By Abayomi Adeshida, ABUJA
Speaker House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila will provide legislative support through the recently inaugurated House Standing Committee on Disability Matters, work with the Nigerians Disability Commission to reduce the challenges faced by persons with a disability, especially mobility and accessibility of all public structures across the country so they can contribute to nation-building.
Special Adviser to the Speaker House of Representatives on Special Needs/Equal Opportunities Barrister Idowu Kamaldeen spoke in Abuja during a virtual parley and stakeholders consultations on the proper take-off of the Nigerians with Disabilities Commission as seven of the eight members of the Commission are to be screened by the National Assembly today in Abuja. According to the Nigerians With Disability law, only the Executive Secretary, Mr. James Lalu is exempted from appearing before the Senate for screening, but he can only start to function in his official capacity after the screening and confirmation of the other members of the Commission.
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According to him, ” access to public buildings and travelling by the Disabled community in Nigeria has been a challenge that has slowed down our productivity and it is affecting our contributions to national development.
” When a disabled candidate gets to a prospective employer whose office is located on the top floors of the building, the disabled is denied the spot just because of the extra effort it would require him to get to the office to work, even if he offers to suffer the trouble it would take because he is qualified and he really wants to use his certificate to work.
” As an undergraduate at the University of Lagos, I had to ride on roller skates that beggars use on the streets on campus and because many of our lectures were done upstairs, I had no choice than to crawl there so I could complete my degree. So, after two degrees, it would be a very heartless decision for anyone to deprive someone like myself of employment.
” As a lawyer, it is a pity that I go to many of our courts where they construct staircases and elevators and when we go to work in such courts, we are told that we can use the elevator. I once had to ask what happens if the elevator is faulty or there is power failure, how does the disabled person cope?
“It is regrettable that after many times that I have had to fight to be boarded at airports, I usually get cold shoulders because the airlines are mostly not prepared with Porters who would use wheelchairs to ferry the disabled to board the aircraft.
“So when travelling, I am expected to buy an additional ticket for an aide throughout the journey without any provision to cover the extra costs from anywhere. That frustration has made me stop travelling by air since the beginning of this year and I have had to choose to take the risks of travelling the long distances across the country by road anytime I have official functions to carry out.
“With the inauguration of the Disability Committee last week, the Speaker has demonstrated his willingness to do all it takes to bring his international experience to bare on the legal solution to the plight of the persons with disability in NIgeria, the emerging synergy between the House Committee and the Commission would go a long way to put things right for the disabled community to also contribute their quota to nation-building.
” As the aviation community is celebrating the international civil aviation day 2020 with the theme Advancing Innovation for Global Aviation Development on the same day the nominated members of the Nigerians Disability Commission would be undergoing a legislative screening process, we expect that the aviation sector would lend us a hand and make air travelling for people with disability in Nigeria less challenging,” Barrister Idowu stated.
Meanwhile, President, Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities International Incorporation, Chief Eric Ufom in his contribution described the inauguration of the House Standing Committee on Disability as a long leap forward towards the realisation of the implementation of the disability law in Nigeria.
In his words, when we got the news of the inauguration of the Standing Committee on Disability matters in the House or Representatives, ably chaired by Hon. Miriam Odinaka Onuoha, we saw a bright light at the end of the tunnel that we have travelled for over thirty years of advocacy for the domestication of the UN Charter on the rights of persons with disabilities which Nigeria ratified over twenty years ago.
“The journey has been rough but we are glad that we are coasting home to the right way that things are being done and we expect that the benefits of the UN Convention on the Rights of Nigerians with disabilities would soon begin to manifest in the country.
” After our key participation in many Civil Society Conferences of the State Parties to the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we were well tooled with the right understanding of what the world disability movement wants to address, we, therefore, made it a duty to our country and humanity to make contributions towards the amendment of the 1999 Constitution and wrote to advise both Chambers of the National Assembly to establish their Standing Committees on Disability.
” While we are glad to see the House Committee in place, we wish to implore the Senate President, Senator Ahmed Lawan to also constitute the Senate Committee on Disability to pave a way for the birthing of a joint National Assembly Committee on Disability which would be a legacy the current leadership of the Legislative arm of government can leave for the persons with disability in Nigeria.
“The establishment of the Nigeria Disability Commission is a good development for which we congratulate all the actors that saw into its establishment as well as the pioneer members of the Commission and the House Committee on Disability. We would continue to give progress reports to our development partners globally and through the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities JONAPWD, at home, we would put everything in place to commence the next stage of the domestication of the UN Charter as a law in Nigeria by commencing the proper training of those who would work with us so that we can take off properly without any further delay.