Assessment of the Disability Act, 2019 vis a vis the Global Pledge to Leave No-one Behind – By ATER, Solomon Vendaga

Abstract

 

The UN in 2015 took a stance to ensure an inclusive world for all by 2030. This was captured in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals which represent key areas of focus pledged by members of the UN to religiously follow to attain this new project of the UN. Interestingly, the UN through the SDGs adopted a cardinal philosophy which is the effort to leave no one behind in the journey to an inconclusive society. This research article interrogates the faithfulness of Nigerian society to this pledge of leaving no one behind in the light of disability inclusion. Specifically, the work assessed the impact of the Disability Act, of 2019 vis a vis this pledge. Adopting a doctrinal research methodology, it is found that the law made ample provisions for inclusivity just in letters as the real import of the provisions is yet to be felt by the community of persons with disabilities. To this end, the research recommended that the government through its agencies must see to it that the inclusion of disabled persons in national life is placed with maximum priority whilst ensuring the full enforcement of the provisions of the extant laws.

 

  • Introduction

It was in September 2015 that the General Assembly of the UN adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that are anchored on the principle of “leaving no one behind“. Worthy of note is the fact that this new Agenda emphasizes a holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all. Specifically, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 10 aims to reduce inequality by empowering and promoting the social, economic, and political inclusion of all, including persons with disabilities. Also, Goal 11 would make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.


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Interestingly, the SDGs explicitly incorporate the rights and privileges of disabled persons as disabilities and persons with disabilities were used 11 times in the agenda. Disability is referenced in multiple parts of the SDGs, specifically in the parts related to education, growth and employment, inequality, and accessibility of human settlements, as well as data collection and the monitoring of the SDGs. Although the word “disability” is not cited directly in all goals, the goals are indeed relevant to ensure the inclusion and development of persons with disabilities who are an integral part of our world.

Globally, about one billion persons live with one form of disability or the other. Unfortunately, many of these persons live in conflict settings or in developing countries, where they experience enormous challenges like barriers to education, health care, and other basic services. In many countries, they are subjected to violence and discrimination. People with disabilities are also often deprived of their right to live independently, as many are locked up in institutions, shackled, or cycled through the criminal justice system. Many of these human rights abuses are a result of entrenched stigma and a lack of community-based services essential to ensuring their rights, including under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In Nigeria, the Convention is adopted and in addition, the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2019 is promulgated to address the recurring challenges affecting disabled persons.

The Act provides for the full integration of persons with Disabilities in Nigeria by making laudable provisions on their rights and privileges. This research will assess the Act in light of the global quest and pledge to leave no one behind- an ideal pathway to an all-inclusive world. To achieve this aim, the research article is partitioned in this sense; the first part introduced the work, while the second part handles the literature review whilst the third part assessed the Act vis a vis the global pledge to leave no one behind. The fourth part of the article concludes the work and makes recommendations for improvement.

 

  • Literature Review

Disability and Persons with Disabilities

The World Health Organization WHO) defines disability as an impairment or abnormality of psychological, Physiological, or anatomical structure or function, Disability is any restriction or lack (resulting from an Impairment) of ability to perform an activity in the Manner or within the range considered normal for a Human being. A handicap is a disadvantage for a given Individual, resulting from an impairment or disability that prevents the fulfillment of a role that is considered Normal (depending on age, sex social, and cultural factors) for that individual. This definition draws attention to three terms: impairment, disability, and handicap

Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2019 defined disability to include

“long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which in the interaction with various barriers may hinder full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others” and discrimination to be “differential treatment and its verbs and infinite form, discriminate, to discriminate have the corresponding signification”.

For the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.

 

Disability Inclusion

Disability inclusion means understanding the relationship between the way people function and how they participate in society and making sure everybody has the same opportunities to participate in every aspect of life to the best of their abilities and desires.

According to United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy disability inclusion entails the meaningful participation of persons with disabilities in all their diversity, the promotion of their rights, and the consideration of disability-related perspectives, in compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

According to Foreign Commonwealth, Development Office (FCDO) disability inclusion means people with disabilities in all their diversity – including marginalized and under-represented groups – are meaningfully engaged, empowered, and able to exercise and enjoy their full rights and freedoms on an equal basis with others, without discrimination, and across the life-course. They are full and active members of society and decision-makers in all aspects of life, including diplomatic and development efforts.

Disability Inclusion is not just the right thing to do. It is the best to do because it creates healthier, fairer, and more prosperous societies for everyone to enjoy. Globally, people with disabilities represent over $1.2 trillion in annual disposable income and with equal opportunity can contribute between 3-7% of GDP. It is not just skills and time that disabled people can contribute to the business, but their key attributes of resilience, tenacity, and optimism, are built up through lived experience. A 2020 Accenture study found that businesses that focus on disability inclusion grow their sales 2.9 times faster and their profits 4.1 times faster than other companies.

  • The Overview of the Disability Act, 2019

Following 9 years of relentless advocacy by disability rights groups and activists, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari in January 2019 signed into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2019

As earlier noted, the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act in its 58 sections and schedule provides for the full integration of persons with Disabilities in Nigeria by making laudable provisions on the rights and privileges of persons with disabilities.

The Act prohibits discrimination based on disability and imposes sanctions including fines and prison sentences on those who contravene it. It also stipulates a five-year transitional period for modifying public buildings, structures, and automobiles to make them accessible and usable for people with disabilities. Accordingly, the Federal Ministry of Information has been mandated to undertake public awareness programs to inform the public about their rights, dignity, capability, and achievements.

The Act ensures fair treatment of disabled persons in terms of employment, education, and other socioeconomic engagements. The Act imposes an obligation on all employers of labor in public organizations to have persons with disability constituting at least 5% of their employment.

The law will also establish a National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, responsible for ensuring that people with disabilities have access to housing, education, and healthcare. The Commission will be empowered to receive complaints of rights violations and support victims to seek legal redress amongst other duties.

The essence of the law is to integrate disabled persons into society and ensure that their rights are protected and special treatment is accorded to them due to their peculiar circumstances.

 

  • Challenges Facing Persons with Disabilities

According to Habib et al, 2017 in Nigeria disabled people have been marginalized in many ways, including in terms of economic, political, and social development Matters. Disabled people are seen as being dependent people in need of special care and services (which are not available in most cases) and often not seen as part of productive or contributing members of society.

Common challenges facing Disabled People in Nigeria

  1. The disabled face challenge in accessing health Services as they usually get humiliated by health Providers, while health centers’ infrastructure poses Obstacles for them to reach the areas specifically those from rural areas.
  2. There is a gender imbalance of employment opportunities for people with disability as men with Disabilities are more employed than their Counterparts for instance, in Kano state all appointed Special advisors for the disabled were male even the present One is male, this indicated that gender bias is carried Even to the level of the disabled.
  • Persons with Disabilities face challenges such as Denial of employment, and general economic Marginalization. They are regarded as people who cannot contribute to anything, are dependent, and always wait to be helped.
  1. Due to a lack of physical power female people with a disability sometimes face sexual harassment.
  2. Most people with disabilities are poor so they have to look for means of survival through begging and in the process, they may end up with other health problems
  3. Persons with disabilities also face discrimination for contesting election into political offices and limited right to vote.

It is important to note that Governments have adopted several approaches for the protection of disabled persons over time. These include the National Policy on Inclusive Education (2016), the National Health Act (2014), the National Health Policy (2016), the Policy on Albinism, the Framework on Access and Participation, Disability Act, 2019, etc. However, the incessant cries of disabled people in the country question the efficacy of these policies.

Despite this quest and pledge for an inclusive society exemplified in the above policies, social protection for disabled people is still nonexistent or poorly addressed. The long-awaited Disability Act despite claims from the government for its enforcement has not been able to record noticeable positive change. Discrimination against PWDs in Nigeria stems from the negative public perception of people with disabilities in communities across the country. In many communities, PWDs are commonly viewed as accursed due to misinformed cultural beliefs. This has led to poor identification, evaluation, screening, and placement of children with disabilities.

Other manifestations of discrimination against PWDs in Nigeria include limited access to employment and use of public spaces, stigmatization, unsolicited and discriminatory sympathy, and limited access to quality education. For instance, Cobhams Asuquo, a visually impaired Nigerian singer, songwriter, and music producer reflected that his education could have been truncated due to the huge cost of accessing braille materials.

Cobham’s story is similar to Lucy Ejike’s, a Nigerian Paralympic champion, who suffered from polio as a child causing her to be a cripple. While narrating the challenges she experienced in the course of her education, she stated that the lack of elevators and other facilities that could aid movement in the university made it difficult for her to access lecture halls.

Low political participation and inclusion in governance is another glaring example of the challenges facing the disabled community in Nigeria. Worse still, some states governments in the country have refused to domesticate the disability law, and some that have adopted refused to implement it.

In an interview with PWDs by Grassroots Researchers Associations (GRA), disabled persons in the crisis-prone the North-Eastern States of Nigeria reported that their rights are violated in many different ways including opposition by communities against marital relations with non-disabled persons, denial of medical services due to inability to pay bills, denial of access to opportunities (such as participation in pilgrimage trips to holy lands, and denial of access to participation in school competitions. They are also denied the opportunity to rent houses and commercial properties in some cases. In addition, the surveyed PWDs reported that their rights to political representation, quality education, and life are often been violated.

The above presents the situation of things affecting persons with disabilities. It is sad to note that despite the passage of Disability Rights protection in Nigeria, the issue is often seen as a mirage. The evidence is seen in the treatment melted at disabled persons in all levels of our society. This attitude has to change if attaining the goal of leaving no one behind by 2030 is still in pursuit in Nigeria.

  • Conclusion

Globally, the concept of inclusion has become dominant. It is in fact, a yardstick for measuring how fair a policy and operation of government and other institutions are. The UN 2015 adopted 17 SDGs and pledged to commit their efforts to attain an all-inclusive society where no one will be left behind by 2030. This research article assessed Nigeria’s efforts in achieving this global call for inclusivity. Although the country has made some encouraging efforts at the making of laws on inclusion enforceability/implementation of the law is lagging, hence, there is a need for a robust effort aimed at achieving the desired result.

  • Recommendations

Attaining inclusion by 2030 requires all hands to be on deck. It is not a job to be left to the government alone. Although the government has the bulk of the job to do this, each sector should take inclusion as a project.

Accordingly, it is recommended that;

Governments at all levels should ensure the domestication and implementation of the provisions of the Disability Act, 2019

Governments at all levels should ensure the effective provisioning of social services such as housing, education, medical care, etc. this can be done free of charge or at a subsidized rate affordable to Disabled persons.

Government at all levels should provide Automatic offers of appointment to the educated Group among the disabled, while vocational Training and special allowances should be made available for the uneducated and those who are unable to work.

Community awareness campaigns should be done on the integration of disabled persons to Change the traditional perspective of disability.

The disabled should be encouraged psychologically to feel normal, develop their Physical condition and engage in the struggle for Survival like other normal individuals.

All employers of labor should be committed to helping disabled persons with entrepreneurial skills; grow their careers, and provide them with an atmosphere that helps maintain the four key areas for inclusion; Attitude, Accessibility, Accommodations, and Assimilation.

 

About the Author

Ater Solomon Vendaga is a Penultimate Law Undergraduate at the University of Abuja. He has a keen interest in taxation, tech law, IP law, and public policy. He can be reached on soloater12@gmail.com  and +2348025263078


Ode Uduu, Over 25 Million Nigerians Excluded Due To Disability (January 20, 2020) available from https://www.dataphyte.com/latest-reports/governance/over-25-million-nigerians-excluded-due-to-disability/ accessed 22nd January 2023

UN, Disability envision 2030, (2022) available from  https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/envision2030.html. Accessed 22nd January 2023

World Bank, Disability Inclusion Review.  (April 2022). Available from <https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/disability>. Accessed 22nd January 2023

Human Rights Watch, Disability Rights, (2019) available from https://www.hrw.org/topic/disability-rights. Accessed 22nd January 2023

Ibid

Ibid

World Health Organization, ‘Disabilities Definition’ available from <https://www.who.int/topics/disabilities > accessed 22nd January 2023

Ibid at Section 57

Art. 1 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Center for Disease Control, Disability Inclusion(2022) available from https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/disability-inclusion.html#:~:text=Disability%20inclusion%20means%20understanding%20the,of%20their%20abilities%20and%20desires. Assessed 22nd January 2023

United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy

FCDO,  Disability inclusion and rights strategy 2022 to 2030. Building an inclusive future for all: a sustainable rights-based approach (31 May 2022) available from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fcdo-disability-inclusion-and-rights-strategy-2022-to-2030/fcdo-disability-inclusion-and-rights-strategy-2022-to-2030-building-an-inclusive-future-for-all-a-sustainable-rights-based-approach. Accessed 22nd January 2023

FCDO,  Disability inclusion and rights strategy 2022 to 2030. Building an inclusive future for all: a sustainable rights-based approach (31 May 2022) available from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fcdo-disability-inclusion-and-rights-strategy-2022-to-2030/fcdo-disability-inclusion-and-rights-strategy-2022-to-2030-building-an-inclusive-future-for-all-a-sustainable-rights-based-approach. Accessed 22nd January 2023  

Disability inclusion is not discretionary. It is a must

(Dec 7, 2022) available from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/12/disability-inclusion-is-not-discretionary/ accessed 22nd January 2023

Anietie Ewang, Nigeria Passes Disability Rights LawOffers Hope of Inclusion, Improved Access, (Jan 2019) available from https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/01/25/nigeria-passes-disability-rights-law accessed 22nd January 2023

The preamble to the Act

  1. 1 of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2019

ibid

Ibid at s. 2

  1. 28
  2. 17 & 18

Ibid at s. 29

  1. 37

Habib et al, Community Integration of People with Disability in Nigeria. (2017) Vol. 3 No. 1, 2017. Published 2022-11-17.

Ibid

Ode Uduu, Over 25 Million Nigerians Excluded Due To Disability (January 20, 2020) available from https://www.dataphyte.com/latest-reports/governance/over-25-million-nigerians-excluded-due-to-disability/ accessed 22nd January 2023

Ibid

Ibid

Ibid

Ibid

 


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