- Every year, the world observes the International Day of Disabled Persons on December 3 to promote the rights and well-being of the estimated 2 billion physically challenged people across the globe.
- The theme for 2019 is ‘Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda’.
- In spite of the National Disability Bill signed earlier this year, most Nigerians living with disabilities are unable to fully participate as a result of environmental issues and attitudinal barriers.
After years of advocacy and protest, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act on January 23, 2019.
This bill was passed to improve the lives of the estimated 25 million Nigerians living with at least one physical deformity according to the Center for Disability and Development Innovations (CeDDI, 2016). Reportedly, over 3.5million of these disabled people having difficult challenges of moving around.
According to Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on National Assembly Matters Ita Enang, “the Act prohibits all forms of discrimination on grounds of disability and imposes a fine of one million naira for corporate bodies and one hundred thousand naira for individuals or a term of six months imprisonment or both.”
Other provisions of the act include:
- Accessibility of physical structures — Persons with disabilities should be afforded lifts, ramps and other accessibility aids to enable access to all physical structures on an equal basis with others; similar access must be afforded in public buildings and road sidewalks.
- Socio-economic rights — The right to free, inclusive and appropriate education and liberty for persons with disability is guaranteed under the Act.
- Opportunity for Employment and Politics — A person with disabilities shall work on an equal basis with every other individual and has the right to an opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in the labour market and work environment that is open.
Any changes so far?
Over 10 months later, many Nigerians living with disabilities say they are still facing severe discrimination despite the bill.
Complaining to Daily Trust, the President of the National Association of Persons with Physical Disabilities (NAPPD), Comrade Rilwan Mohammed Abdullahi, said, “The major challenge being faced by persons with physical disabilities in Nigeria is discrimination which we thought would become history soon after the law was enacted.”
“One of the major problems with Nigeria is that we are very good with coming up with laws but when it comes to implementation it is another issue,” he added.
In Gombe State, the state chairman of the Joint National Association of People with Disabilities (JONAPWD), Umar Ali Goro accused the government of neglect.
“Despite having 32 graduates, 28 NCE holders and 99 others with diplomas as well as 486 secondary school certificate holders with 63 that attended craft school, many of us are either roaming the streets in search of jobs or begging along the major roads across the state. Out of the 65,000 civil servants in the state and local governments services, only about 500 of our members are fully engaged by the government, leaving over 475,000 jobless because we don’t have godfathers,” he said.
Apart from discrimination, disabled Nigerians still have to deal with the fact that most public and private buildings lack the special provisions they need.
With the majority of disabled Nigerians unable to make an honest living for themselves as a result of these environmental issues and attitudinal barriers like discrimination, most of them are forced to live below the poverty level.
Until this bill is fully implemented, more Nigerians face the risk of poverty and more discrimination.
In the words of António Guterres, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, “When we secure the rights of people with disabilities, we move closer to achieving the central promise of the 2030 Agenda — to leave no one behind.”