Law  

Need to comply with Special People’s Law before transitory period elapses

Legal adviser, Disability Advocacy policy Initiative (DPAI), Daniel Onwe, (standing 2nd fronm left); Dare Dairo of JONAPWD Lagos (sitting from left); Ms Pretty Ogbonna of DPAI; Obiora Ononugbo of Spinal Cord Injuries Association; Chioma Inyama; Olusola Adeyefa, National Secretary of Association for Comprehensive Empowerment of Nigerian with Disability (ASCEND), Sade Olafolake and others at the event.

Legal adviser, Disability Advocacy policy Initiative (DPAI), Daniel Onwe, (standing 2nd fronm left); Dare Dairo of JONAPWD Lagos (sitting from left); Ms Pretty Ogbonna of DPAI; Obiora Ononugbo of Spinal Cord Injuries Association; Chioma Inyama; Olusola Adeyefa, National Secretary of Association for Comprehensive Empowerment of Nigerian with Disability (ASCEND), Sade Olafolake and others at the event.

The momentum with which Disability Policy Advocacy Initiative (DPAI), a non governmental organisation is generating in its bid to make life meaningful for persons with disabilities has given credence to the fact that nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. All over the world, there has been increasing awareness on the need for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all spheres of life. DPAI, no doubt is spearheading the struggle in Nigeria.

From the international level, to the respective national levels, and down to various states, laws are now being enacted to modify the way things are being done in other to give persons with disabilities a sense of belonging in the society.

This was the nucleus of proceedings at the recent workshop held in Lagos by DPAI. The group stressed that the transitory period within which to begin the implementation of the Special Peoples Law (SPL) in Lagos would elapse on June 24, 2016 and harped on the need for citizens to prepare to comply with the law. Lagosians now have 11 months to adjust or face prosecution.

The group together with other stakeholders had championed the enactment of the SPL by Lagos State House of Assembly and the subsequent executive assent in 2011. The law seeks to protect persons with disability and also grant them access to opportunities that will make them adjust to normal life. The law become a watershed of greater changes expected in the Lagos mega city.

With the population figure of over 170 million, statistics has shown that out of this figure, there are over 20 million persons with disabilities in the country and without doubt, Lagos State has more than a fair share of this population of persons with disabilities.

At the workshop, DPAI used the opportunity to once again sensitize the public and the corporate organizations on the need for them to begin to adjust their operations and facilities in sync with the dictate of the law.

In a presentation at the event, Barrister Daniel Onwe, stated that corporate body’s have been operating in a manner that excluded PWD’s and still have a good corporate image. He said that the advent of the law will bring total departure non-inclusive acts as well as the era of only charity display of corporate social responsibility whereby companies give hand-out to PWDs, while they do not employ them nor make their offices and services accessible to them. SPL, according to him has come to reinforce the moral propriety of inclusion.

The workshop also reiterated that from June 24, 2016, it will become unlawful for anybody, group, institutions or corporate organisation who contravene these laws, and such will be liable.

On the economic importance of making structures accessible to PWDs, Onwe stated that for every one PWD, there could be an average of about five persons that are sentimentally attached to him or her. According to him, by simple arithmetic, a business that targets patronage of 20 million persons with disabilities in Nigeria is actually targeting about 120 million persons.

“What this indicates is that PWDs can significantly influence the customer base of virtually every business and by implication, disability-friendly or inclusive companies can fly to higher business height”, he said.

Most of the provisions of SPL are self explanatory. For instance, section 13 of the law provides that: Companies whose business entails attending to the general public shall within 5 (five) years transitory period have in their employment personnel who are properly trained, adequately knowledgeable and sufficiently competent among others, to attend to customers or client who are persons living with disability. This section emphasized on training as a necessity not just to assist but to do such in an informed manner.

Section 14 of the SPL applied to organizers of public functions and other related events thus: (1). The organizers of any public function shall provide competent attendants who shall attend to persons living with disability in attendance at the function. (2). and any individual knowingly involved in the contravention of this section shall be liable to a fine of N50,000 (fifty thousand naira only) or 6 (six) months imprisonment or both.

On transportation business, section 18 provides that: (1). Every public transportation services shall operate in a way that would guarantee usage and allow for accessibility of persons living with disability. (2). All transport service providers shall make available and mark appropriately one out of every 10 seats in a public bus for the use of persons living with disability. (3). Wheelchairs, crutches, guide canes for the blind, braces and any other mobility aids and appliances or assistive devices used by passengers living with disability shall not be subjected to charges provided they are not carried in commercial quantities and for commercial purposes.

Section 19 provides that, (1). the convenience and safety of PWDs shall be the primary consideration in assigning seats in vehicles… (2) In line with subsection (1), and subject to the preference of the PWDs, the following factors shall be considered in assigning seat to a PWD. (a).ease of access; (b) ease of exit; (c) non-disturbance by the movement of other passengers.

Also on discrimination of PWDs, section 21 of the provision made it clear that there will be more sensitivity to any form of discrimination against persons that falls within the category of PWDs. The SPL has now made such acts unlawful and actionable.

Again in section 24 of the SPL, it is stated that: (1). Person living with disability shall have the right and facilities to access public building and places. (2). No public building shall be constructed without necessary accessibility aids. (3). The section also called on the government to ensure that roads, side-works, pedestrian crossing and all other facilities made for public use be made accessible to and usable by PWDs including those on wheelchairs.

Here, the private house owner has no duty to make his building accessible, but such house owners are required by the SPL to allow the PWD tenant take the responsibility of such modification.

The SPL also provides in section 28, that: (3). All schools whether pre-primary, primary, secondary or tertiary, shall be run to be accessible to PWD. And a trained personnel and program to cater for them. This section also emphasized collaboration and cooperation with relevant authorities, institution or association to ensure early education of person with disability. This provision is applicable to both public and private schools.

Also at the workshop, Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr Idiat Oluranti Adebule, represented by Mrs. Mobolaji Daba, stated that the objective of the state in enacting the law is to promote the adoption of the social model of disability in the processes of policy development and evaluation with a view to guaranteeing justice, equity and participation for people with disabilities.

On the implementation of SPL, Dr. Adebule said the Office of Disability Affairs (ODA) shall be empowered to oversee the implementation of the laws and the Office of Public Defenders shall offer free legal services to persons with disabilities. She also emphasized the readiness of Lagos State to support programmes and suggestion that will be of benefit to the protection of special people.

Other Lagos government functionaries at the workshop include: Prof. Kayode Taiwo of LAMATA, Mrs. Soremi Alimat from the Directorate of Citizen Rights, Ministry of Justice and the General Manager, Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA), Dr. Awelenje Babatunde.

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