From all indications, the federal government may have concluded plans to set up a National Commission for Persons with Disabilities. When established, it will, hopefully, serve as a platform for the enforcement of the provisions of the Disability Bill when passed into law by the National Assembly. This bill will take charge of disabled persons' education, health care, social rights and all related welfare and well being of such persons. The commission, on the other hand, will take responsibility for their education, health care and the protection of their social, economic, civil rights and other related matters.
The permanent Secretary, Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, Dr Habiba Lawal in an address she presented to participants at a United Nations' (UN) meeting on persons with disabilities in New York, United States of America, disclosed that this commission is in the works and will address all matters relating the plight of this class of citizens.
She told her audience that the setting up of the commission was part of the federal government's commitment to the implementation of the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities and its optional protocol both of which have been ratified by Nigeria.
We are enamoured that something is finally being done one to alleviate the challenges people with disabilities face on a daily basis. Before now, they are treated as less than third class citizens with little or no rights. In the design of public utilities, there appear to be a conspiracy to deny them benefits they deserve to get like every other citizen. Even in official circles, the attention they receive is mere tokenism if at all. In some cases, opportunities for self-actualization in education, employment are denied them just because they have one form of disability or the other. The little visibility they enjoy is self-made as they try to attract attention to their plight through excellence in sports and other areas of human endeavor.
As the nation awaits this commission, it is our hope that this is not another move to assuage the anxieties of the international community to give the impression that something is being done by Nigeria to key in to international best practice in that regard.
We also warn that this commission when eventually it comes on stream must not be another bureaucratic institution that will end up dampening the high expectations it has generated. People with Disabilities are special needs people and must be given that consideration. We issue this warning because the Nigerian establishment has the proclivity to politicise otherwise noble ideas. We note that there used to be a school for the specially gifted designed to harness and enhance the qualities of children identified as possessing uncommon abilities. It derailed because it was hijacked by the high and mighty that believe such children must come only from their families. People with Disabilities exist also among the poor and must be taken care of by the commission.