Claim: The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, recently claimed that the government of the All Progressives Congress (APC) did not implement the Disability Prohibition Act despite its passage by the National Assembly.
The claim is misleading. Daily Trust checks indicated that the act which was signed into law by the APC administration has been partially implemented with the government establishing a commission, National Commission for Persons with Disability, to oversee and implement the provisions of the act.
The presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, while inaugurating the PDP’s People With Disabilities National Campaign Council said the APC failed to implement the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act which was passed by the National Assembly in 2018.
Atiku, who urged People With Disabilities, PWD, not to vote the APC in the 2023 elections due to the non implementation of the act, said “APC has refused to implement the PWD law and you have no reason to vote APC again. I really want you to identify your membership and tell them to vote for a party that has recognized you and has given them a special place, which is PDP.”
“Some persons have said the number of persons with disability in Nigeria is 19 million, 20 million or 25 million, but let’s assume you are 20 million. If we get all of you to vote for us, we don’t need others then. So really, you are important to us.”
Nigeria’s disability Commission has over the years faced discrimination from all strata in the society, thus, it is safe to say they are one of the most marginalised groups in the country despite making a population of over 30 million.
According to a report by Premium Times, an online media, the disability act lingered in the National Assembly for 18 years, and transmitted for assent for the 4th time since 1999 before it was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
Their physical state requires more funds to be able to learn and grow like other able-bodied in the society, hence, the need for government’s support for assistive devices and other form of subsidies.
The lack of these has led PWDs in the country to resort to begging to make ends means while those who go through the daunting journey of getting educated find it hard to gain jobs as the environment was not created to absolve PWDs.
Brief on the act
The major provision of the act is to prohibit all forms of discrimination against persons with disability with a fine of N100,000 or a term of six months imprisonment in individual or a fine of one million naira on corporate bodies.
Also, any form of discrimination against PWDs is prohibited in public transportation facilities – whether in seaports, railways and airport facilities.
It encourages all public organisations to reserve at least five per cent of employment opportunities for PWDs and empower the right to file a lawsuit for damage against any defaulter.
It also gave a five-year period for public buildings, structures or automobiles to be restructured to allow accessibility to PWDs while stating that a public structure must be inspected by relevant authorities before construction to ensure conformity with the accessibility plan.
It added that a government official who approves a building plan without the building code is liable on conviction to a fine of at least N1,000,000 or a term of imprisonment of two years or both.
Section 31 of the Act seeks the establishment of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities with an Executive Secretary appointed to head it.
Checks showed that the government in 2020 established the commission which is led by a PWD, James Lalu.
The commission is responsible for the implementation and sensitisation of the act even though PWDs in the country are still discriminated against as buildings and transportation hub are yet to be modified to be disability friendly.
When contacted, the CEO of Albino Foundation and former president of the Albinism community, Jake Ekpele, said the Buhari government has done better than any president on disability with the signing of the act and subsequent establishment of the commission.
He said the commission has not gained much since it was established but its existence is commendable.
“In terms of infrastructural development to include accessibility, government buildings are not accessible, including the state house. The five percent that is set aside for employment, the federal government and the private sector are not implementing it. It is also worthy of note that in terms of inclusivity, especially, in the electoral process, there is the willingness to implement, but the only problem is that they don’t have all the resources.”
On his part, the publisher of Qualitative Magazine, a disability publication, Chris Agbo, noted that implementation may not be as fast as it was hoped but the environment is more friendly to PWDs when compared to previous years due to the signing of the law.
Agbo, while corroborating that some buildings are yet to be easily accessible to PWDs, said the commission has been working to ensure there isw change of attitude towards PWDs.
“We can’t say the commission is not doing anything. They have been doing something but it may not be out there for everybody to see but something is being done, they are in partnership with some organisations in terms of sensitisation programmes.”
“They have done some modifications in three tertiary institutions by building ramps and accessible toilets to serve as a pilot project on what should be done when building schools, among others, and to bring disability education as a course to be studied in schools.”