World’s Disability Day: Members decry discrimination, want law enforced

Persons living with disabilities have lamented that they are still facing discrimination across the country despite the passage and assent to the National Disability Bill. President Muhammadu Buhari had on January 23, 2019, signed into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018 following nine years of relentless advocacy by disability rights activists in the country.

The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and imposes sanctions including fines and prison sentences on those who contravene it. It also stipulates a five-year transitional period for modifying public buildings, structures and automobiles to make them accessible and usable for people with disabilities.

But as Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark this year’s World Disability Day, persons with disabilities said discrimination against them has not abated.

They said public and private buildings have remained user-unfriendly to their members especially at state and federal secretariats.

The President, National Association of Persons with Physical Disabilities (NAPPD), Comrade Rilwan Mohammed Abdullahi, noted that though President Buhari had assented to the National Disability Bill which prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, the trend remains a challenge to millions of their members. “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,” Comrade Abdullahi said. Also speaking, the president, Association of Physically Challenged Applicants, Godstime Onyebulam, said: “Pure discrimination is our major challenge.” According to him, the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018 gives at least 5 per cent opportunity for persons living with disabilities for every recruitment in the country by both private and government agencies. “But we suffer from discrimination as we have over 18,000 graduate applicants who are unemployed.” Our correspondents report that persons living with disabilities in the states have also identified discrimination as one of the major challenges they face.

Despite complaints in states, leaders of persons with disabilities under the aegis of Access Nigeria: Disability Votes Matter Campaign, said the signing of the Disability Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari is one of the best things that happened to them. The Executive Director, Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) and coordinator, Access Nigeria, Mrs. Grace Jerry, said: “The signing of the bill by President Muhammadu Buhari early this year is a good development that would ginger us to push for more. There remains the challenge of access to health, education, transportation, and employment opportunities among others. The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Farouq, in a press briefing yesterday to mark the celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria, said: “As part of efforts to alleviate poverty and reduce the sufferings among Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), the Federal Government through the ministry has been supporting PWDs on an annual basis with various forms of assistive devices and economic empowerment materials such as wheelchairs, tricycles, Braile Machines, Guide canes, crutches, grinding machines, hairdryers, barbing clippers, sewing machines and vulcanizing machines.”

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