A non-profit organisation, Accountability Lab, has called on owners of public structures, heads of government institutions to make their buildings accessible for persons with disabilities.
The Country Director of Accountability Lab, Friday Odeh made the call at the Open Government Partnership – Inclusion and Diversity Ecosystem Building Meeting organised by AL Nigeria.
According to him, it was necessary for public structures to be made accessible to the blind, deaf and those on wheelchair as provided for in the Persons with Disabilities Act.
While acknowledging the Federal Government’s effort in establishing the National Commission of Persons with Disabilities, Mr Odeh stressed the need for more sensitisation workshops and advocacies for people on the disabilities act which seeks equal rights for people with disabilities.
He said: “The major defaulters who fail to implement the act are government agencies. So, the government needs to do more in creating awareness on this law as well in pushing for its implementation by its institutions.”
Mr Odeh also appealed to the state and federal governments to ensure inclusive budgeting and a constant assessment of the progress on the disability act, as well as continued advocacies for their implementation.
“No respect or sign has been accorded to people with disabilities and its two years down the line since the enactment of the disabilities act and it feels like there’s no progress.
“Persons with disabilities can’t still access their money in most banks; airports are still not user-friendly for people with disabilities,” Mr Odeh lamented.
Also speaking, the project officer of the AL Nigeria, Mr Shiiwua Mnenga, stressed the need for people with disabilities to be included in government processes, calling on developmental partners to come to the assistance of the Nigerian government in that direction.
He said: Governments should add people with disabilities at the top of their agendas. We need to plan for them. Also, Nigerians need to be educated about the challenges of the disabled people and how to manage them effectively, because they are also humans like us.”
On her part, Dr Amina Salihu, a representative of MacArthur Foundation at the workshop, also lamented that some state governments were yet to domesticate the law on disability, saying that only 10 states had passed the law.
Other stakeholders who spoke at the workshop advocated affirmative action for the implementation of the act in order to help disabled people have a sense of belonging.
According to them, the policy needs to be adapted, citing instances where a disabled person needs to travel by air, that he/she would need to travel with a second person at his/her expense.
They also lamented that despite a five-year grace for organisations to create access routes for people with disabilities, two years down the line nothing has been done.
The News Digest reports that in January 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law a legislation that criminalised common discriminations against persons with disabilities.
The Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act prohibits all forms of discrimination on ground of disability and imposes fine of N1, 000, 000 for corporate bodies and N100, 000 for individuals or a term of six months’ imprisonment for violation concurrently.
It provides for a five-year transitional period within which public buildings, structures or automobile are to be modified to be accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, including those on wheelchairs.
The law states that: “Before erecting any public structure, its plan shall be scrutinised by the relevant authority to ensure that the plan conforms with the building code.
“A government or government agency, body or individual responsible for the approval of building plans shall not approve the plan of a public building if the plan does not make provision for accessibility facilities in line with the building code.
“An officer who approves or directs the approval of a building plan that contravenes the building code, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of at least N1, 000, 000 or a term of imprisonment of two years or both.’’
“Discrimination is prohibited in public transportation facilities and service providers are to make provision for the physically, visually and hearing impaired and all persons howsoever challenged. This applies to Seaports, Railways and Airport facilities.
“The rights and privileges include education, healthcare, priority in accommodation and emergencies.
Furthermore, all public organisations are to reserve at least 5 % of employment opportunities for these persons.
The National Commission for Persons with Disabilities is also established in Section 31 with Executive Secretary as the head.