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HomeNewsAN APPRAISAL OF THE DISABILITY ACT 2018.

AN APPRAISAL OF THE DISABILITY ACT 2018.

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AN APPRAISAL OF THE DISABILITY ACT 2018.

The much awaited Disability Act had at last been signed into Law by President Mohammadu Buhari, GCFR on the 23rdJanuary, 2019.The Act is titled -‘Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities  (Prohibition)  Act, 2018’.

The explanatory Memorandum states as follows – ‘This Act provides for the full integration of persons with disabilities into the society and establishes the National Commission for persons with disabilities and vest the commission with the responsibilities foreducation, health care, social, economic and civil rights and other related matters.’

It is one thing to sign a law into existence; it is another thing to enforce such law. As it stands, there will be no difference in the lives of the persons with disabilities in Nigeriaunless the Act is effectively enforced. The implementation of the law starts with the composition and functioning of the National Commission for Persons With Disabilities. Untilthe Commission starts working effectively, the law will not be beneficial to persons with disabilities in Nigeria.

Some of the provisions in the Disability Act which the general public needsto knoware as follows:

  1. All public buildings are to be upgraded in such a way that the buildings are accessible to all persons with disabilities within five years of the commencement of the Act, by building of ramps, lifts and other facilities thataid access to such buildings. See section 6 of the Act.

 

  1. All public vehicles are to have audible and visual display of their destination within five years of the commencement of this Act (Section 10(2)). This provision seeks to ensure that certain persons with disabilities know the destination of a public vehicle. It is left to see whether Danfos and other privately operated commercial vehicles fall within the definition of ‘public vehicle’
  2. All public schools must have trained personnel to cater for the educational developments of persons with disabilities. All primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions must have Special Education in their curricula. See section 18.
  3. A person with disability is not expected to join the queue; he/she should be given first considerations and attended to outside the queue. See section 26.
  4. All employers of labour in public organizations shall as much as possible have persons with disabilities constituting at least 5 percent of their employees. See section 29.

Contravention of any of the above among others is an offence punishable under the Act in form of fines, payable to the offended persons with disabilities, or imprisonment or both. Although the criminal liability provisions are laudable but can they really be enforced, especially against public institutions that have most of the responsibilities created under the Act?

Also, the obligation created on road transportation by section 11 of the Act as regards ‘Transport service providers’ appears not to be a mistake but to ensure that service providers in the private sector are also obligated under the Act. It is clear that where the Act intended that a provision applies to ‘public’ sector or services, it expressly states same. However, it remains to be seen how the government intends to monitor the transport service providers in the private sectoras the government has been unable to monitor them for tax and transport offences needless to say offences under this act. Apart from the foregoing, the obligations imposed on the transport service providers may have cost implications that may not be sustainable in the long or short term except the government intervenes to support the private sector or at least ensure that minimum standards of operations are met.

For example, section 11 of the Act provides as follows –

  1. (1) Transport service providers shall make provisions for lifts, ramps and other accessibility aids to enhance the accessibility of their vehicles, parks and bus stops to persons with disabilities including those on wheelchairs.

(2) Lifts, ramps and all other accessibility equipment in or for vehicles, and at parks or bus stops shall be maintained in operational condition.

(3) There shall be regular frequent maintenance of all accessibility aids and equipment and defective ones shall be promptly repaired and replaced.

Whilst it is very possible that the above provision could be followed, it is most likely that it would not happen in reality. The basic equipment of motor parks which are the vehicles of the operators are in bad shapes themselves. It would almost be impossible to see a Danfo park adhere to these provisions when the Danfos themselves are in bad shape not only for persons with disability but for everyone. Therefore, first things should be done first which is to ensure that minimum standards permitted by our laws for road transportation are met and it is only upon that foundation that this Act would get effective breath of life.

The Legislative arm of the government has passed the Act, the Executive arm of the government has signed the Act, the third arm of the government, the judiciary, is hereby called upon to get acquainted with the Act and be ready to enforce it, taking notice of Section 1 (3) ofthe Act which provides that, a person with disabilities who is discriminated against can maintain a criminal as well as a civil action against any person or institution that discriminate against them in contravention of the Act.

Again, we call for the commencement and implementation of the Discrimination of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2018. We want to start counting the five years from 2019so that after 2024 we can start taking actionsagainst individual orinstitutions thatcontravenethe Actin order to alleviate thesufferings of persons with disabilities in Nigeria.

 

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Oludare
Oludare
Lawyer, Bibliophile, Polyglot, Traveller
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