#DisabilityBill: Odds against persons with disability in Nigeria
Disability is a physical or mental impairment that is perceived to limit
one or more major life activities of an impaired person. While this
appears a direct definition, Nigerians have ascribed various definitions
to disability in different terms, concluding that persons with
disabilities are abnormal persons who are offered mainly medical and
Over the years, persons with disability in Nigeria have been marginalized
in all spheres. These discriminating tendencies have deprived them of the
basic opportunities entitled to every citizen thereby infringing their
fundamental human rights.
As victims of negligence, this category of people have gained global
attention constituting a social group that is vulnerable to societal
discrimination. Yet this has only compounded their tormenting
They are generally dispossessed of physical structures, employment
opportunities, and leadership positions, improved educational facilities
resulting to socio-political inequality, social stigmatization, and high
level of illiteracy, open discrimination, insecurity, and exclusiveness
resulting to high dependency on others without disability.
There have been cases of Nigerians deprived of employment opportunities,
admission into schools, getting political appointments, etc. because of
their disabilities with a confirmed report stating that Persons with
disabilities constitute only about 3% of the work force.
According to a report of the National Baseline Survey on Persons with
Disabilities (PWDs) in Nigeria, 50% of PWDs had no schooling whatsoever
and the use of necessary assistive devices by PWDs was limited and
inadequate, consisting mostly of walking sticks, crutches, braces,
walkers, and hearing aids. The main sources of assistive devices for PWDs
across the nation were family, friends and PWDs themselves. Begging for
alms was the most prominent source of their subsistence.
World Health Organization reports that over 20 million Nigerians are
living with disability which makes them the largest minority group in the
The Disability Bill seeking to provide succor to PWDs in Nigeria has been
faced with a yoke of assent such that it has failed to be accented in two
successive administrations after passage in the 6th and 7th assembly. This
only goes to show the level of commitment to the plights of PWDs.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives in the previous
assemblies have showed consideration by passing this bill in accord for
the executive to assent.
As enshrined in the Fundamental Rights provisions of Chapter IV of the
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended in
January, 2011. ''Every Nigerian citizen is entitled to be conferred with
equality of rights, obligations and Opportunities before the law, the
recognition of the sanctity of the human life and the maintenance and
enhancement of human dignity''.
Many developing countries in the world are availed with inclusive
disability rights legislation and policy regimes where disabled people are
involved at all levels in the society and not left as odds and tools for
Unfortunately, this bill has often been compared to the petroleum industry
bill, PIB that has remained with the national assembly since the 6th
assembly and yet its significance if passed cannot be over emphasized.
The 6th National Assembly passed this bill on the 28th of September 2010;
a lot of bills have been prioritized above bills like this, in a
government that preaches full inclusiveness of the masses, the idea of
humanity first is not inclusive of disabled Nigerians, they are seen as
disabled first before human beings.
More often than not, policies to take beggars off the street have gained
much attention because they constitute nuisance such that it has become a
nightmare for state governors in the case of Kaduna State. A major
occupation of PWD is alms begging how then do the government want to get
them off the streets without a law that allows their rights to be upheld?
It is pertinent to note that, anyone could be disabled either naturally
congenitally through unforeseen causes, accident or as one goes into old
Emphatically, 7th National Assembly on January 30th 2015 barely six months
to the end of the assembly harmonized and sent the bill defending the
rights of Persons with Disabilities for presidential assent that proved
On the 12th of July 2016 the 8th Senate passed the same bill for final
reading; however with the travails of persons with disability and the
burden of assent by previous administration, the timely passage of this
bill has again awoken the wishes of PWDs whose greatest desire is for this
bill to finally become law and ensure their full integration into the
''With what the 8th Senate has done today by passing this bill for its
third and final time in the Red Chamber, it is my hope that this National
Assembly can finally break this jinx by getting it passed by the House of
Representatives and assented into law by Mr. President” Senate president,
Bukola Saraki stated shortly after the passage.
This hope means everything to over 22milliion disabled Nigerians whose
believe their ability has been dashed and relegated as victims of
negligence and an apparatus of charity. This bill for its worth seeks to
provide for the establishment of a National Commission for persons with
disability to cater for their education, health care while protecting
their social economic and civil rights. It will also check and outlaw all
forms of discrimination against them and put in place measures that will
address their condition.
Disability is not Inability and there is ability in every disability in
the words of Khang Kijaro Nguyen “Able does not mean enabled. Disabled
does not mean less able.”
CYNTHIA FERDINAND U.
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