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AKHA: Disability Bill Scales Through Second Reading

By Mercy Obot

A bill on discrimination against persons with disabilities (PWDs) has passed through a second reading in the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly (AKHA).

The bill, as sponsored by the Member representing Etinan State Constituency, Hon. (Engr.) Uduakobong Ekpo-Ufot, was considered on the floor of the House on Thursday, March 21, 2024.

Presenting the bill, Ekpo-Ufot emphasised that the bill seeks “to provide for the full integration of persons with disabilities into society, establish the State Commission for persons with disabilities and vest in the Commission the responsibilities for their education, health care, social, economic and civil rights, and for related matters.”

Rt. Hon Udeme Otong, Speaker of AKHA

The lawmaker also noted that if the bill is passed into law, it will prohibit all forms of discrimination against PWDs and impose a fine of N1,000,000 for corporate bodies, while a N100,000 fine goes for individuals who breach the law.

According to the House Member, the PWD community will also have other privileges, which include accessibility to physical structures, road transportation, airport facilities, the opportunity for employment, and participation in public life.

“A public building shall be constructed with the necessary accessibility aids, such as lifts, ramps and any other facility that shall make them accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, as well as all airline operations that will ensure the accessibility of their aircraft to persons with disabilities.”

The Deputy House Leader and Member representing Nsit Ubium State Constituency, Rt. Hon. Otobong Bob, supported the passage of the Disability Bill during a plenary session on Thursday, March 21, 2024.

“A person with a disability has the right to work on an equal basis with others in a labour market and work environment. A person who contravenes subsection (1) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to nominal damages of a minimum of N250,000 payable to the affected person with disability.”

Related: Ibesikpo Asutan Transition Chairman Honours Association of Persons Living With Disabilities
Furthermore, the Etinan Lawmaker stated that other benefits of the law include the right to education, health and first consideration in queues, accommodation and emergencies; the establishment of the State Commission for PWDs; and the appointment and duties of the Executive Secretary and other staff.

Member representing Ukanafun State Constituency, Hon. Emem Udom, supporting the Disability bill on the floor of the House during Thursday’s plenary on March 21, 2024

After the bill got unanimous support from Honourable Members, it was read a second time and referred to the House Committee on Health to be reported back in one month.

Meanwhile, in a separate interview session with the Deputy House Leader of the 8th Assembly and Member representing Nsit Ubium State Constituency, Rt. Hon. Otobong Bob, who is also the co-sponsor of the bill, said there is a glimmer of hope that the disability bill will receive the state governor’s assent after scaling the legislative hurdles.

“As the 8th Assembly, we are optimistic that the disability bill will receive executive assent after the Legislature passes the bill into law. Recently, the State Governor has given assent to a lot of private member bills so far, and we are hopeful that this particular bill will see the light of day.”

Bob noted that there is a need for the law in the state because Akwa Ibom is one of the few states that have yet to domesticate the federal law, noting that, once it is passed, it will address a lot of exclusive public facilities in the state, especially government structures, which must be upgraded to enhance the accessibility of persons with disabilities.

“Sadly, Akwa Ibom is one of the few states that has yet to have the Disability Law, which is a federal law that has already been domesticated in about thirty (30) states,”  Bob decried.

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