Discrimination, Non-inclusion, Victimization; these were the words commonly attributed to Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria until the immediate past President, Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Act against the discriminations of Persons With Disabilities in Nigeria .
The struggle had lingered over decades through successive governments whose excuses deterred the coming into being of the legal document that finally established the Commission.
Of course, the former President after much consultations deemed it fit to appoint James David Lalu as the first Executive Secretary of NCPWD in 2019.
Being a personality with a strong focus, James Lalu did not delay in the assemblage of foot soldiers (Civil servants) who were drawn from various Federal government’s Departments to hit the ground running (In line with the government’s ease of doing business).
In order to fulfill the mandate of the Commission as provided in the 2018 Discrimination Act, the ES wrote to the appropriate quarters for the recruitments of staff and for the smooth administration of the Commission. This valid proposal was graciously approved and about 100 staff members were duly employed.
This did not happen without the approval of the Board of the Commission, the National Assembly and Federal Character Commission. However, considerations of Federal character and 40% representation of Persons with disabilities out of the 100 employed were major indices in the staffing process.
The appointments were not limited to the Commission but, was spread to MDAs such as the National Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC), National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC), Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA), National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSTIF) in fulfilment of the 5% quota for employing Persons With Disabilities.
Beyond the affordable housing program of the Commission was the introduction of minimum accessibility standard, which is a standard.code for the constructions of buildings and public facilities in order to accommodate and give seamless access to Persons With Disabilities all over the country.
As a way of ensuring a healthy living for Persons with Disabilities, the Commission through the leadership of Lalu was able to secure reputable Health Management Organizations (HMOs) that will provide an all- inclusive top notch health services for Persons With Disabilities.
Nevertheless, it will not be foolhardy to say that the Commission has been working closely with Development Partners both local and international to provide support and capacity for the upliftment of PWDs’ status.
Another remarkable achievement was in the area of transportation where the ES met with the Authority of the Nigerian Railway Corporation and got an approved 15% discount on travel tickets for Persons With Disabilities.
Gone are the days when Persons With Disabilities were denied boarding access on flights without their aids. This was as a result of the litigation filed by NCPWD against one of the defaulting Airlines that later corrected the erroneous treatment of a person with disability.
To further strengthen the compliance with the laws protecting the fundamental rights of Persons with disabilities, the Commission went into partnership with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps to establish National Desk offices across the 36 states of the federation to handle cases of deprivation in the communities.
Having said this, it is right to point out that the Commission under the propitious watch of Mr. James David Lalu is flourishing on its mandate; all round tools are well fitted in circular compartments as no part of Nigeria has been shortchanged and none has benefited more than the others.
And Like the usual saying, “the reward for hardwork is more work,” the Executive Secretary will continue to serve the community of Persons With Disabilities unequivocally.