The 5% jobs for PLWDs

The readiness of the federal government to implement the policy of allocating five per cent jobs to people living with disabilities (PLWDs) in both public and private sectors is a welcome development though long overdue.

Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, made the disclosure in Abuja last week while addressing a large crowd of PLWDs at the 16thanniversary celebration of the Kpakpando Foundation. He assured them that his ministry would issue circular to all the ministries and parastatals to implement the policy this week, noting that the implementation of such policy signposted the inclusivity of the Buhari administration.

Ngige assured the Foundation of his ministry’s support in providing materials and cash for PLWDs.

Also speaking at the gathering, the Chairman of the occasion and Governor of Ekiti state, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, disclosed that his administration had signed into law the Disability Act which provided 5 per cent employment inclusion. He said the state had also established the Disability Commission to manage the affairs of PLWDs in the state, assuring that there would be total inclusiveness in the implementation of the policy.

The federal government resolution is coming a little over a year President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the long-awaited National Disability Commission with a full complement of a chairman and members.The new commission is subsumed under the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.

The setting up of the commission, after two decades of advocacy by notable Nigerians,also marked a turning point in the lives of Nigerians afflicted by all manner of disabilities.The commission seeks to provide social protection for persons with disabilities and provide safeguards against any discrimination that they may suffer from.

Part of its mandate is to ensure that the education, healthcare and other social and economic rights of the people living with disabilities contained in the 1999 Constitution (as amended)are attained.

Nigeria is home to about 20m of the 200m population of disabled persons. However, this figure is conservative given their heavy presence in many parts of the country most especially those who roam the streets as beggars and destitute persons. This is aside those that fake one form of disability or the other in order to earn a living owing to harsh economic conditions or joblessness.

Several factors fuel disabilities. Chief among them are wars, diseases, congenital complications, lack of access to healthcare, poor attention at old age and socio-cultural beliefs that frown at immunisations against childhood diseases like polio.

One striking provision of the law is the Prohibition of Discrimination and Harmful Treatment of the physically challenged persons. Any offender is liable toN1m fine for corporate organisationsand N100,000 for individuals or 6 months imprisonment or both. Also included in the bill is the provision onAccessibility of Physical Structures. It makes it mandatory for public buildings, roads, walkways and others to be constructed in such a way that a person with disability could access them like every other person without any hindrance or difficulty.

It is public knowledge that persons with disabilities, especially the ambitious ones have little hope of getting education, securing a job, having their own homes, families and raising their children, socialising or even exercising their civic rights during elections even though they defied all odds at the last presidential poll.

From primordial times, there has been a huge discrimination against people with disabilities which the bill set out to eliminate.  It is these marginalisation and denigration of people with disabilities that have thrown up street begging as a means of livelihood and its attendant public nuisance.

But some physically challenged Nigerians have underscored the axiom that there is ability in disability. First to do this was the late Professor Bitrus Gani Ikilama who became a visually impaired graduate of physiotherapy. He rose to the apogee of his career and was head of thePhysiotherapy Department of the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) caught the revelation of according recognition to the physically challenged persons when it introduced Paralympic Games to injured servicemen and women in 1948 after the World War II. The scope was widened in 1960 at the Rome Olympics.

Nigerian paralympians have proven to their compatriots over time that what an able-bodied person can do, a person with disability can do even better. They demonstrated this at the 2012 London Games and Rio 2016 during which they clinched several medals of all hues. Those accomplishments have helped in changing the perception of Nigerians about their conditions, freeing them from the bondage of self-pity.

Blueprint urges all employers of labour to implement the policy to the letter. Being born with disabilities itself poses serious challenges. Such conditions should but be compounded by job denial.

Related content you may like