By Chesa Chesa
President Muhammadu Buhari has assented to the Discrimination Against Persons with disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018, his legislative liaison aide, Ita Enang, announced on Wednesday night.
The delay in signing the bill into law had been the subject of controversy last week during a recent town hall session involving Buhari and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, during which they denied receiving the document, although the initiators insisted it had been forwarded to the presidency last December.
This Act prohibits all forms of discrimination on ground of disability and imposes fine of N1, 000, 000 for corporate bodies and N100, 000 for individuals or a term of six months imprisonment for violation concurrently and guarantees right to maintain civil action for damage by the person injured against any defaulter.
It also provides for a five-year transitional period within which public buildings, structures or automobile are to be modified to be accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, including those on wheelchairs.
The Act further provides:
‘’Before erecting any public structure, its plan shall be scrutinized by the relevant authority to ensure that the plan conforms with the building code.
“A government or government agency, body or individual responsible for the approval of building plans shall not approve the plan of a public building if the plan does not make provision for accessibility facilities in line with the building code.
“An officer who approves or directs the approval of a building plan that contravenes the building code, commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of at least N1, 000, 000 or a term of imprisonment of two years or both.’’
Enang in a statement issued in Abuja further explained that discrimination is prohibited in public transportation facilities and service providers are to make provision for the physically, visually and hearing impaired and all persons howsoever challenged, and this applies to Seaports, Railways and Airport facilities.
He added that “the rights and privileges include education, healthcare, priority in accommodation and emergencies.
“Furthermore, all public organisations are to reserve at least 5 % of employment opportunities for these persons. The National Commission for Persons with Disabilities is also established in Section 31 with Executive Secretary as the head.”