Next level for disability law in Nigeria
The “Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities Prohibition Act (2018) definitely was a milestone for those affected and probably for all the citizens. At least, the over 25 million persons that are living with disabilities in Nigeria are happy over the passage and signing of a law aimed at reintegrating them fully back into the society. This Act envisages the condition and limitations of persons living with disabilities and makes provision for their inclusion in the society at least as succour to mitigate their emotional and psychological trauma. If this law is implemented, it would alleviate the suffering of persons living with disabilities to a great extent and even curb the menace of using them as object of begging and also relief the relations of this category of Nigerians from bearing the entire burden of catering for them all alone. But it may not happen easily and this law might just become one of those laws that are just there without being implemented. For instance, the law that prohibits discrimination against persons living the HIV/AIDS is just there and not implemented. For instance, that law provided that all places of work must develop HIV/AIDS workplace policy as a way of ensuring that the employers would not maltreat employees because of their HIV status. Up till now, if at all, it’s rare to see any workplace that has such policy.
The implementation of that law on prohibition of discrimination against persons living with HIV suffered serious setback because there was no push until recently that Lawyers Alert Nigeria, a nongovernmental organization took up the case of a man that was sacked by his employer because of his HIV status. Lawyers Alert dragged the employer to court and won the case and the man simply called Mr ‘X’ to protect his identity. He was handsomely compensated via court ruling so that that employer would serve as deterrent to other employers of labour that tend to behave in the same manner. Another law that was passed that also face implementation challenge is the ‘Not Too Young to Rule’. Despite the passage of this law, it was shocking that the percentage of the youth that were elected in the just concluded 2019 election did not commensurate with the expectation in a country with huge population of youths. Also, the Freedom of Information Act, up till now, has not been given the chance it deserves at implementation stage. There are several cases in court now on the application of the Freedom of Information Act. A human right activist and member of Ondo State Civil Society Organization, Martins Alo dragged Ondo State Government to court over issues around application of Freedom of Information Act and the case has been foot-dragging from High Court to Appeal Court and now at Supreme Court with its fate hanging in the balance.
One then begins to wonder why the passing and signing the laws since such laws would not be implemented. Then, what is the essence of the legislative arm of government that gulps huge resources from the nation to service the legislators. And what’s the essence of government without laws when the state exists due to the existence of the law. Why do we then have the judiciary if the laws would not function?
This disability act is a litmus test to really know the seriousness and sincerity of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari who is a disciplined law enforcer, given his military background and who appears to be a man of principle. Also, having a lawyer, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and a professor of Law, Yemi Osinbajo as Vice President makes it imperative for this nation to actualize the implementation of this and other laws of the land. At a recent strategy session facilitated by Department for International Development (DFID’s) Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (PERL) recently, the stakeholders from various clusters in the disabilities community in Nigeria dissected the law and identified priority areas that required immediate implementation. They demanded the immediate implementation of the Disability Law. The persons with disabilities including Professor Jubril Isah of Bayero University, Kano (BUK), Dr. Adebukola Adebayo, Member, Governing Board, Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA), Mr. David Anyaele, Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, Mr Daniel Onwe, President, Lawyers Living with Disabilities, Irene Patrick, Executive Director, Disability Rights Advocacy Center (DRAC) and Sulaimon Abdulazeez, Chairman, Kaduna State chapter of Joint National Association of Persons Living with Disability (JONAPWD).
These stakeholders commended the national Assembly and the presidency for gazetting the law.
They unanimously agreed on key areas for immediate implementation of the law. They urged President Buahri to set up the national commission for disability without delay. They also appealed to the federal government to provide fund for the commission to be effective. They also emphasised the need by all stakeholders including the media to create more awareness of the law so that every citizen would be aware of the existence of the law and abide. The stakeholders charged all state governors to domesticate the disability law in their various states. In conclusion, the persons living with disabilities in Nigeria are citizens of this country who deserve to live and function unhindered, (within the ambit of the law) but they are at disadvantage in most cases and are often being denied of access and opportunities because of their condition. This necessitated the disability law to reintegrate them back fully into the society and give them sense of belonging. This law will promote love among the citizenry if well implemented. Therefore, President Buhari and all those concerned should please kindly take the Disability Law in Nigeria to the Next Level by ensuring the immediate implementation of the law.
Oyegbade wrote from Gbaemu, Osogbo, Osun State, Nigeria.