By Mazi Jonas O. Udensi,
By virtue of section 42(2) of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), no citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth. Thus the recent passage of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disability(prohibition) Act, 2018 (DAPDA) by the National Assembly was a very welcome development that will definitely bring at last joy and hope to millions of Nigerians with disabilities. It is however regrettable that almost two (2) years down the line, the DAPDA has not been used by the authorities in the various states of Nigeria to make meaningful impact in the lives of persons with disabilities(PWDs) in the country.
SCOPE OF THE ACT
The Discrimination Against Persons with Disability (prohibition) Act, 2018 is applicable to the whole Federation without any exception. To this extent, no state government should hide under the excuse of non-domestication of the Act as laws of the state to disobey or delay the application of the provisions of the Act, for any reason or reasons.
EFFECT OF THE ACT
The DAPDA made a wide range of provisions to enhance the lives and well-being of persons with disabilities in Nigeria. For instance, the DAPDA prohibits any one from discriminating against any person on grounds of disability and imposes penalties for breaches. Section 28 of the Act provides that:
1, A person with disability has the right to work on equal basis with others and this includes the right to opportunity to gain a living by work freely chosen or accepted in a labour market and work environment that is open.
2, A person who controverts subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to nominal damages of a minimum of #250, 000 payable to the affected person with disability.
3, Where a company controverts subsection(1)
a, The company commits an offence and is liable to nominal damages of a minimum of #500,000 payable to the affected person with disability; and
b, Any principal officer of the company involved in the violation is liable to #50,000 damages payable to the affected person with disability.
The Act further stipulates in section 29 for all employers of labour in public organizations to as much as possible have persons with disabilities constituting at least 5% of their employment. This section therefore imposes a duty on the states and Federal Government to make a deliberate policies that reserves at least 5% of all employment opportunities to deserving persons living with disabilities.
The Act also provides for the Socio-economic rights of the persons living with disabilities. By virtue of section 17 and 18 of the Act, PWDs have right to free, inclusive and appropriate education and liberties. Section 16 of the Act contemplates that PWD in Nigeria are prohibited from being deployed to solicit for alms. With respect to healthcare, the DAPDA provides for free medical treatment of PWDs in all public health institutions(see section 21 of the Act).
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE ACT SO FAR
The recent enactment and passage into law of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities(prohibition) Act, 2018 was a deliberate action of the National Assembly as a result of the long campaign/agitation by community of PWDs and association like IFEPED which has maintained a contrived advocacy for Nigerians to recognize and accept persons with disabilities as normal human beings and therefore seek to enhance their livelihood through an Act of the National Assembly. Regrettably, since the passage into law of the DAPDA Act, not much have been achieved towards integrating PWDs and their children into the society through compulsory free education.
Unfortunately, their children have continued to roam the streets of our cities and may tomorrow become criminals if not educated to free them from being exploited by the criminal world. Lots of deserving qualified persons with disabilities could not get employed either in the federal or states services even when some of them are graduates who has the ability to contribute meaningfully to any organization or institution if gainfully employed.
This article is part of the efforts of IFEPED to call on all states government to critically study the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities(Prohibition) Act, 2018 in order to commence enactment of similar laws and immediate implementation. First and foremost, there should be a deliberate policy to remove all PWDs now roaming the streets and enroll them in school. Individuals who deploy persons with disabilities to collect alms thus constituting in most cases nuisance to the community, should be arrested and prosecuted according to the law. Also, the states government must employ their preponderance power to ensure that public organizations shall as much as possible have persons with disabilities constituting at least 5% of their employment as intended by the Act.
Whereas the DAPDA Act, 2018 also provided for persons with disabilities to be encouraged to fully participate in politics and public life as well as providing adequate devices to assist them in public places, it is my view that government and private corporate organizations should start without further delay the full implementation of the law as it affects the two areas mentioned above. It is also my firm believe that by so doing, they would have used the Act to engender the renewal of hope and better the lots of the persons with disabilities in Nigeria.
Mazi Jonas O. Udensi.
Legal Practitioner and the Principal Partner J.O. Udensi & Co (SALVAGAIN CHAMBERS).
Also the Legal Adviser to IFEPED.