By Akinola Modupe
Disability rights are human rights, however, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) are on the margin of the human development agenda and human rights promotion in Nigeria. This is a blemish on the government, traditional and religious institutions. It is reported that 15% of the world population has a disability making PWDs the world’s largest minority group with 80% of PWDs living in underdeveloped nations. In Nigeria, 25 million people have one form of disability yet the Nigerian has always considered issues of PWDs as an afterthought. However, there is a correlation between disability, illiteracy, and poverty with disabled women faring worst of all. Women with disabilities faced doubled jeopardy. In other words, they are first discriminated as women and second, they are discriminated as women with disabilities even among women groups. ‘The exclusion of issues of persons with disabilities from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) highlighted that, until recently, disability was not even considered a development issue and PWDs were not considered as development actors’. It is telling that at the dawn of a new millennium, the vision for a peaceful, prosperous and just world excluded PWDs. It was the light of the above that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), deem it fit to dedicate ‘’Goal 10’’ which is Reducing Inequality’’ to PWDs.
The history of human rights and inclusive development in Nigeria is not fair but highly bias and unjust to PWDs. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) was signed by Nigeria government in 2007 and rectify in 2008, yet it could not be applied or enforced in Nigeria jurisdiction as a result of section 12 of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution which make mockery of all international Treaties and Conventions entered into by Nigeria. The section provides:
‘’No treaty between the Federation and any other country shall have the force of law except to the extent to which any such treaty has been enacted into law by the National Assembly’’
Thus, the above-cited provision of the Nigerian Constitution blatantly makes ridicule and the unenforceability of the so-called signed and rectified United Nation Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.
Interestingly, the CRPD placed a duty on nation’s states to integrate disability rights and inclusive development in their national programmes.
It is on this note that seasoned disabled activist in Nigeria mounted pressure on the National Assembly and the Federal Government to enact and sign the ‘’Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Bill into Law.
Consequently, it was on the 23rd of January 2019 that the Federal Republic of Nigerian singed the ‘’Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Bill, 2019 into Law.
It is quite appalling that in this age of enlightenment, human right promotions and civility, our nation Nigeria still overtly and covertly promotes Discrimination amongst the citizenry. As are glistered prerequisite. In our political landscape, an aspirant to a political, socio-political, cultural and even religious office must not be one suffering from any form of disability, as no one will end listening ears to such Calibre of persons. This will must not condone anymore.
Rarely will one find a PWDs in a political or religious setting and by extension every other field of human endeavour in Nigeria, as they have over time been direct recipients and victims of discrimination, rejected and disenfranchised from participating like other citizens. This injustice has relegated and subjected PWDs to inferiority complex and the shadow of development as well as their standard way of living.
THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION (THE GRUNDNORM)
Section 42 (1) (2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which deals with prohibitions on discrimination on different grounds does not categorically forbid discrimination against PWDs.
The Nigerian approach to PWDs, grossly contravenes all International Human Rights Treaties/Protocols relating to the rights of persons with disabilities.
Constitutionally, religiously and traditionally, there has never been, and there are no court rules, laws, customs or statutes that states explicitly state that PWDs should not take a leadership position or be given government appointment serve in an organization. Even outside and within Nigeria, in as much the impairment is not of a nature that alters the sanity of the mind. A PWDs can become a president
of any country and perform flawlessly, even more than a person Who is not suffering from any disabilities.
If the idea principles of the “Rule of Law” is to adhered to strictu sensu, then PWDs in Nigeria should be accorded with their full fundamental human rights on the bases of equality, fairness and the rule of law. All our discriminating laws must be amended to accommodate a non-discrimination of PWDs in our national affairs. PWDs must not be deprived of their natural entitlements-which are not mere privileges, but sacrosanct and unnegotiable. We must be reminded that ‘’disability rights are human rights’’. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ preamble reads: “…the inherent dignity of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.
On the trending issue of restructuring and constitutional amendment, this is another aspect that must be meticulously considered with PWDs in mind. The Federal government and the National Assembly should give PWDs a chance to participate actively in nations building just like any other Nigerians.
Let me emphasize here that being a PWDs is not cantankerous to effective
leadership, high performance and delivery. Or a death sentence to be treated as less human. PWDs also possess ideas and solutions to the menaces battling our peaceful existence as a nation state. Quality ideas rule the world, not biceps and limbs!
History may remind us that PWDs could also be successful in their various fields. There are a good number of PWDs who are university professors, scholars of repute, policymakers and politicians who have occupied the highest office of the land of other jurisdictions, and of course, their performances were excellent and received the global attention. The former President of US, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a politician-who rule America on a wheelchair during the most difficult period (World War II). He guided the United States of America thoroughly and successfully during his tenure. Also the late Stephen Hawking, a well-known physicist in the world who speaks with the assistance of a computer and has been full time on a powered chair since 1980’s made the world proud with his scientific prowess. Hellen Keller-with a bachelors degree in art is also a world celebrity in her field. Worthy to mention also is John Hockenberry, an American journalist with spinal cord injury and other war and policy lords who defied the limitations imposed by their physical disability and engineered socio-political efficacy.
In Nigerian, Joseph Chikumeis a seasoned scholar and a lecturer of repute at the University of Lagos with a PhD in Philosophy. Professor Jibril Isa, a visually impaired Senior Lecturer from the Bayaro University, Kano who is highly respected among his colleagues is an amazing personality doing Nigeria proud. Interestingly, the history of PWDs is a history of talents and tremendous abilities. My friend and learned colleague Barrister Dickson Vershima Tarnongo is a PWD who is a seasoned human rights activist and a practising lawyer. Dickson recently won the most prestigious Chevening Award and is presently doing Nigeria proud at the Warwick Law School in the United Kingdom (UK) where he is reading for his LLM in International Development Law and Human rights. Apart from been a Chevening Scholar, Dickson is the author of a book titled: ‘’Disability Rights In Nigeria’’. Thus, History is replete with instances of pacesetters who set the Paces without limbs. We can improve on history, let’s make more room for development by changing our orientation and give more opportunities to PWDs.
The world remains in a state of constant flux, and there are Various means, ways, structures that can be put in place to improve and enhance the activeness of brothers and sisters who are the most vulnerable but full of potentials and possibilities. In All existent fields in the world today, there exists a percentage of The PWDs contributing to making things work for the benefit of humanity. Thus with the help of modernization, awareness programs, technology advancements, and concerted efforts towards the building of human capacity, Nigerian as a nation cannot afford to sit on the fence but activate the resources lying fallow in PWDs. We must explore the abilities of our friends, brothers and sisters who are PWDs for nation-building.
The cliché ‘’There is ability in Disability’’. Is not just a mere rhetoric, it’s real and must be promoted with inclusive policies and the speedy implementation of the newly enacted ‘’Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) 2019 for the benefit of PWDs. PWDs can rule and be Pace setters if only we would give them a chance, build their capacity, and decisively end discrimination against them.
#Speedy implementation of the newly enacted Disability Act!
#Stop the rejection!!
# Promote Ability in disability!!!!
#Let’s improve on history!!!!!
Akinola Modupe. O, Esq.