RAJI ADE OBA
One key governance tool of the state of any government—is a piece of legislation.
Three years after President Muhammadu Buhari, (GCFR) signed into law the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018, also known as National Disability Act), people with disabilities in Nigeria have experienced a meaningful amount of institutional relief. Yet, challenges abound, and opportunities for the Act’s fuller implementation.
There had been several years of negligence by the Government of Nigeria until, in 2018, when President Muhammadu Buhari finally assented to the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018, also known as National Disability Act). This was following several advocacies and lobbying attempts which almost led to the disappearing act of the bill in the last 18 years.
That was notwithstanding Nigeria was among the nations that signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (UNCRPD), including the United States of America.
Successive administrations since 2007 had come without establishing any legal framework to enforce the ratification and promote the rights of people with disabilities. America had long set the pace for other nations to institute this inclusive ratification into their polity. In the summer of 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed into law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Back home, the struggle for the same, for 31 million Nigerians with disabilities, had since begun. Concerned and informed Nigerians with disabilities, including Organization of persons with disabilities (OPDs), Civil society organizations (CSOs), and development partners took on the responsibility of drafting a bill and advocating for its passage at the Nation’s parliament.
On the 17th January 2018, a new chapter had started for millions of Nigerians with disabilities, as the President assented to the National Disability Act.
The years-long struggle to end discrimination against Persons with Disabilities had ended. A new socio-economic and political life had begun for all people with disabilities.
In short, the historical Acts t meant that due dignity would be accorded to people with disabilities in society.
The Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018, also known as (ring dust—finally saw the dawn of light, as the 8th Session of our nation’s National Assembly passed the bill on March 28, 2018, and assented to by the President, and after many years of politics and political grandstanding in Abuja.
The Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018 was assented to by the President on the 17th of January 2019.
The Gains of the National Disability Act
Understandably, it is important to recognize and acknowledge some of the gains that have been associated with the current policy. Since the enactment of the National Disability Act, there have been, according to experts and stakeholders, significant gains in accessing public services, one notably of which includes the agreement of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) representative to open access for engagement of their institution on access to banking halls and services in Nigeria.
In addition, the National Commission of People with Disabilities (NCPWD) was established by the government.
This was a fulfilled commitment from the Presidency and Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation for the establishment of the Commission on Persons with Disabilities.
Moreover, exclusion has meaningfully ceased, though not completely. It is relieving to know that excluding tens of millions of people from full equal participation in the economy based on their disability is not only an economic injustice but as well as an impediment to a healthier.
Enormous credit is given to the Ford Foundation for supporting Research and Monitoring of the Implementation of the National Disability Policies and Regulations in the Selected States in Nigeria, a project designed to ensure inclusion, participation, and mainstreaming of disability issues in all State and non-State actors’ program and activities in Nigeria.
The drawbacks of the National Disability Act
Nonetheless, three years after the passage of the National Disability Act, the gap widens—between where the disabled population is and it ought to be —about the mobility of the non-disabled society and the international disability communities.
Despite the decency and intellectual capacities of this exceptional population, Nigerian people with disabilities remain a minority– with significant safety and governance challenges, ranging from high unemployment, poor information/knowledge acquisition, molestation, and emotional/sexual abuse of the deaf child, and social and physical and psychosocial harassment.
Nigerian job-seekers with disabilities grapple with stiff competition and unfair treatment from their non-disabled counterparts. Only a few states in the federation, including Oyo State, have done well integrating PWDS into its employment quota.
Disability-friendly and accessible public structures are not yet uniformly constructed. PWDS still have trouble with getting into public buildings, including financial institutions.
Recommendations and way forward
It is important to realize the full implementation of the Disability Rights Act, as well as to assess the performance of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD) in the discharge of its responsibilities for the education, healthcare, and the protection of the socioeconomic and other associated matters concerning people with disabilities.
All public organisations are to follow through with the provision that establishes reserve at least five percent of employment opportunities for qualified job applicants with disabilities.
The Federal Ministry of Works and Housing should be committed to ensuring that all public buildings under the Ministry are accessible to all persons with disabilities by improving on the adjustments already commenced.Finally, the inclusion of persons with disabilities in housing projects under the Ministry, including the construction of housing units that will be accessible to PWDs should be initiated.
Raji Ade Oba is a Deaf scholar, writer, public Special ED teacher, and media and communications professional. He is an award-winning disability rights activist and has habitually engaged in broader pedagogical conversations in Nigeria and abroad about safeguarding, governance, and institutional challenges confronting people with disabilities.