On Monday, 24th August, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the composition of the Governing Council and appointment of Executive Secretary of the National Commission for People with Disabilities in line with the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2019.
Making this known were the presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina and the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq.
According to the Act setting up the Commission, it shall be headed by a part-time chairman and six members who shall be People with Disabilities representing each of the six the geo-political zones in the federation. They were appointed for a four-year term of office in the first instance, subject only to reappointment for a second term of four years.
The Act stipulates also that there shall be an Executive Secretary, who shall be responsible to the Council for the implementation of the policies and administration of the day-to-day activities of the commission. Like the chairman, the ES, according to the law, shall be a Person with Disability, and with a five-year tenure in the first instance and may be reappointed for a second term.
In tandem with the Act, President Buhari appointed the Governing Council members which included Dr Hussaini Suleiman Kangiwa (North West), Chairman; Oparaku Onyejelam Jaja (South East), member; Philomena Isioma Konwea (South-South), member; Omopariola Busuyi Oluwasola (South West), member; Amina Rahma Audu (North West), member; Mrs Esther Andrew Awu (North Central), member; Abba Audu Ibrahim (North East), member; and James David Lalu (North Central), who was named the Executive Secretary.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Umar Farouq while inaugurating the Board did not hide her joy at the epoch-making ceremony. She said that she was happy and full filled “as one of the vulnerable groups that are close to my heart finally have a Commission and Executives in place to cater to their needs, protect their rights and provide an enabling environment for them to maximize their potentials, thrive and contribute valuably to the society and the Nation as a whole”.
She explained that setting up the Board proved that President Buhari is moved by the “commitment and desire to improve the quality of life of vulnerable groups in Nigeria and ensure they enjoy their full rights and privileges as citizens of Nigeria’’.
She congratulated the over 30 million Persons Living with Disabilities in Nigeria on this giant milestone and charged them to maximize the platform that has been provided for them for the realization of their dreams. The Minister charged member of the commission to put in their best and “lay a solid foundation for the Commission bearing in mind that the well being of over 30 million persons living with disabilities in Nigeria largely depends on your actions and the way you discharge your duty’’.
She listed their functions to include: the formulation and implementation of policies and guidelines as appropriate for the education and social development of persons with disabilities, preparation of schemes designed to promote social welfare of persons with disabilities, promoting and uplifting the general well being of persons with disabilities by encouraging the public to change their negative attitude towards persons with disabilities.’’
There is no doubt that Nigerians have for years expressed the desire for the setting up of a Commission to cater exclusively to the needs of our brothers and sisters who, due to no fault of theirs, have been subjected to one formerly of disability or another. With their statistics put at over 30 million, it is no doubt a huge number of persons, who must be accorded every right and privilege received by other well endowed Nigerians.
It is good that President Buhari has accorded to the desires of over 125 million Nigerians in this respect. Issues of the well-being of people with disabilities have been a recurring matter, but taking the bull by the horns is what The AUTHORITY specifically applaud.
Nigerians must note that due to the peculiar challenges of persons with disability, several of their rights are denied. It therefor beehoves on this Commission to do everything within its mandate to bring to bear all actions and activities that would ameliorate every form of disadvantage hitherto being suffered by persons with disability.
The commission should not just be a nominal mouth peace but should at all times be seen to be taking actions towards walking their talk. For example, the issue of ensuring full implementation of access to every public and commercial building of certain persons with disability, whether those of them with visual impairment or people should would require wheel chairs or special facilities to gain access to such buildings must be made to come to be.
Also, issue of denial of employment to categories of persons with disability should be halted. This can be achieved by government making it compulsory for the Commission to be part and parcel of the Federal Character Commission (although this commission – FCC – has not recently lived up to it constitutional mandate), the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission, The Civil Service Commission, Ministry of Sports, Youth, Women Affairs, Works and Housing, Power, Police Affairs, Federal Road Safety acommission and the National Planning Commission.
This is important to ensure that the full rights and privileges of persons with disability are not at any time denied. There is also the urgent need to ensure that in planning for whatever issue, the interests of persons with disability are captured and fully implemented.
It is expected that the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs who is pioneering this ministry must fire her loins and set the ball rolling in the right direction. The precedents she puts in place now will generally determine whether the Commission sails or sinks. Every form of nepotism tendencies or issues that have stagnated the country must not be allowed to creep into this commission.
The AUTHORITY therefor calls on all the stakeholders to allow this commission set standards on what an ideal society should be. If we bring in those tendencies that have dragged the nation down to its knees as has been the case since Independence, then, the desires of Umar Farouk in working assiduously to get presidential blessings for the take off of this communication would have been an exercise in futility. Just as we pray for her to remain steadfast and provide guidance with the fear of God, she should also be supported by her sides and advisers to avoid the banana peels that have stagnated this country Nigeria in the running of the affairs of the commission.
If we all realise that we are referring to the vulnerable and high risk persons’ interests being taken care of, then, we should all be circumspect in what we do, decide or act regarding the commission. In the same vain, we charge the pioneer members of the commission to live up to the expectation of the members of the public and insulate themselves from those problems which have bugged other commission, being propelled by well-endowned country men and women.
It is our expectation that the National Commission for People with Disabilities, will set enviable standards that will push them into light years ahead of other commissions in the country. This is the only way to prove that neither President Buhari nor Sadiya Umar made mistakes in working to set the commission on its feet.