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Nigeria Disability Rights Law: Matters Arising

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Few days ago, we commemorated the 4th anniversary of the Nigerian Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, which was assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 23rd 2018.

On 24th of August, 2020, President Buhari also established an Independent National Commission for Persons With Disabilities (NCPD), which is the first of kind in Nigeria. This singular step taken by Mr. President two years after it became a law, reignited our hope for its implementation as envisaged.

It is a great privilege for some of us who fought tirelessly, advocated and lobbied to witness the passage of the Act into law and establishment of the Commission, which is responsible for ensuring that people with disabilities have access to housing, education, and healthcare. The Commission is also empowered to receive complaints of rights violations and support victims to seek legal redress amongst other duties. Sadly, most of us have died due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Before I proceed further, let me say a few things about my involvement and antecedent in this journey. I, Miss Omotunde Ellen Thompson, is the Co-founder Joint of the National Association of Persons with Disabilities of Nigeria (JONAPWD-National), which is the umbrella body for the Civil Society Organization of Persons with Disabilities (CSO/OPD), whose official duty is to overseas the affairs of more than 31 million Nigerians with Disabilities.

Notably, I am the only remaining founder of the JONAPWD, who is a Board member,  the First Women’s Leader of the JONAPWD,  the First Disability Desk Officer of the Nigerian Presidency’s Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, the ONLY JONAPWD Board Member, who in collaborations with Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities International, Inc (ERPWDI) based at Houston, Texas USA, directly or indirectly, participated during all the advocacy and negotiation with the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The obligations include (a) advocating for signing and ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its accompanying Optional Protocol, (b) As also, the Presidency’s Disability Desk Officer at the OHCSF, in collaborations with Kpakpando Foundation, Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities International, Inc (ERPWDI) and other network, directly, organized and held successful High-Level Advocacy and negotiations with Nigerian National Assembly and the Executive, who ensured that Nigeria’s Disability Act was enacted in 2018; (c) and therefore, championed the establishment of the NCPD; (6) Advocated with both INEC and IFES to inaugurate the first Disability-Inclusive Electoral and vote Projects, etc…, on behalf of over 31 million Nigerians with Disabilities under my direct care.

Historical Legacy Of JONAPWD And Disability In Nigeria:

In 1992, JONAPWD was formed at the University of Jos (UNIJOS), in Plateau State, Nigeria. In 2005, Plateau State also made history by becoming the first Nigerian State to enact a Disability law (Plateau State Disabilities Rights Law).

This current team in 2006 was led by my humble self and Mrs. Ngozi Pauline Ikebuaku. We worked diligently in collaboration with the American Taxpayers, especially, Nigeria-Americans: Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities International, Inc., and members of the UN Ad Hoc Committee for the CRPD, to successfully advocate and negotiate with the UN Member States for the Adoption of UN CRPD in Nigeria on December 13, 2006. Members of this very team were the ONLY Nigerian members of that UN Ad Hoc Committee and members of the International Disabilities Caucus (IDC). Nigeria signed and ratified the UN CRPD on March 30th, 2007 and September 24th, 2010 respectively.

Again, in 2013, Plateau State achieved another historic and pace-setting accomplishment by becoming the first state in Nigeria to establish a commission for Disability rights, christened, “Plateau State Disabilities Rights Commission”.

In 2006, Plateau State also recorded another breakthrough at the international level, courtesy of the Nigerian-Americans, non-profit organizations of Persons with Disabilities and other corporate members. The organization made remarkable impact in drawing the attention of the world the plight of people living with disabilities.  The group was led by Chief Eric Ndubueze Ufom, who is from Anambra State, but born in Jos, the Plateau State capital cit.  They served as members of the International Disabilities Caucus (IDC), International Disabilities Alliance (IDA), Rehabilitation International (RI), Disabled People International (DPI).

The team worked in collaboration with ERPWDI, Kakpando and they visited the Nigerian Federal Parliament to interact and lobby the legislators for the passage of the Disability Act. I had the privilege of being the convener and facilitator of meetings during the visit.

To lay honest and firm foundation, we must get the history and foundation right in order to make positive changes and do the right things according to world best practices, also help enhance Peacebuilding among People With Disabilities (PWD) and the nation at large. We must also brace up the challenge of implementing extant ratified treaties in a manner that will carry along the country’s vulnerable groups, in line with best practices so that no one is left behind.

Our so-called leaders within the PWD community in Nigeria, are in the habit of always deliberately fighting each other, to the extent of assuming the position of working for the Government of Nigeria against 31 million Nigerians with disabilities, who they are supposed to be working for in terms of protection and promotion of their rights and human dignity. Consequently, they continue to betray and sabotage us. It must stop starting from this year (2023).

That is the reason why during our inauguration as executive members of JONAPWD in 1992, at the University of Jos, in our Mission, Vision and Goals we took serious consideration of Nigeria’s CUTURAL COMPETENCY and COMMITMENT. Unfortunately, today our leaders, knowingly conspire to abandon these values of which our 31 million Nigerians with disabilities community which cut across the entire 36 states of country, including Federal Capital Territory (FCT), are suffering, dying from the adverse consequences of this negative attitude to leadership.

Miss Omotunde Ellen Thompson is the Chairperson and the only surviving Co-founder of JONAPWD



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