Africa Feb 6, 2013
NIGERIA: In a fourth attempt to produce a Nigerian Disability Bill, the Senate yesterday passed for second reading a Bill for an Act to ensure full integration of persons with disabilities into the society.
Also, Senators backed the establishment of a National Commission for persons with disabilities and vest it with the responsibilities for their education, health care and the protection of their social, economic and civil rights. The Bill’s sponsor, Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman (Kogi/PDP) proposed N161,232,050.32 to take care of overhead costs, recurrent and capital expenditure of the proposed National Commission for persons with disabilities.
Since 1999, several attempts to produce the Disability Bill targeted at 22.5 million Nigerian with disabilities have suffered ill-fate with the last attempt failing to receive presidential assent after passage by both arms of the National Assembly.
The Bill’s sponsor who described persons with disabilities as Nigeria’s largest minority group in his lead debates said without the necessary legal framework/legislation the challenges persons with disabilities encounter would be difficult to overcome.
In part, the Disability Bill if passed into law will completely outlaw the discrimination of persons with disabilities on grounds of disability in the areas of employment, housing, transportation and similar spheres. Also, the Bill will compel accessible public buildings and infrastructure.
“The accessibility of public buildings is a sore-point in the lives of people living with disabilities, particularly wheelchair users. This Bill seeks to provide solution and ensure that public physical structures, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as well as other public facilities are wheel-chair compliant/wheel-chair accessible,” Abatemi-Usman stated at yesterday’s plenary.
In wide ranging debates all in support, Senators said the inability of Nigeria to produce a Disability Bill since 1999 presented a “moral burden” to the country.
Senate President, David Mark called for quick passage and eventual presidential assent of the Bill in the “earliest possible time”. Mark recalled the medal exploits of Nigerian Paralympians at the London 2012 summer Olympics.
“We are witnesses to the fact that but for the paralympians, Nigeria would have been thoroughly embarrassed,” Mark said.
Senator Gbenga Ashafa (Lagos/ACN) called for the inclusion of a disability policy in President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda.