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Drama Over ‘Missing Bill’ at National Assembly

Stories by Olu Balogun:

Persons with disabilities in the country last Friday queried the National Assembly over the Nigeria Disability Bill which was allegedly declared missing by the legislature, insisting that it must be found without further delay.Addressing journalists in Abuja as part of activities to mark this year’s International Week for Persons with Disabilities, the Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, Mr. David Anyaele claimed that the whereabouts of the Bill, is unknown.

Anyaele said that he was at the National Assembly on December 4 for a follow-up on the bill, but only to be told that the whereabouts of the bill was unknown.

According to him, all efforts to locate the “the missing bill” was fruitless at the National Assembly.

He said that the quest to get the bill passed started in 2000 and lamented that 17 years after, instead of passing the bill, “we are told that the bill is missing with nobody to say exactly where to locate it.”

He noted that the bill appears to have become a cash cow for the National Assembly members with every session of the parliament showing interest in it, sponsoring and holding public hearing, only to disappoint at the end.Anyaele vowed that this time around, persons with disabilities in the country are determined to ensure that the bill is passed at all cost. He said that they have concluded arrangements not only to march round the Eagle Square in Abuja but also to occupy the National Assembly to force the two chambers to fish out the bill wherever it is hidden.He wondered why the bill will be declared missing at a time it had been passed by the two chambers and the harmonization adopted.

He noted that they have been tracking the bill up to December 6, 2016 when the Senate version of the bill was adopted at a conference committee meeting of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Anyaele also said that on March 3rd 2017, disability advocates visited the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to extract a commitment that the bill would be passed.

He added, “As I speak to you, the bill is nowhere to be found. We are asking where the Nigeria Disability Bill is. The National Assembly must tell Nigerians where the Disability Bill is.

“It becomes necessary to call on the National Assembly to locate the bill, pass it and transmit it to the president for assent. Without passage of the bill, the lives and welfare of over 25 million persons with disabilities in Nigeria will continue to be in disarray.

“It is the duty of the state to protect the vulnerable group in the society. We are drawing attention of Nigerians to the missing bill.

“We are asking why the bill must last this long. It has turned to a cash cow. Every session that come, they will promote the disability bill, organize public hearing, spend money and there it ends.

“We will hold a warning protest, move round the Eagle Square to draw attention to the missing bill and ask that the bill be located wherever it is.”

Anyaele said that he spoke with relevant individuals who should know and was “shocked to learn that nobody knew where the bill is.”

He said, “We want to demonstrate that we are serious. The National Assembly should tell us where the bill is. We don’t need a crowd to demand for the bill. We want to benefit from the bill. The pain of living with disability must stop now.”

Some of the flyers distributed at the brief read: “Disability is not inability; persons with disabilities have great potentials; Support the right of persons with disabilities; Support the passage of the Nigeria Disability Bill now; The society discriminate against us because of our disabilities; Say no to discrimination against persons with disabilities; Section 42 of the Nigerian Constitution is silent on prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of disability.”

A senator who spoke on condition of anonymity because “I am not the spokesperson of the Senate” promised to take up the matter with the Senate leadership.

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