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Struggle To Protect Disabled Persons Enters Main Phase - David Anyaele

David Anyaele, the Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), says that signing the Disability bill is a fulfillment of a campaign promise by President Muhammadu Buhari in Nasarawa State, on March 21, 2015 when the President, as the Presidential Candidate of the APC promised to end discrimination against citizens with disabilities.

David Anyaele is the executive directoe of Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) / Photo credit: Facebook page
David Anyaele is the executive directoe of Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) / Photo credit: Facebook page

In this interview, David Anyaele, the Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), shed more light on the provisions of the recently accented disability law and said that the struggle to protect PWDs has entered its “main phase”:

It took about 18 years to get the disability law passed. What has your experience been?

It was an excruciating experience living in a country with little or no law to protect you as a Nigerian with disability.

Recall that I lost my hands in Freetown, Sierra Leone, because of my identity as a Nigerian and the Nigeria government was supporting ECOMOG in that country. I was evacuated to Lagos by the Nigeria Contingent of ECOMOG.

After my discharge from the Nigeria Army Reference Hospital, Yaba, a signal was sent by the Nigeria Army requesting my State Government (Abia State) to rehabilitate me.

I was rejected by the government, even at the federal level. This exposed me to struggle to secure rehabilitation and integration. In the process, I was engulfed by the negative attitude of the Nigeria society that includes stigma and discrimination by reason of disability.

This negative attitude was perpetuated by the people in government. That was how we formed the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, to push for the passage of the National Disability law so as to reduce the pain and agony of living with disability in Nigeria.

It was the success story of the passing into law of the Lagos State Special Peoples Law, which we participated in, that guided our efforts in pressing for the National Disability law.

Now that the disability bill has been passed into law, what next?

This is the main phase of the struggle. That is to ensure full compliance and implementation by the government. We have commenced sensitisation of different stakeholders.

The law provides that the Federal Ministry of Information will be responsible for awareness creation. We are looking at strengthening relationship with them to achieve this section of the law.

We shall be training and retraining critical institutions, such as the police, judiciary and line Ministries, Departments and Agencies at the Federal, State and Local Governments.

Organisations of persons with disabilities need to know their roles and responsibilities in the struggle to ensure compliance as well as media and mainstream civil society organisations.

The law states that in all situations of risk, including situations of violence, emergencies and the occurrences of natural disasters ― government shall take all necessary steps to ensure the safety and protection of persons with disabilities taking cognisance of their peculiar vulnerability.

What are the major highlights of the law?

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. A person with disability shall not be discriminated against on the ground of his disability by any person or institution in any manner or circumstance whatsoever.

Any person who contravenes this section commits an offence and is liable, on conviction (in case of a body corporate), to a fine of N1,000,000.00; and an individual, a fine of N100,000 or 6 months imprisonment or both. The law also provides for awareness programmes.

The Federal Ministry of Information shall make provisions for promotion of awareness regarding- the rights, respect and dignity of persons with disabilities, the capabilities, achievements and contributions of persons with disabilities to the society.

Another provision of the law that is critical to citizens with disabilities is the right of access to public premises, etc.

The law provides that a person with disabilities shall have the right to access the physical environment and buildings on an equal basis with others.

The law provides for access to goods, services and facilities. It states that it is unlawful for a person (the provider) who (whether for payment or not) provides goods or services, or makes facilities available, to discriminate against another person with disability ― by refusing to provide those goods or services or make those facilities available to him.

Or on such terms or conditions on which the provider provides those goods or services or makes those facilities available to him; or in a manner in which the provider provides those goods or services or makes those facilities available to him.

Another provision of the Act is equal right to work. All employers of labour in public organisation shall as much as possible have person with disabilities constituting at least five per cent of their employment.

Others include: right to accessibility of vehicles, reserved spaces, seaports and railways.

The law states that in all situations of risk, including situations of violence, emergencies and the occurrences of natural disasters ― government shall take all necessary steps to ensure the safety and protection of persons with disabilities taking cognisance of their peculiar vulnerability. These and many are provided in the law.

The law prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities. A person with disability shall not be discriminated against on the ground of his disability by any person or institution in any manner or circumstance whatsoever.

Are there mechanisms to monitor compliance and enforcement?

That is why we are working to ensure full implementation of the law. This is a three-week old law, as such we will need the support of the media.

Some believe that President Muhammadu Buhari assented to the disability bill just to win votes. Do you share that view?

Maybe, but don’t forget that the signing of this law is based on the understanding that stems from the 2015 General Election campaign at Lafia, Nasarawa State on the 21st of March 2015 in which the President, as the Presidential Candidate of the APC promised to end discrimination against citizens with disabilities.

With over 25m PWDS and a law that protects their political and social rights now in place, do you see the possibility of having a person with disability emerge as a president in the nearest future?

Yes, this because no one is immune from acquiring disability. The law provides that persons with disabilities shall be encouraged to fully participate in politics and public life.

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