Disabled persons’ rights: Physically challenged lawyer files address

A Physically challenged lawyer, Daniel Onwe, on Tuesday, filed a written address before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, affirming his competence to personally represent himself in a suit seeking the enactment of a law to protect rights of persons living with disabilities in Nigeria.
The applicant had filed a suit in December 2013, seeking a court order directing the enactment of a law to protect the rights of persons living with disability in the country.

He joined President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Assembly as respondents in the suit.
Onwe had, at the last adjourned date, also sought the leave of court to personally conduct his case from the bar as a legal practitioner.
But Justice Mohammed Yunusa, had queried the legality of his appearance as a counsel in his own suit.
The judge said that he was in doubt as to the correct position of the law with regards to such appearance, and had urged the applicant to address the court on the issue.

In his written address dated April 4, the applicant argued that the provisions of section 8 (1) of the Legal Practitioners Act, accords a legal practitioner who is duly called to the bar, the right of audience in all courts of law in Nigeria.
He argued that on the strength of the provision of the Act, and having been duly enrolled as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court in Nigeria, he had a right of audience in the suit before the court.
In his motion, Onwe is seeking an order of court, mandating the respondents to enact forthwith, the necessary laws to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

He is also seeking a declaration that the absence of such legislation violates their fundamental rights as enshrined in Sections 33 to 42 of the 1999 Constitution, and Articles 4 to 12 of the African Charter on Human Rights.
Onwe is praying the court to hold that the inaccessibility of public buildings by persons with disability due to architectural barriers violates their freedom of movement, association and right to dignity of human person.
He, therefore, wants the court to grant his application in the interest of justice and the nation.

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