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Legislative uplift for persons with disabilities


Former Chairman, National Human Rights Commission, Professor Chidi Odinkalu (middle) with Persons with Disabilities during a protest in Abuja before the signing of Disability Bill PHOTO: LUCY LADIDI ELUKPO

Persons With disabilities (PWD) constitute the world’s largest and most disadvantaged minority. The World Bank estimates that one billion people or 15 per cent of the world’s population, experience some form of disabilities.

Such persons often live on the margins of society, deprived of some of life’s fundamental experiences, such as going to school, getting a job, accessing healthcare, having own home, creating a family and raising their children, socialising or voting during elections.

The prevalence is higher in developing countries, as according to the United Nations (UN) handbook, From Exclusion to Equality: Realising the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which states that about 20 per cent of the world’s poorest people are PWDs, with 98 per cent of children with disabilities in developing countries not attending school.


It adds that around a third of the world’s street children live with disabilities and the literacy rate for adults with such condition put at three per cent, and one per cent for women in some countries.

Though the National Population Commission (NPC), in its submission at the 73rd UN General Assembly General Discussion of Agenda 28 on Social Development at the global body’s headquarters in New York, United States, estimated that no fewer than 19 million Nigerians are living with disabilities, a world report on disability published in 2011 estimated that about 25 million Nigerians live with at least one form of disability, while 3.6 million of the population had very significant difficulties in functioning.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities and its Optional Protocol is the international community’s response to the long history of discrimination, exclusion and dehumanisation of persons with disabilities.

The Convention seeks, among other things: “To promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.”

After what may be considered a long battle that spanned about 18 years, with the 7th and 8th National Assembly passing the bill twice and refusal of two successive Presidents to assent to the Bill prohibiting discrimination against persons with disability, succour came the way of PWD on Wednesday, January 23, when President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law, the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018, which would henceforth criminalise any form of discriminations against the physically challenged citizens.

It was gathered that securing the President’s assent to the Bill this time round was not easy, as it came days after he accused the lawmakers of not passing the Bill during a town hall appearance with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

The lawmakers, however, pushed back, saying they had passed the Bill since last year and submitted same to the President for his assent.

The Bill, which was passed by the 8th Senate on March 28, last year and transmitted to the President in December same year for the fourth time, has been in the National Assembly since the return to democratic rule in 1999.

The Act, which covers the rights and privileges of persons with disability, include education, healthcare, priority in accommodation and emergencies.

Part I of the Act covers Prohibition of Discrimination and Harmful Treatment, while Part II centres on Awareness.

Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on National Assembly Matters (Senate), Senator Ita Enang, explained: “The Act prohibits all forms of discrimination on grounds of disability and imposes a fine of N1, 000,000 for corporate bodies and N100, 000 for individuals or a term of six months imprisonment for violation, concurrently.

“It also guarantees the right to maintain civil action for damage by the person injured against any defaulter.”

In Part 1, Section 2, subsection (1): “A person with disability shall not be subjected to any form of prejudice or harmful treatment based on sex, age or tradition. (2) A person who contravenes subsection (1) of this section commits offence and is liable on conviction to, if the person is: (a) a corporate body, a minimum of N1, 000,000 damages payable to the affected person with disability, and (b) an individual, a minimum of N100, 000 damages payable to the affected person with disability or one year imprisonment or both.

In Part II, Section 3: “A media house, institution or establishment, licenced to operate in Nigeria shall make provisions in its programmes for promotion of awareness regarding: (a) the rights, respect and dignity of persons with disabilities; (b) the capabilities, achievements and contributions of persons with disabilities to society and (c) training programmes regarding persons with disabilities.”

Section 5, (1) posits: “Where a media house, institution or establishment contravenes Section 3 of this Act, the relevant authority shall: (a) give an order of compliance; and (b) withdraw the operating licence of the media house, institution or establishment, if after three (3) months of the receipt of the compliance order provided for in paragraph (a) of this subsection, the said media house, institution or establishment fails to comply.”

In part III, which deals with ‘Accessibility of Physical Structures,’ Sections 6, 7, 8 and 9, the Acts provides that: “A person with any form of disability shall have the right and necessary facilities to access the physical environment and buildings on an equal basis with any other person.

“A public building shall be constructed with the necessary accessibility aids, such as lift (where necessary), ramps and any others facility that shall make them accessible and usable to persons with disabilities, including those on wheelchairs.

“A private house owner shall allow a person with disability lawfully occupying private owner’s house as a tenant to make such access related modifications to the building as would allow him access to his apartment, provided he is acting in good faith and has given adequate notice to the private house owner.

“A road, side-walk, pedestrian crossing and other facility made for public use shall be made accessible and usable to a person with disability, including those on wheelchair.”

According to Enang, there is a five-year transitional period within which public buildings, structures or automobile are to be modified to be accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, including those on wheelchairs.

“From the date of the commencement of this Act, there shall be a transitory period of five years within which a public building, road, pedestrian crossing and any other structure, which was inaccessible to a person with disability, shall be modified to be accessible to and usable by a person with disability, including those on wheelchairs,” Part III, Section 10 states.
The Act further provides: “Before erecting any public building, its plan shall be scrutinised by the relevant authority, in conjunction with the ministry, to ensure that the plan conforms to the Building Code provided by the ministry.

“A government or government agency, body or individual responsible for the approval of building plan shall not approve plan of a public building if the plan does not make provision for accessibility facilities, in line with code and directives provided by the ministry.

“Any officer who approves or directs the approval of a building plan that contravenes the code and directives provided by the ministry shall be personally liable to a fine of at least N1, 000,000 or a term of imprisonment of two years or both.”

To ease the movement of PWD, the Act in Part IV, Section 13 (1), states: “Every commercial transport service shall operate in such a way that is readily accessible and usable by persons with disabilities, including those on wheelchairs.

“(2) All transport service providers shall make: (a) at least one out of every 10 of their vehicles, in the first one year; and (b) all their vehicles in the first two (2) years of the commencement of this Act, accessible and usable by persons with disabilities, including those on wheelchairs.”

According to Section 14 (1): “The transport service providers shall make provisions for lifts, ramps and other accessibility aids to enhance the accessibility of their vehicles, parks and bus-stops to persons with disabilities, including those on wheelchairs.

“(2) All lifts, ramps and other accessibility equipment in or for vehicles and at parks or bus stops shall be maintained in operational condition.

“(3) There shall be regular and frequent maintenance of all accessibility aids and equipment, while defective ones shall be promptly repaired or replaced.

“(4) Before a person with disability boards or alights from a vehicle, the driver shall ensure that the vehicle completely pulls up.


“(5) When a person with disability intends to board a vehicle, all other intending passengers shall wait for him to board first.”

Under Part IX, which takes care of ‘Children with Disabilities, Section 34 (1) provides: “Parents or guardians of children with disabilities shall ensure that such children, both within and outside the home, are free from all forms of neglect, exploitation, violence and abuse, including their gender-based aspects.

“(2) Government shall take all appropriate measures to prevent all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse by ensuring, appropriate forms of gender and age sensitive assistance and support for persons with disabilities and their families and care givers, including the provision of information and education on how to avoid, recognise and report instances of neglect, exploitation, violence and abuse.

“(3) In order to prevent the occurrence of all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse, all facilities and programmes designed to serve persons with disabilities shall be effectively monitored by the Ministry.

“(4) Government shall take all appropriate measures to promote the physical, cognitive and psychological recovery, rehabilitation and social reintegration of persons with disabilities who become victims of any form of exploitation, violence or abuse, and such recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment that fosters the health, welfare, self-respect, dignity and autonomy of the persons and takes into account gender and age-specific needs.”

Meanwhile, some persons with disabilities spoke on their experience, challenges and how the new legislation will impact on their lives.

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