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Opinions of Monday, 13 December 2021

Columnist: Bola Bakare

Reworking disability issues for Nigeria’s all-inclusive development

File photo to illustrate the story File photo to illustrate the story

The responsiveness of government and governance is measured by the premium that the ruling elite pay to the life and well-being of the people they lead or have some form of influence over.

This is even more so considering how well the government in any given political space or environment views and attends to issues considered very important to the welfare of those who could be considered as the vulnerable sector of its human capital.

Some experts have argued that a nation is as developed as the quality of people inhabiting its territory, so the government must at all times work towards ensuring that the quality of the average human capital is enhanced maximally if the growth and development of the given environment are to be assured.

In the business of developing human capital, however, it is incumbent on the government to ensure that no segment of the society is left behind in its developmental aspirations and projections.

This belief holds true, especially in the task of nation-building where every component unit or individual has one unique and vital role to play as a stakeholder. Such human personnel contribute their quota by utilising both their given or acquired talents for the benefit of all.

Apart from the disposition and efforts being made (or lack of it) by those in government, it must also be noted that the behaviour of other citizens considered to be endowed towards those seen as less fortunate also matters a lot if a holistic view is to be seen by observers who seek to make the right conclusions needed to undertake remedial works.

However, when viewed properly, the plights of some Nigerians who could be considered as physically impaired is so appalling and nothing positive to write home about with little or no form of care or compassion coming their way from the government and other citizens of the same country.

Looking at their plights, ordinarily concerned stakeholders ought to consider it as very important and urgent, the task of mainstreaming issues affecting these critical segments in the front burner of national discourse.

It is a known fact that many times these critically important segments of the population suffer some form of abandonment from their immediate family members who consider them as not too useful enough to be invested in. They (the physically impaired) are left to the vagaries of harsh day-to-day existence in their efforts to survive.

In the past, there hadn’t been concerted efforts officially by successive governments before 2015 in terms of policies, programmes and legislation to give some form of cover, relief and protection to them in a very harsh, unwelcoming Nigerian societal space.

Prior to the coming of the regime of the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), little efforts had been made by successive governments before him to look critically and dispassionately into their plight in a manner that would frontally address their plights.

At best, what they have received from the government before could be termed tokenism in the way of some not well-crafted policy documents as well as legislative instruments that are usually implemented half-hazardly.

A creative effort was made by Buhari to establish a specialised ministry to cater for the needs of those who could be considered as vulnerable segments of Nigerian society.

It is to Buhari’s credit that the National Commission for Persons with Disability was created to cater specifically for the needs of these critical masses. The move is unprecedented for two broad reasons.

One, this is the first time a full-fledged governmental agency would be put in place to coordinate issues relating to the physically impaired Nigerians. By that token, a separate entity has been fashioned out by the government to craft policies, programmes as well as legislation for the benefits of the physically challenged.

The other novelty inherent in the move is that the management and staffing of the commission are entirely carried out by those affected themselves, thus giving credence to the saying that he who is affected feels it.

Kudos must also go to the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouk, who worked tirelessly for the establishment of the commission.

With the coming into being of the NCPWD, issues of the physically impaired have now been mainstreamed and concerted efforts would now be made for the implementation of the Disability Rights Act, which was passed two years ago by the Federal Government, in a manner that will bring them at par with other population segments in the country.

That, itself, came into being as a result of agitation spanning 20 years by relevant stakeholders. Though, the law was passed in 2013 but the then president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, refused assent to it. Efforts were also made in the succeeding years until it was finally passed and assented to by Buhari in 2018. The commission came into life in August 2020 making it just a year old.

To make representation an all-encompassing, six clusters (or types of disability) of the physical impairment community are well represented in the board of the commission. The same situation suffices in the governing structure of the commission.

The welfare aspirations of this segment have been given a new fillip by Buhari and nothing seems able to stop the physically impaired Nigerians from getting their fair share of the nation’s commonwealth that is allotted to them by relevant laws of the country.

Efforts must also be geared by all relevant towards making the commission further identify and mainstream issues affecting them to achieve a state of egalitarianism for them.

When these are achieved, Nigeria can conveniently refer to itself as a modern and progressive geographical entity.