Reporter : CHIKWUBUIKE MADU
The Association of Lawyers with Disabilities in Nigeria (ALDIN) has appealed to the Enugu State Government and the State House of Assembly to ensure the urgent domestication of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities Prohibition Act in the State.
The National President of the Association, Mr. Daniel Amaechi Onwe, made the appeal at a Disability Rights Protection Workshop held in Enugu.
Addressing journalists at the programme entitled “Legal Framework for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities,” the ALDIN President, Mr. Onwe noted that the National Assembly had long passed the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act as part of legal instruments to protect their interest in the country.
Mr. Onwe noted that while some states had passed the Disability Laws, and the bill is currently before other state Houses of Assembly, Enugu was among few states that had not passed the law or having it for consideration.
“In Nigeria, at the national level, we have the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act.
“And even before the enactment of this Act, increasing number of States in Nigeria have been passing legislations to protect persons with disabilities.
“Plateau, Lagos, Kano, Adamawa, Ekiti, Anambra, to mention but a few, have all since enacted disability laws.
“Many more states have disability bills pending at their respective Houses of Assembly. Amidst these positive developments, the question that begs for answer is where is Enugu State?
“The government, organisations and the good people of Enugu State need to demonstrate to the world that they are law abiding,” Mr. Onwe stated.
The ALDIN President appealed to the Enugu State House of Assembly to domestic the Act, especially as it concerns rights of persons with disabilities to access their physical environment and buildings.
“Section 4 of the Act provides that: a public building shall be constructed with the necessary accessibility aide such as lifts (where necessary), ramps and any other facility that shall make them accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.
“Unfortunately, in Enugu State, not only are the old buildings not accessible but even new public buildings and renovations that came after the commencement of the Act flagrantly violate the provisions of the Act.
“Overwhelming majority of public buildings in Enugu State are inaccessible, having steep steps with neither ramps nor lifts. This lawlessness must stop,” Mr. Onwe insisted.
Similarly, the Coordinator, Disability Policy and Empowerment Consult, Enugu, Mr. Samuel Obiefuna, lamented that their efforts since 2010 to ensure the domestication of the Act in Enugu State had been unsuccessful.
“In 2010, during the time Eugene Odo was the Speaker, we began an advocacy process for the passage of the Enugu State Disability Rights Bill into law.
We designed the bill, did the advocacy processes, took it to the House of Assembly under the leadership of Honourable Eugene Odo with the able assistance of the then Chairman of the House Committee on Judicial Matters, Mrs. Cecilia Ezilo, the present Deputy Governor of Enugu State.
“They made effort, the bill scaled the first reading. Before getting to the second reading they stopped showing interest.
“At a point I and some other person were summoned elsewhere and some people started asking us to bring money to process the whole thing but neither the then Speaker nor the then House Judicial Committee Chairman was involved.
“But we didn’t agree to use money to get a bill into law.
“Then two years ago, we went there during the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, were received by the clerk and we try to see if that bill could come up again, till today nothing has happened,” Mr. Obiefuna cried out.
A prominent member of ALDIN in Enugu, Chief Bright Onowu, though commended Enugu State Governor, Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, for offering employment to some persons with disabilities, pointed out that the domestication of the Disability Act would provide the enabling environment for their members to survive and thrive.
“We thank Governor Ugwuanyi because he gave 50 of our members (persons with disabilities) employment but we need to have the Act domesticated in Enugu State because of its overwhelming benefits.
“It will help to shun arms begging and ensure that persons with disabilities are independent to contribute to the meaningful development of Enugu State,” he stated.
The Lawyers with Disabilities in Nigeria said they would continue engaging relevant government authorities and pressing their demands until the bill is passed.
Meanwhile, the Association (ALDIN) used the opportunity to unveil the Disabilities handbook, which contains the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act.