By Sikiru Obarayese
PEOPLE with disabilities are one of the most marginalized groups in Nigeria and even within the global society. People with disabilities have constantly been discriminated against, treated as less than humans, side-lined, neglected, and seen as an object of pity and instruments for alms begging.
According to the World Health Organisation’s 2011 World Disability Report, about 15 percent of Nigeria’s population, or at least 25 million people, have a disability. Many of them face several human rights cases of abuse including stigma, discrimination, violence, and lack of access to healthcare, housing, and education.
On January 23, 2019, Nigeria President, Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018, following 9 years of relentless advocacy by disability rights groups and activists, though implementation is yet to materialize. In addition, nine states in the Federation have enacted disability laws to safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities to varying degrees of implementation.
Nigeria ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2007 and its Optional Protocol in 2010. Since then, civil society groups and people with disabilities have called on the government to put it into practice. In 2011 and 2015, the National Assembly passed the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Bill 2009, but former President Goodluck Jonathan declined to sign it into law. The bill for the new law was passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate joint committee in November 2016 but was not sent to Buhari for his signature until December 2018.
The signed Act’s section 28 provides that 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 open environment.
Furthermore, section 29 of the Act stipulates that all public organizations are to reserve at least 5 percent of employment opportunities for persons with disability.
The Act establishes the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities as a corporate body with a common seal and perpetual succession. Its responsibilities include policy formulation and implementation, public enlightenment, data collection and record-keeping of information regarding persons with disabilities, receipt of complaints from persons with disabilities whose rights have been violated, and institution of schemes that promote the welfare of persons with disabilities.
Nigeria 2023 elections and PWDs
General elections will be held in Nigeria, Africa’s largest democracy this year. On February 25, which is seven days away, the presidential election and the national assembly will be held while the governorship and state house of assembly elections are billed for March 11.The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it’s ready for the poll while all 18 Political Parties intensified their campaign and disclosed their manifestos to the electorates. This promises infrastructural development, job creation, and many others which should focus on citizens including women, children, and Persons with Disabilities.
The campaign for presidential and National Assembly elections commenced on September 28, 2022, over four months ago. Five Persons with Disabilities are running for seats in the Senate while six others are contesting for seats in the House of Representatives.
The INEC in a paper, “Framework On Access And Participation Of Persons With Disabilities (PWDS) In The Electoral Process” implemented plans to encourage Political Parties to access and participate in Persons with Disabilities in the Electoral Process.
Part of the strategic plan listed in the document sighted by TRIBUNE ONLINE is “Encourage political parties to have quotas or set affirmative action percentage for PWDs, for elective and appointive positions. Work with Political Parties on inclusive campaigns. Design a template to monitor political parties’ compliance level of inclusivity and accessibility standards.
”Checks by this medium show that the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) filed only one Person with Disabilities (deaf/dump) who is a Senatorial candidate for Senate Nasarawa South, Nasarawa State while the major opposition Purple Democratic Party (PDP) has no Persons with Disabilities as a candidate.
Presidential campaigns of Political parties
TRIBUNE ONLINE monitors the campaign promises of the four main presidential candidates, The ruling APC; the major opposition, PDP; Labour Party and the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP.
The presidential candidate of APC, Bola Tinubu, and his campaign organisation on many occasions during his campaign promised an inclusive government from across all parts of Nigeria if elected president but has never mentioned if it includes Persons with Disabilities.
Tinubu said this in Owerri during a town hall meeting and dialogue with stakeholders and the business community in the SouthEast region of the country.
The presidential candidate of PDP, Atiku Abubakar also promised to carry every part of the country along if elected president. Atiku reportedly told persons living with disabilities (PWDs) not to vote for the ruling APC in the 2023 election.
Atiku while inaugurating PDP’s PWD national campaign council was quoted “APC has refused to implement the PWD law, and you have no reason to vote APC again. I want you to identify your membership and tell them to vote for a party that has recognised you and given them a special place which is PDP.”
According to the report, Atiku did not make any promise to the PWDs how they will benefit from his government and federal governments will cater to the needs of the people.
Presidential candidates present at the event include that of the Labour Party, Peter Obi; the New Nigeria Peoples Party, and Rabiu Kwankwaso signing the Governance Agenda for an Inclusive Nigeria document promising inclusion of women and Persons Living With Disabilities in governance.
Obi, who said there was no inclusiveness without women, youths, and persons with disabilities, added that more women were needed in government, as they were the most productive part of the society.
He also emphasized the need to insist on affirmative action for women, and ensure that the agenda was documented and signed into law.
Obi said, “We can’t talk about the development of any society without being inclusive of the three, call it sectors. We cannot talk about development without women; we cannot talk about development without youths. We can’t talk about it, without persons with disabilities.
“For me in particular, women are the most productive parts of society. We need to get them more and more involved. But for a society like Nigeria, we need to insist on affirmative action. I don’t think we can discuss it until people agree to do it. We need to make sure it is documented, signed into law, and everybody will follow through with it.”
Kwankwaso, represented by his running mate, Isaac Idahosa, told journalists that the NNPP had a “total package” plan for women in its government.
He said, “Anyone who undermined women in government did so at his own peril. We have a whole lot, a total package for women. But affirmative action is determined by how many women have already been involved. We are going to use what we have to improve the involvement of women in our government and our governance.
“You see, women have been relegated to the background until now. And we are now coming with a new Nigerian purposeful leadership, that is concerned with bringing inclusivity to our government. And anyone that undermines women, is to his peril.”
Marginalised persons with disabilities and 2023
Persons with disabilities face difficulties accessing adequate health services, often being limited by the availability of accessible hospitals and personnel who are aware of and specialized in disability inclusion and providing services for persons with disabilities.
They also experience poor educational outcomes on account of the absence of adequate facilities, including accessible infrastructure; learning materials; unemployment rates among persons with disabilities, and others compound the vulnerability of persons with disabilities.
The National President of, the Joint National Association for Persons with Disabilities, Abdullahi Kebbi, expressed dissatisfaction with the ongoing campaign and lamented how political parties are treating them
“We are not satisfied with the way candidates and political parties have been treating us. At how many governorship and presidential campaign rallies have you seen the presence of sign language interpreters? Is it because they cannot afford to hire one, or because they have a general disregard for people with disabilities?
“Apart from this, their campaign materials are not accessible to our people. I have yet to come across any campaign materials that someone with multiple disabilities can access. Even now, not all the campaign venues are accessible to our people,” he said.
He said that the PWSs have been deceived by some parties who claimed to have appointed PwDs to campaign committees saying “I will say this over and over again: what many candidates did was just use our representatives in the campaign committee to tick the box. They have not been involved in many of their programmes.”
While asked if he has seen the manifesto released by candidates, Kebbi said “I have. I have yet to see any that specifically stated he would do this for people with disabilities. What they have done is generalise everything they intend to do, and it does not work that way. If they say they will build infrastructures, but they are not accessible to PwDs, how have we benefited from that? I don’t think they know we exist. We have our special needs. What we need is special consideration to address some of our needs. From governorship to presidential candidates, I have not seen anyone with a manifesto that states he or she will address A, B, and C problems facing people with disabilities. We are not satisfied with the entire process.”