Nigerian government urged to make sign language official

Temitope Mustapha, Abuja

World Association of Sign Language Interpreters has called on the Nigerian government to make sign language an official language for the deaf in the country.

The Africa Regional Representative of the Association, Natasha Maliko, made the call in Abuja during the first Regional Conference on Sign Language Interpreting and Deaf Rights in Africa jointly hosted by the Africa Federation of Sign Language Interpreters, Deaf Resource Centre and the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters, WASLI.

Maliko also said political will and appropriate legislation is needed from the Nigerian government to make sign language for the deaf an official language as it is in other Countries of the World.

“It’s important for us to realise that partnership is very important, Deaf people without interpreters will not reach the goal and full potentials and without the Deaf people Sign language will not exist, we co-exist in this world and we need to carry vision of complete access for deaf people and as well as give them their human right which is sign language recognition” she stressed.

“As deaf people we don’tthink we are part of the disabled community,we are linguistic and cultural minority the only difference between us and them is our language, the only thing that set the deaf people aside is our language which is not a physical disability,we are part of the disabled community but we are in alliance and partnership with them” Natasha said.

On her message for the Nigerian government, Natasha said, “what we are asking for is the political will and legislation that will change the plights of the deaf in Nigeria, the government should make sign language in Nigeria official”

A Member of the United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities, Barrister Danlanmi Basharu said the People with Disabilities have rights that must be respected.

Danlami stressed further that there is need to respect the linguistic culture and identity of the deaf, he added that the Nigerian government and members of the society must recognise that sign language for the deaf should be an official language.

The National President of the Joint National Association of People Living with Disabilities, Mrs Judith Umoh disclosed that plans are underway to develop a Unified National Sign Language for the Deaf in Nigeria.

Mrs Umoh also emphasised the need to create proper understanding and good working relationship between users of sign language and interpreters.

“As it is now we do not have a unified language for signing for the deaf, we are thinking to develop national sign language for the deaf whiuch will be part of the outcomes of this conference “she said.

“This conference will set boundaries in rights of the deaf and how to engage the deaf effectively based on their human rights” Mrs Umoh added.

The National President Nigeria Association of the Deaf, Mr Dagbo Suleiman, said the conference was organised to integrate the deaf in the Nigerian society to social interaction.

Dagbo said the UN recently made public projects with full inclusion of persons with disabilities in education, economics, politics etc.

“For us the deaf the deaf our full participation is through sign language and it is the purpose of this conference” he said.

Dagbo added that the conclusion of the conference is to present to the AU reports on the conference.

“The message to the Nigerian government is that we want government to formally recognise sign language as the language of the deaf and sign language interpreting as a medium of full integration of the deaf and hearing world, once sign language is recognised communication between the deaf people will be wide in the society and the problems with the deaf will become solved” Dagbo stated.