By Christiana Ekpa
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, has called for the full implementation of the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2019.
The Speaker said the full implementation of the law could address issues of discrimination, empowerment and equal opportunity for Persons Living With Disabilities (PLWSs) in Nigeria.
Gbajabiamila, who was represented by the Chairman of the newly-created House Committee on Disabilities, Rep. Miriam Onuoha, spoke on Friday during the celebration of the 2020 World Disability Day hosted by the Office of the Speaker.
The event was also attended by a virtual audience that included Barrister Bolarinwa, Senior Counsel, Lagos State Ministry of Justice, Dr. Ifeanyi Chikunie and others.
Gbajabiamila noted that though it’s often what happened, disability of any kind should not take away from the dignity of the individual or take away the right to dream big dreams or hinder the achievement of grand ambitions.
“This is because we have designed our societies, our governments and our systems of policymaking and implementation without considering the rights, hopes and prayers of our less-abled brethren”, Gbajabiamila noted.
The Speaker, while expressing sadness over the inability of the government to meet the objectives of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act that became law in 2019, said it had become imperative for all stakeholders to ensure that the letters of the law were implemented without delay.
He said: “When the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition), Act became law in 2019, it was the cause of much joy because we had such high expectations. Those expectations have not been met because we have not fully set up the infrastructure to support the full implementation of the law.
“It is now our joint responsibility to make sure that we do all that is required to bring this law to life so that all our nation’s people can receive the protections they deserve. And just as importantly, make sure that no citizen of Nigeria will ever again be deprived of the opportunity to live a full life due to disability of whatever kind.
“I hope that in our conversations today, we will speak freely about how we can work together across government and outside to achieve the ambitions that motivated this vital legislation”.
In his presentation, Barrister Bolarinwa said the issue of inclusion was germane to the PLWDs, noting that the Act would address the challenge of discrimination against them
He, however, emphasized that to address the discrimination issue, public and private sectors should not design special programmes and policies for PLWDs.
He suggested that issues of concern to these special people should be mainstreamed into the general programmes for everyone.
“Let them have access to every programme”, he said.
On his part, Dr. Chikunie said the coronavirus pandemic had dealt a big blow to the PLWDs and as such, they should be integrated into the society, empowered, and their skills developed for economic and self-reliance.
He said programmes that could lead to the realization of these goals should be developed by governments and private organizations.