Ije Ulasi

A Disability Rights Advocate, Mr. Bizibrains Okpeh, has called for deliberate efforts towards the implementation of the National Disability Act for the benefits of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).

He also urged states that are yet to domesticate the National Disability Act, including Enugu State, to do so to guarantee the rights and welfare of PWDs within the states.

Okpeh stated this in Enugu on Monday while presenting a paper on domestication and implementation of disability laws at an event organized by the Association of Lawyers with Disabilities in Nigeria, supported by the Disability Rights Fund.

The disability rights advocate said the National Disability Act, enacted by the National Assembly in 2019, provides for the full integration of persons with disabilities into society as well as establish the National Commission for People with Disabilities (NCPWD).

“And vest in the Commission the responsibilities for their education, health care, social-economic, and civil rights; and for related matters”.

“The Act prohibits any form of discrimination against PWDs by any person, organization, or institution and makes it a punishable offence to so do (Section 1).”

“Also, the Act provides for accessibility of PWDs to physical structures, transportation, healthcare, education, and employment, including the equal right to work and opportunities for gainful employment, and makes it a punishable offence to do otherwise.

“Thus, employers of labour in public organizations are required to have PWDs constitute at least 5 per cent of their workforce.

“The NCPWD and the Federal Ministry of Information should scale up awareness and enlightenment programmes in this regard, in particular, and of the Act in general.

“More so, it may become imperative to use executive order to achieve the enforcement or implementation of certain provisions of the Act, especially those relating to accessibility and employment”, he noted.

On state domestication Act, Okpeh, who is also a member of Association of Lawyers with Disabilities in Nigeria said, “States should domesticate the National Disability Act because of their status as important stakeholders in the national disability discourse.”

He however regretted that not much had been achieved in this direction, as only 10 out of 36 states had domesticated the Act as of 17th March, 2020; this he said was not only below average but also unacceptable by the Association.

“The domestication of the National Disability Act will reduce the incidences of disability-based discrimination and violence, targeted at person with disability solely or largely because of their circumstances or status,” Okpeh maintained.

World Health Organization accounts that about one billion people live with disabilities globally; this is about 15 percent of the world population.

“In Nigeria, more than 30 million Nigerians live with disabilities,” Okpeh said.

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