for such a person. The Home will also serve children who are referred to either from the court or police station, from the Ministry of Justice, or Non-Governmental Organizations.
Parents can also bring their own children to the Home as well. We already have social workers to help train these children. Let me also add that this is the first of such Homes in the 19 northern states; we currently have one in Lagos, offering these services, but this one in Kaduna will be the first in northern Nigeria. Our staff have undergone training, but they will also be trained and retrained on the services required. We are going to work with UNICEF, they will support the programme, so we need to train these staff on the global best practices, because handling children is different from handling adults, or handling babies like what obtains in the orphanage.
As I explained earlier, the Diversion Programme means diverting the child from becoming a criminal, preventing him or her from going to prison. Children are not supposed to be detained or sent to prison. So, this Home will serve as a rehabilitation centre. We will rehabilitate them, before they become full-fledged criminals. Because we believe that once you are able to train a child, provide these services, it’ll stop the child from engaging in the small and petty criminal activities.
What will be the criteria for selecting beneficiaries of the programme?
Well, the criteria is referral because people come here, to the ministry and when we find out these children need these kinds of services, we automatically take them. But we’ll also get referrals from the police, from the court, and from the Ministry of Justice, because we are working multi-sectorally. And we can also get referrals from even NGOs such as FIDA, the association of female lawyers, amongst others.
Kaduna State has Sexual Assault Referral Centres that offer counselling and treatment to victims of sexual abuse. Are these centres still up and running or have they folded up due either paucity of funds or lack of patronage?
Yes, of course they are up and running! The Sexual Assault Referral Centres actually provide services to people that are violated or raped, especially children. Children are being violated on a daily basis, so these referral centres actually provide services – health services, legal services, counselling, psychosocial support, just to name a few. And they also provide advocacy. Staff of my ministry and officials of these centres go for advocacy into communities, to traditional leaders, religious and opinion leaders, and even families.
We embark on these advocacies so as to cause awareness and anybody that is violating a child, must be brought to book. So, the centres focus on that, apart from treatment and counselling. People are even asking for more of these referral centres to be established, because we have four in number now; we have one in each senatorial zone; but in zone two, that is the central zone, we have two. These centres are easily accessible because they are also situated in the hospitals.
There is one in FOMWAM Hospital, Yusuf Dantsoho Hospital, Gambo Sawaba, in Zaria, and also Patrick Yakowa Hospital in Kafanchan. The Ministry is also doing a lot. I am happy to say that the coming of this administration has passed so many laws. It has never been done before. We have an expanded ministry and mandate, and just recently, the Youth Association Law was passed, the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) (VAPP) Law has been passed, the Child Welfare and Protection Law has been passed, we have policies in place that protect the rights of children, youth and women. We have just concluded the printing of our Youth Policy. Very soon, we will do the dissemination exercise and then distribute it. We have done a lot, and we are still doing a lot. We have Development Partners supporting us. We have just concluded our Corporate Plan, supported by Save The Children. So, you’ll find out that we’re doing so much. We are also addressing Gender-Based Violence, and issues that have to do with human services, intervention, protection and welfare. We are also on the Almajiri issue, we’ve just concluded data collection, we’re going to work with UNICEF as well.
The At-Risk Children Project is also coming on board, it is being spearheaded by some Developmental Partners under the leadership of Hajiya Maryam Uwais, the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Investments. We have just concluded signing an MoU with her, and it’ll take off soon. UNICEF is also part of those supporting such projects, so we believe that very soon, we’ll remove these children from the streets, enrol them in schools, and ensure that they are adequately protected. Children within the ages of seven and 24 will be enrolled into schools while adults will be enrolled into the skills acquisition centres, which we have in all the 23 LGAs. These projects also show the synergy between the Ministry of Human Services, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Justice, and SUBEP.