When President Muhammadu Buhari signed Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act on 17th January, 2019, hopes were high.
But findings by EduCeleb.com show that the government is yet to begin the implementation of the legal provisions.
Among other things, the law provides for the establishment of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities.
Had the commission been established, it should have been addressing complaints of harassment, discrimination and harmful practices against the physically challenged persons.
The law protects persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Nigeria from any sort of discrimination and harmful treatment, cruelty and inhuman treatment.
Accessibility of buildings to such persons building inclusive structures to cater for PWDs in both public and private buildings were also addressed there.
It even provided for the a five year deadline for the transition of existing buildings into inclusive ones.
PWDs were also granted protection at situation of risk and humanitarian emergencies, according to the law.
Government’s failure to implement disability act
It took up to six months before the president even signed the bill passed by the National Assembly mid 2018.
Despite the publicity that greeted the announced enactment of the law on 23rd January last year, there has been no deliberate action to begin its implementation.
EduCeleb.com checked through the Nigerian national budget for 2020 and found no reference to the commission meant to implement it.
Besides, the government had never in the past 365 days proclaim the constitution of the commission, its board or modalities for law implementation.
This experts say is not palatable to Nigeria’s chances of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
An estimated sum of 25 million people in Nigeria are believed to live with disabilities according to the United Nations even as the National Population Commission estimates that to be 19 million.
Also, about a quarter of the sum are within the basic schooling age with no hope getting quality education.
Section 17 of the Act mandates governments at all levels to ensure that persons with disabilities have unfettered right to education without discrimination or segregation of any kind.
Data EduCeleb.com obtained from the Federal Ministry of Education shows that 33,603 schools have admitted some persons with disabilities across Nigeria.
Out of these, the country has 177 special needs schools.
Not much of the facilities in these schools take the peculiarities of PWDs into consideration, our findings show.
Mr David Anyaele of the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) appealed to President Buhari to justify the enactment of the law by establishing the commission as prescribed by the law.
This, he said, would reduce the frustration and the burdens on the lives of Nigerians with disabilities.
He decried that one year had gone since the enacted of the law and that more would be lost, if nothing was done to bring the law to live.
Promise of action
The National Assembly has promised that it would ensure the National Disability Commission is established in accordance with the law.
Clerk, House Committee on Information, Jekop Dan-Alih gave the assurance on Thursday in Abuja at an experience-sharing forum with committees of the National Assembly, NASS, and line ministries, departments and agencies.
Represented by Yakubu Ayatu-Kadin, Mr Dan-Alih admitted that the commission was imperative to the implementation and enforcement of both the transitioning and non-transitioning provisions of the law.
Also, Yakubu Argungun-Mohammed, Clerk Senate Committee on Youth and Sport Development, noted that the commission would be placed under the appropriate committee for the purpose of oversight.
Commenting on the non-provision of any budgetary allocations for the purpose, the Clerk House Committee on Human Rights, Mustapha Sadiq, noted that it was paramount to ensure its establishment and the effective implementation of the law irrespective of that.
He believed that the existence of the commission would guide stakeholders on ways of collaborating and partnering for the effective implementation of the law.
He also assured the public that the commission would be properly placed under an appropriate committee for oversight.
Presidency wants lobbying
Curiously, an official in the presidency charged civil society organisations to pressurise the Buhari led government to implement the law.
The Rule of Law Advisor in the office of the Vice-President, Fatima Waziri advised PWDs, and Organisations of PWDs, not to relent in lobbying, engaging, advocating and pushing for the establishment of the commission.
According to her, if the commission is not established and the content of the law is not implemented or enforced, the law will only be a paper type of law.
Dr Waziri proposed the submission of proposals and courtesy visits as ways of ensuring the law was implemented.
“When everyone is saying the same thing, I am sure the president will do the right thing by setting up the commission because it is a very vital step to the operationalization of the act,’’ she added.
She, also held that the law needs to be domesticated in states across the country.