Appraisal of Legal Framework for the Protection of the Rights of Disabled Persons in Nigeria

CONTRIBUTED BY IFEDIORA OBIORA CHISOM

INTRODUCTION

The word “Disability” refers to a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movement, senses, or activities. Disability covers activity impairments, limitations, and participation restrictions[1]. It has also been defined as “difficulty or dependency in carrying out activities of daily living which are mostly related to self-care and other activities that are essential to living independently”[2].

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), defined persons with disabilities as “including those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments that when combined with other barriers, may prevent them from participating fully and effectively in society on an equal basis with others’’[3]

In Nigeria, people with disabilities have historically faced various forms of discrimination and marginalization in different aspects of life, such as education, employment, and social activities[4]. As a result, the voice of people with disabilities often goes unheard. Over the years, there were little or no measures put in place to protect Persons with Disabilities.

However, in recent years, there has been a growing awareness of disability rights issues in Nigeria, and efforts have been made to address some of the challenges faced by people with disabilities. The Nigerian government has taken steps to promote the rights of persons with disabilities. This has been reflected in the country’s enactment, and ratification of several treaties, conventions, laws, policies, and initiatives aimed at improving the lives of people with disabilities. For example, in 2018, a notable accomplishment in Nigeria’s effort to defend the rights of people with disabilities was the signing of the Discrimination against People with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act. The Act prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and also made provisions for their rights to education, health care, employment, and other services.

Also, the Nigerian government in a bid to ensure adequate protection of these persons with disabilities, has ratified international treaties and laws that promote the rights of people with disabilities. For example, Nigeria ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which promotes full inclusion and participation of people with disabilities in all aspects of life, and it advocates for accessibility of the physical environment, transportation, information, and communication as well as buildings, roads, schools, and medical facilities[5].

Despite these legal provisions, to ensure that the rights of individuals with disabilities in Nigeria are safeguarded and they can participate fully in all aspects of life, there is a need for continued advocacy and action.

Thus, this Article aims to provide an overview of the laws and policies that are meant to protect the rights of persons with disabilities in Nigeria.

LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE RIGHTS OF DISABLED PERSONS IN NIGERIA.

The Nigerian government has made some efforts to enact some laws for the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. This comprises legal policy and institutional measures aimed at promoting the rights of persons with disabilities and guaranteeing their inclusion in all aspects of life.

Several international and regional instruments guarantee the rights of persons with disabilities. Nigeria is a signatory to several of them, and such legal instruments charge the member states who are signatories to it, to raise awareness of and, ultimately, respect for disabled persons within society[6]. These international and regional laws include; the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights 1981, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In this article, the author will further enumerate on laws protecting the rights of persons with disabilities in Nigeria. These laws are:

  1. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, as the basic law of Nigeria, has provisions for Fundamental Rights to every person, including the disabled, and ensures those rights are well safeguarded. The basic rights of all Nigerians are contained in Chapter 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria[7] however, it does not provide any special provisions for the protection of the rights of people with disabilities but it can be inferred from its provisions. Some of the rights include but are not limited to the right to life and the right to freedom from discrimination as persons with disabilities are part of society and should not be excluded or their rights denied. These rights can be enforced by the Court when breached[8]. The challenges faced daily by disabled persons could be mitigated through the inclusion of disability in the list of protected bases in the Nigerian Constitution. This gesture would show the government’s commitment to ensuring their rights are protected.

  1. Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018.

The Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, prohibits discrimination against persons with disability and punishes individuals and corporate bodies who violate the Act. The Punishment for violation ranges from fines to imprisonment or both. Individuals in violation of the Act will be liable to a term of six months imprisonment or a fine of One Hundred Thousand Naira (N100,000) while corporations will be fined (One Million Naira (N1,000,000) for violation of the law[9].

In addition, it also established the National Commission for Persons with disabilities, which was charged with the responsibility of promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities[10]. The Act also seeks to ensure the integration of persons living with disability by guaranteeing the following rights; unrestricted access to adequate health care, free of discrimination based on disability, free education up to secondary school level for every person with a disability, and public schools are encouraged to have special facilities for the effective education of persons with disabilities, Persons with disabilities are also guaranteed the right to work, on an equal basis with others without any form of discrimination and also right to participate in the electioneering process.

This has received applause from the public as in the recently concluded general election in Nigeria, persons with disabilities voted in different parts of the country and their votes counted. The Act forbids and makes it illegal to use any person with disabilities in soliciting for alms. It also mandates all public building or building plan must make provision for accessible facilities and has to be inspected by relevant authorities to ensure it conforms with the building code[11]. The building plan must be approved by relevant authorities, any building plan approved that is contrary to the provision of the act shall attract a fine of at least One Million Naira (N1,000,000) only, or term of imprisonment of two years or both[12]. In order to enjoy these rights, persons living with disability will be required to obtain a certificate of disability from the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities. Anybody who fraudulently obtains or provides a Certificate of Disability is subject to a fine of N200,000, one-year imprisonment, or both[13].

  1. The Lagos State Special Peoples Law 2011

The first disability rights law in Nigeria is the Lagos State Special Persons Law (2011). It prohibits discrimination and harmful treatment on the grounds of disability[14]. The law provides for equal opportunities, accessibility, and inclusion of persons with disabilities in all areas of life, including education, employment, healthcare, and transportation. It made provision for an agency called the Lagos state office for disability affairs.

This agency is saddled with the responsibility of implementing the provisions of the law and ensuring that persons with disabilities are provided with equal rights and opportunities. The law provides unfettered access to adequate health care for persons with disabilities without discrimination [15]and mandates hospitals providing services to patients with communication difficulties to provide special communication equipment[16], the right to education, right to employment without any form of discrimination. It is a positive step towards achieving greater inclusion and equality for persons with disabilities in Nigeria.

CHALLENGES IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES.

The implementation of the laws protecting the rights of persons with disabilities in Nigeria faces several challenges, which include:

1. Limited resources: The Nigerian government has limited financial resources to implement the legal and policy measures for the protection of the rights of disabled persons. This has led to inadequate funding of disability programs and services.

2. Inadequate Infrastructure: Most of the public buildings in Nigeria lack the necessary infrastructure to enable accessibility to persons with disabilities. Which includes lifts, ramps, handrails, and parking spaces close to the entrance properly marked and reserved for persons with disabilities.

3. Limited awareness and sensitization: Many Nigerians lack awareness and knowledge about disability issues, which leads to stigmatization and discrimination against persons with disabilities.

CONCLUSION

Persons with disabilities deserve to be treated equally with others without any form of discrimination. They are humans, thus entitled to their rights designed by the government to ensure their inclusiveness in the society. Persons with disabilities need to be sensitized to know their rights, and members of the society should treat them with respect and assist them in ensuring that they are not discriminated against.

  1. Theo Ajobiewe, Management of Disability in the Family and Community (Ibadan: Teton Educational Services 2014) 8
  2. I. Mouchaers and others ‘The Concept of Disability and Its Causal Mechanisms in Older People Over Time from A Theoretical Perspective: A Literature Review’ European Journal of Ageing
  3. United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability and Optional Protocol, 2007, Art 1.
  4. Chomba Wa Munyi, ‘Past and Present Perceptions Towards Disability: A Historical Perspective’ (2012) (32)(2) Disabilities Studies Quarterly, n.p. in E Etieyibo and O Omiegbe, ‘Religion, Culture and Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria’ (2016) (5)(1) African Journal of Disabilities, 192.
  5. Art. 9, United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
  6. Article 1(1) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2008
  7. Sections 33 to 46, Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999
  8. The Fundamental Human Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules, 2009
  9. S.1(2) Discrimination against persons with disabilities (prohibition) Act 2018
  10. S. 31 ibid.
  11. S.7 (1) Ibid.
  12. S.7 (3) Ibid.
  13. Ss. 22 & 23 Ibid
  14. S. 26 Lagos state special people’s law 2010
  15. S.32 Ibid.
  16. Ibid.

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