Caption is Muhammadu Buhari wearing a hat talking on a cell phone.
Love him or hate him, President
Muhammadu Buhari has done more for persons living with disabilities than any President in Nigeria’s history. The President is therefore Nigeria’s only
inclusive President. His records
speak for him.
He was the first President to recognize that persons living with disabilities are also people like the rest of the society.
He was the President who acknowledged that a person living with disability and well educated could be ppointed to
a top position in government.
President Muhammadu Buhari made history in 2016 when he appointed a person living with disability, Senior
Special Assistant on Disability Matters. Buhari appointed a visually impaired veterinary doctor, Samuel Inalegwu
Ode Ankeli as his Senior Special Assistant, with the responsibility to advise him and handle matters concerning persons living with disability.
Mr. Ankeli was before then head
of the Directorate of Persons With Disability at the Buhari/Osinbajo APC presidential campaign headquarters, the
first of any such department in a political party in Nigeria.
“He led a team that successfully mobilized a large number of the more that 24 million disabled persons in the country to support the APC candidate and his running mate in the 2015
presidential election campaign,” a statement by presidential
spokesperson, Garba Shehu, said at the time. Mr. Ankeli hails from Benue State. He went to school in Giwa, near Zaria
and Kaduna before studying veterinary medicine at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
He worked with the Benue State government before quitting to give time to his activist role in the promotion
of the wellbeing of the blind
and people with all kinds of disability. He is married, with children.
Ankeli did not disappoint the President as he spearheaded the campaign for more rights for persons living with disability and was reappointed to the
position when Nigerians
massively re-elected Buhari for
second term in 2019.
The import of this is that, the President recognized that lives of Persons Living
With Disabilities Matter, and appointed someone to help him address this issue. By appointing Ankeli to the position of Senior Special Assistant (a position
close to a ministerial status), Buhari demonstrated that persons living with disabilities could function at the top level
If there is any other president in Nigeria who has done this before I remain to
be corrected.In the United Kingdom and
other parts of the world, persons
living with disabilities are given
opportunity to excel. David Blunkett, a blind man was once a cabinet minister of the UK government under the David
Cameron administration and his performance as a minister was never in doubt.
Before now, in Nigeria, persons living with disabilities are rarely invited at the decision making process, for a country
that has over 25million persons
living with disabilities.
For over 18 years disability rights activists and campaigners had called for a law that would address all the impediments to a better and reasonable
life for persons living with disabilities. The National Assembly supported this.
The Disability Bill was passed into
law by the National Assembly
under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, and the Ota farmer shoved it aside and refused
to assent to the Bill. Persons living with disabilities and campaigners was heart broken over the decision of Obasanjo
because the law was necessary to
address discrimination against
persons living with disabilities.
President Goodluck Jonathan did not do any better. The Seventh National
Assembly passed the Disability
Bill into law, yet for no cogent reasons Jonathan left office without assenting to the law.
Another opportunity lost. However the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari presented hope for persons
living with disabilities and campaigners, more so as the President showed quite early that he is an equal opportunity
and inclusive president, when he
created the office of the Senior Special Assistant on Disability Matters with a person living with disability appointed to the position.
Again in 2019, Buhari made history when he assented to the Discrimination Against Persons with disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018. The Act prohibits
all forms of discrimination on ground of disability and imposes fine against violators.
The Act further provides: “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. “This applies to seaports, railways and airport facilities.
The rights and privileges include
education, healthcare, priority
in accommodation and emergencies.” Furthermore, all public organisations are to reserve at least five per cent of
employment opportunities for this special category of persons.
The National Commission for Persons with Disabilities is also to be established in line with Section 31 of the Act with
Executive Secretary as the head.
The challenge now is how to ensure that the Act is enforced. To effectively enforce the law the President should without
further delay establish the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities and appoint an Executive Secretary
(who must be a person living with disability) running the commission. The importance of the commission cannot be
According to the Discrimination Against
Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018, the commission’s responsibilities include; policy formulation and implementation, public
enlightenment, data collection
and record-keeping of information regarding persons with disabilities, receipt of complaints from persons with
disabilities whose rights have been violated and institution of schemes which promote the welfare of persons with disabilities.
If we are to believe the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) there
are moves to establish the commission.
The NHRC said it would partner with the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian
Affairs in the establishment of the new commission. The executive secretary of the NHRC, Tony Ojukwu, disclosed this in
a statement he issued after a meeting with the humanitarian affairs minister, Sadiya Farouq, recently.
Mr Ojukwu said although the establishment of the Disability Commission is within the powers of the ministry, the rights commission would play a significant role in protecting
the rights of persons with disabilities.
Eighteen months is too long a time to wait before the establishment of the Commission since the Act was assented by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari has already done a lot but he needs to do more to drive the process by ensuring that the Commission is established, and he should not allow the bureaucrats to delay the establishment any further.
Disabilities Act is one of the legacy laws of Muhammadu Buhari, as an inclusive
President and he should not allow bureaucrats to undermine it.