Rilwan Abdullahi Mohammed, the National President of National Association of Persons with Physical Disability (NAPWPD) has called on Kogi State Government to implement Kogi State Disability Law in areas of making buildings and public spaces accessible for persons with physical disabilities.
He made this call during a press conference organized by the association on Wednesday as part of their activities under an ongoing project tagged “Pushing for implementation of Kogi State Disability Law with regards to accessible buildings and public spaces in Kogi State.” The project is supported by Disability Right Fund (DRF).
Mr. Rilwan recognized the efforts of the government of Kogi State for domesticating disability law in Kogi State but called the attention of the government to the need to ensure immediate implementation of the provisions of the disability law especially with regards to accessible environment.
“Persons with disabilities especially those with physical impairments are daily confronted with the challenges of inaccessible environment and as a result shut out of daily activities of life. You will agree with me that when one is not able to access his environment, participation and inclusion in life’s endeavours becomes herculean task, even impossible to achieve. And yet, access to built environment for persons with physical impairment is a matter of right and not a privilege”.
He stated that The United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which Nigeria signed and ratified and therefore mandatory on Nigeria to implement, has in its Article 9 describes the obligations of the state parties to ensure all built environment, transport system and communication services are accessible for persons with disabilities. Each country is obliged to take effective measures to ensure all the physical infrastructures and other services are fit for use by all, as it is the precondition for realizing all other rights. Article 19 clearly stipulates that “persons with disabilities should have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, andto prevent isolation or segregation from the community”.
“The New Urban Agenda which represents a shared vision for a better and more sustainable future – one in which all people have equal rights and access to the benefits and opportunities that cities can offer. The actualization of the New Urban Agenda contributes to the implementation and localization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in an integrated manner. The vision is to develop cities for all, with equal access to resources in cities and other human settlements, to promote inclusivity and ensure that all inhabitants, of present and future generations, without discrimination, are able to inhabit and produce just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements to foster prosperity and life of quality. Goal 11 (Building Sustainable Cities) of the Sustainable Development Goals lend weighty credence to this”.
He also said that it is cheering to note that in 2021, the government of Kogi State passed a law to protect the rights of persons with disabilities and set up a disability office to ensure implementation of the provisions of the law. Key provisions of the law centres on accessibility of built environment and public spaces, this law contribute to the implementation of UNCRPD and disability related national law to uplift life of persons with disabilities and provide Persons with disabilities with access to basic services, human rights, and opportunities including accessible physical environment.
“Specifically, Section 24 and 25 of the law provides for Accessible transport system, Section 26 is on reservation of parking lots for persons with disabilities. Section 30 of the law provides for accessible buildings and public spaces”.
“Section 30 (6) empowers the Disability office to provide a building code for the guidance of the populace”.
He informed that the association, with support from Disability Rights Fund recently carried out accessibility audit of 50 public infrastructures around Kogi State, they include government buildings, public parks and open spaces, roads and streets, corporate sectors, commercial sectors and other infrastructures within Lokoja, Anyigba, Idah and Okene local government areas.
“Sadly, all 50-sample location were found to be inaccessible to persons with disabilities. Kogi State cannot afford to run afoul of its laws or exclude a large number of its populace from development efforts”.
He also said that it is important to note that the various provisions of Kogi State Disability Law mandating accessible physical environment also provides for sanctions in case of any infraction, hence if they will not be on the wrong side of the law, compliance with its provision is required, not tomorrow but today.
He recognised this year’s international wheelchair day which coincided with their program, it is a day set aside for wheelchair users to celebrate the positive impact that wheelchair has in their lives, to celebrate the great work of the many millions of people who provides wheelchairs, who support and care for wheelchair users and who make the world a better and more accessible place for people with mobility issues. The day is also dedicated to acknowledging and react constructively to the fact that there are many tens of millions of people in the world who need a wheelchair, but are unable to acquire one, and also to advocate for enabling/accessible physical and mental environment for wheelchair users.
“We join the rest of the world to celebrate this day of the braves and to amplify the voices of advocates all over the world calling for removal of barriers and creating an inclusive and accessible world”.
“We call on the government, private sector, and individuals in Kogi State to note the following; –
1. In line with Section 30 of Kogi State Disability Law, the Kogi State office for Disability Affairs is obliged to take immediate initiative in formulating and approving a Minimum Accessibility Standard Code and follow up with its implementation in the State.
2. It is also recommended that government must engage with various nongovernmental organizations, private sectors and Disabled People’s Organizations in conducting comprehensive accessibility audit and buildings correction /improvement related activities.
3. Architects who design buildings and builders who erect structures that are not accessible to persons with disabilities are committing offence against the law, they are therefore urged to do the right thing from now.
4. Government should work in collaboration and partnership with the local level, public transport operators, local communities and other relevant stakeholders to build an accessible public transport systems and communication services among others to ensure accessible environment for all.
5. Persons with disabilities are productive labour force too, therefore the Private sector should promote and erect accessible workplace, buildings, market, shopping centres, information technologies, road and transportation services.
6. Private businesses should ensure that all services, benefits and programs of private sector are accessible, safe and inclusive for all.