Group seeks right protection for physically challenged lawyers
The Association of Lawyers with Disabilities in Nigeria (ALDIN), has called on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) community court of justice and the National Industrial Court (NIC) to look into the violation of fundamental human rights of person’s with disabilities among West African countries and their courts.
In separate addresses to the president of ECOWAS community court of Justice, Edward Asante and the president of the NIC, Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip, ALDIN president, Dan Onwe emphasized that Article 4 of the ECOWAS revised protocol recognises the promotion and protection of human rights in accordance with the provision of the African charter on human and people’s right, which also must apply to person’s with disabilities.
According to him, the court of justice are neither just nor fair to persons with disabilities. Court buildings and environments, he said are very inaccessible to persons with disabilities.
“Persons with disabilities who come to courts, either as counsel, litigants or witnesses face untold hardships. Persons on wheelchairs, for instance, can only access most courtrooms by they either crawling on the floor or being carried in the hand like babies. There are several blind persons and deaf persons who have defied all odds to become lawyers, but the courts have no assistive facilities to cater for their peculiarities,” he said.
He noted that the NIC has a peculiar jurisdiction to promote equity, fairness and international best practices. According to him, it would be equitable, fair and just to create a level playing field for persons with disabilities in the buildings, environment, practice and procedures of the NIC.
His words: “Creating level playing fields for persons with disabilities has now become a global trend. And Nigeria cannot afford to be an exception. In essence, the NIC has so much role to play in upholding the rights of persons with disabilities in Nigeria. The NIC is constitutionally vested with exclusive jurisdiction in matters related to labour, employment, unfair labour practices, international best practices in labour, and disputes arising from discrimination.”
According to him, the association was founded in response to the fact that persons with disabilities are usually not put into consideration in the scheme of affairs in the society. Hence, their interest usually comes as an afterthought.
“This is why, for instance, public buildings are usually constructed with steep flight of steps, without considering that there are people on wheelchairs and crutches who would need to access those buildings. The modus operandi in our society does not contemplate that there are the blind, the deaf and persons with other forms of disabilities, who would require special formats of communication. Therefore, persons with disabilities are abandoned to their fate,” he said.
Onwe further requested that persons with disabilities should have access to buildings, provide sign language interpreters for the deaf, assistive formats of communication for the blind, parking slots, appointment of lawyers with disabilities as judges, employment at judicial staff and practice direction.
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