Some concerned Nigerians have appealed to the National Assembly to immediately transmit the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities’ (Prohibition) Bill to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent.
The International Ford Fellowship Program Alumni Association Nigeria (IFPAAN) and an association of people living with disabilities (PLWD) made the appeal on Monday on the occasion of the World International Disabilities Day celebrated December 3.
A senator, Francis Alimikhena, sponsored the bill in 2015 at the Eighth National Assembly and it was passed and later in 2016 harmonised by both the Senate and House of Representatives. Unfortunately, it is yet to be sent to President Buhari to sign it into law.
Speaking on this development, the President of IFPAAN, Obo Effanga, in a statement he issued in commemoration of the disabilities day, said the law will go a long way in protecting the rights of people living with disabilities in Nigeria.
Mr Effanga said the law will benefit over 25 million people in the country living with disabilities.
In line with the theme for this year’s celebration of the day, “Empowering Persons with Disabilities and Ensuring Inclusiveness and Equality”, Mr Effanga said the law will protect persons with disabilities against discrimination and stigmatisation, and ensure their inclusion in everyday activities in Nigeria.
“We the Ford Alumni in Nigeria join numerous groups in the country to urge the National Assembly to speedily transmit the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Bill 2018 to the president. We are also using this medium to call on the president to assent the bill,” he said.
Mr Effanga said IFPAAN was dismayed by the “delay and rigmarole” that have characterised the passage of the bill since 2000.
He said this should not exceed the 18th year of the agitation for the law, more so that Nigeria has signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
“Recognising that no nation can fully develop without developing her people with disabilities, we ask that everyone concerned with the transmission and assent of the Disabilities Bill should do the needful henceforth without further delay,” he said.
Speaking in a similar vein, the Chairman of PLWD in Kogi State, Ibrahim Aromeh, in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES said the bill is very important as the pillar of support for the people living with disabilities in the country
Mr Aromeh said the delay in passing the law has been having a negative implication on the health of members who he said are constantly discriminated against in communities and also stigmatised.
He said the bill would facilitate the inclusion and acceptance of people living with disabilities into the society, as they have to constantly fight to be included.
“Ordinarily, we do not need to pray for the bill to be signed. The bill is about something that protects our right in society and also makes provisions for our everyday lives. If this bill is not assented to, it is like we have no room to lay our heads.
“The bill makes provision for so many things to better our lives; from education to health care to participation in the society, among others. As we celebrate today, we expect that the bill should have been signed as this would have added more colour to our celebration,” he said.
Mr Aromeh said until the bill is signed by the president, Nigerians will keep on stigmatising and marginalising people with disabilities and they would not be able to fight back because they have no legal backing to do so.
“The president’s signing of the bill will serve as a legal backing for us to fight for our rights within the society. It will also give us the opportunities to fight for inclusion and ask for better services especially in the health and education sector where we are often been treated as second citizens.”
Mr Aromeh said they are asking for inclusion and not separate schools for people with disabilities, as that on its own is stigmatisation. “Until the bill is passed there can be no adjustment. The existing schools should accommodate both those living with disabilities and others.
“There should be mechanism but in place for such. So also the healthcare centres should provide mechanisms for the disables to access health care services and at ease and not to be treated shabbily by health workers who believe we are burdens,” he said.
The battle for the enactment of the law in Nigeria began during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 2000. But 18 years after, the bill is yet to see the light of the day.
Some provisions of the Bill
The bill is meant to restore the dignity of persons with disabilities within the society.
It provides for their right to have access to public premises, accessibility aids at public buildings, access to roads and side walk, protection against risk and human emergencies as well as prohibition of being used to beg for alms.
Unfortunately, most of these have not been implemented because of the lack of laws to back them up. Most public buildings in the country do not make provision for wheelchair users.
Also, the law provides for the right to free education, free healthcare, and prohibition from segregation, right to work and employment and provision of special communication at hospitals.
This bill further provides for participation in politics and a national commission to address complaints of harassment, discrimination and harmful practices against persons with disabilities.
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