The National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD) has commended lawyers with disability for their resilience in the struggle to have laws and institution to protect and assist Persons with Disability (PWDs) in the country.
The Executive Secretary of NCPWD, Mr James Lalu, gave the commendation at the Nigerian Bar Association-Lawyers with Disabilities Forum (NBA-LWDF) Maiden Conference on Tuesday in Abuja.
The Conference, with the theme “Lawyers with Disabilities in Nigeria: Realities, Challenges and Expectations”, was organised by NBA-LWDF under the leadership of its Chairperson, Mrs Asia Ahmed El-Rufai, and supported by Asia Ahmed and Co, Law Forte, A.U. Mustapha and Co and many others.
Lalu said the NCPWD would remain grateful to lawyers with disabilities in Nigeria, adding that they have tried so heard to facilitate the coming to being the laws against PWDs and the establishment of the commission.
“Even when the Discrimination Against PWD Prohibition Act was passed by the then National Assembly and the Executive Arm of government did not signed it into law, the lawyers with disabilities never relented.
“They pushed so hard and here we are today. Therefore, we will always be grateful to lawyers with disabilities in Nigeria.
“However, we are working on regulations and we are hoping that, as soon as possible we are going to achieve these regulations.
“The regulations make it very clear and provide the standard dimension and necessary measurement for a unified standard facilities that are disability friendly across the country.
“The law provides five years period in which everybody or organisations must adjust to provide accessibility in their own offices and environments,” Lalu said.
The NCPWD boss called on the NBA to ensure that their offices are accessible to members of the disability community.
He hinted that in 2023, the Commission would host Access to Justice Summit for PWDs, adding that the Commission is soliciting the support of NBA.
Similarly, in his keynote address, the President of the NBA, Mr Yakubu Chonoko Maikyau, said he was not comfortable with the use of the word disability for lawyers or any human being.
According to him, the word disability set a limit in the psychic of people that happens to dampen their aspirations, expectations and set limitations to their dreams.
He explained that words influence and create the world, stressing that every time we describe ourselves as disabled, it does no good to us.
“However, I have seen the resilience of members of this Forum. I have seen purposefulness in what you have done. I can see everything you bring to bear in anything that you do.
“I can see your conviction and persuasions; and put it side by side with what you describe yourselves in this Forum, Imagine if that had been taken away, we would not be where we are today. We would have gone far.
“However, we have to embark on an advocacy to liberate our minds and beliefs. We have to believe the best of us and we shall enjoy the fullest of expression of what God has deposited in all of us. This is my call to all members of this Forum and all members of NBA.
“We have come to think that it is what we see that we define as disability; many of us are dealing with one disability or the other.
“When we misconduct ourselves as lawyers, it is because we are expressing a certain form of disability; it is the deficiency in the knowledge of what to do, because, you can only do according to what you know,” Maikyau said.
The NBA President pledged that all committees that would be set up by the NBA would comprise of at least one of two members of the NBA-LWDF.
Maikyau said that NCPWD is doing well and pledged support for the Commission in all their programmes.
“After this conference, please let us have the recommendations that you have and we will be happy to implement those recommendations.”
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Conference Planning Committee, Mr Ikem Uchegbulam, said the essence of the Maiden Conference was to bring stakeholders in the legal profession to evaluate the realities, prospect and challenges that LWDs are facing in Nigeria.
“We have been able to identify the inaccessibility of facilities, including courtrooms, employment deficiency and issues relating to technology and how PWDs can be able to have a version that are accessible to them especially persons with visual impairment.
“We are looking at the realities, challenges, prospects and how these things can be cured, so that LWDs can actually engage in legal practice without limitation,” Uchegbulam said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the conference brought together stakeholders from the disability community, legal profession and many others. (NAN)