On January 23, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Disability Discrimination (Prohibition) Act of 2018 after 9 years of relentless advocacy from disability rights groups and activists.
According to the World Health Organization’s 2011 World Disability Report, around 15 percent of the Nigerian population, or at least 25 million people, are disabled. Many of them face a range of human rights abuses, including stigma, discrimination, violence and lack of access to health care, housing and education.
Nigeria ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2007 and its Optional Protocol in 2010. Since then, civil society groups and people with disabilities have urged the government to put it into practice. In 2011 and 2015, the National Assembly passed the Disability Discrimination (Prohibition) Act of 2009, but former President Goodluck Jonathan declined to legally sign it. The bill for the new bill was passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate Joint Committee in November 2016, but was not sent to Buhari for signature until December 2018.
On January 17, Buhari denied receiving the bill on national television. Hundreds of people protested, and less than five days later he signed the bill.
The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and imposes sanctions, including fines and imprisonment, on those who violate it. There is also a transition period of five years for changes to public buildings, structures and automobiles to make them accessible and usable for people with disabilities.
The law will also establish a national commission for people with disabilities, which will be responsible for ensuring that people with disabilities have access to housing, education and health care. The Commission will have the power to receive complaints about violations of the law and to assist victims, among other things, in seeking redress.
The passage of the Disability Discrimination Act (Prohibition) is only a first step towards fulfilling Nigeria’s obligations under the CRPD. Authorities should now take effective measures for their full implementation to ensure equality and participation of people with disabilities across Nigeria.