In August 2020, President Mohammadu Buhari approved the composition of the Governing Council and appointment of the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities in line with the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2019.
Since his assumption into office, Mr. James David Lalu had set out with a mind for far-reaching reform.
A man of strong convictions and fierce passions, shaped in no small part by his experiences in advocating and championing the Disability Inclusion Agenda back home in Jos, James Lalu has from the get-go, been resolute in his vision and plans for the wellbeing of Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria.
His zeal, passion, and efforts had already attracted the interests of political giants in Plateau State and it was not so long before he was elevated from his immediate past position as Executive Chairman of the Plateau State Disability Rights Commission and appointed as the Pioneer Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities.
To be sure, Mr. Lalu has been able to align himself with the agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration and has sought to drive significant reform in the areas of improved access to Education, Healthcare and Sustainable Health Insurance, Mass housing, the promotion of access to employment, Participation in the (Nigerian) Constitutional review, Development of Para-sports, Formulation of Disability curriculum, Facilitation of the conditional cash transfer and other government intervention Programmes such as Institutionalization of the National disability Summit, all for the benefit of Persons with Disabilities.
Expectedly, the ES’ open-door policy has exposed him overtly to the challenges that stare PWDs in the face; some of which are deeply rooted.
In order to alleviate the problems of housing, the ES had met with the Managing Director, Federal Housing Authority, Senator Gbenga Ashafa who promised to provide the needed assistance to the Commission in securing affordable homes for PWDs in any part of the country.
He has also engaged with the MD, Federal Mortgage Bank, Mr. Ahmed Dangiwa to explore flexible funding options for a number of accessible housing units.
In furtherance to his resolve to ameliorate the housing challenges faced by PWDs, Lalu has engaged the FCT Minister who also promised to provide land for the construction of residential buildings for PWDs as well as befitting office space for the Commission.
To deepen the Inclusion efforts and ensure that the efforts to tackle discrimination against Persons With disabilities, gain credence, the Executive Secretary has most revelry partnered with the Nigeria Police on the Compliance and Enforcement of the law through the establishment of Special Disability Desk across all police formations throughout the country to ensure that cases of abuse against PWDs are efficiently handled.
There have also been sustained efforts in the areas of Institutionalizing the disability curriculum. This process commenced with the set-up of the drafting Committee composed of academics from diverse backgrounds with special skills in disability studies.
In the aftermath of their submissions, NCPWD identified and targeted 4 pilot Federal Universities to kick-start the process of offering studies around the developed disability curriculum within chosen faculties. This process has also been extended to the National Commission for Colleges of Education in order to expand the impact of the studies in all facets of institutional learning.
In the same vein of advancing inclusiveness and accessibility within the corridors of governance in Nigeria, the Commission has successfully pushed for the active Participation of PWDs in the constitution review process to ensure that PWDs can have their opinions heard and their perspectives captured within the Canons of legislation.
One immediate win here is the improved electoral process which has become cognisant of the needs of PWDs as per a recent stipulation by INEC that prioritises PWDs during voters registration.
Also recently in the creation of Data ecosystem by the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), the DG of the Commission issued a circular directing all coordinating officers of the Electronic Registration Centers (ERCs) to offer special services to Persons with Disabilities and other vulnerable Nigerians.
For improved learning among PWDs, the Executive Secretary, NCPWD Mr James David Lalu has further made provisions for scholarships to PWDs in higher institutions in the year 2022 budget.
Lalu in the company of the other members of the disability community celebrated World Albinism day where he gave charge to Persons with Albinism to take appropriate measures in preventing skin cancer which is a major nightmare to the Albinism community.
2021 witnessed a giant stride in the advancements of inclusion. There was procurement of assistive devices such as the braille translation machines which enables all blind PWDs especially lawyers to translate documents into readable materials and prove their ability in court rooms.
Considering the central position of the Joint National Association of Persons With Disabilities (JONAPWD), the ES has pledged to provide the needed assistance for optimal functioning of the association.
He disclosed his plans while hosting the Executive members recently in the Commission headquarters in Abuja.
In the light of these tremendous achievements on ground within a year of the ES’ appointment, It is not farfetched to state that beyond his passion for Disability Inclusion, the ES has proven that he has the doggedness to get things done and stay relentless in advancing the course of Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria.
And with the support of all PWDs and various stakeholders in the Disability community the Commission will not only accomplish its mandate but will rise to an enviable height in the spirit of our most fervent dreams and desire.