Every day in our daily lives, we see people who can't afford to sustain themselves whether due to a physical, mental or other disabilities.
These people live daily on the streets in rags, with no food or shelter and with no health care. And most are constrained to making a living by begging alms; at the mercy of the populace.
Many times they are subjected to various types of abuses including rape, physical assaults, and kidnapping for rituals
But being rightful members of the Nigerian society, these people deserve certain privileges which are conferred on them by their fundamental human rights.
The government owes it to the less privileged, orphans and every single one of the people who are socially handicapped to be housed, protected and catered for.
A country who ignores the social welfare of her people cannot attain true national development.
Because according to the United Nations, a nation's human development index is an essential component of development and this importantly involves the measurement of the living conditions of the citizens.
Nigerian governments needs to realize that every single citizen does not only have civil and political rights, they also have social rights!
And the onus is upon government at all levels to take up their responsibility of providing adequately for the welfare of people out there on the streets who can't provide for themselves and also to defend those who are constantly been abused. A government is constituted to protect the rights of the people.
Government should guarantee that persons living with disabilities have access to quality health care and education without discrimination.
Government should take appropriate steps to ensure that persons living with disability have good standard of living and this include adequate food, clothing and housing.
Public Transport service should be operated in a way that would be accessible for persons living with disabilities.
Persons living with disabilities should be protected from discrimination, exploitation, neglect, violence, abuse, torture, cruelty or inhuman treatment.
For how long shall females who have psychiatric illnesses be raped and made to carry pregnancies with no care. There are countless stories of sexual abuses and physical assault on people living with disabilities.
I particularly remember the story of a girl with disabilities as told by the assistant head teacher of her school, her mother and sibling had brought her to the school for admission but when referred by the school to one specialized for the child's disability, dumped and abandoned the child just as they stepped out of that school. And very sadly, the girl was raped by the hoodlums and social miscreants in that neighborhood.
People should start going to jail for abusing the helpless and disabled in our communities.
Public places such as banks, eateries, hospitals,schools, malls cinemas etc must be made accessible to people with disabilities with ramps and lifts knowing fully well that its not everybody that can climb stairs no matter how small.
Nigerians should be more considerate towards people with disabilities in queues by giving them first consideration.
Governments at all levels should setup vocational training centres to facilitate the acquisition of skills for the economic liberty of people with disabililties.
Governments have the responsibility of ensuring that social services are available those Non-Governmental Organizations play a major role in planning, organizing and providing these services, such deserving ngos should be supported by the government.
Development isn't just about constructing roads, markets, school and proving electricity and schools, it's also about ensuring that the poorest of the people are well catered for.
Development is both material and social and as a result all nations need both social and economic resources to achieve national development. Social services are an essential element of the social development in a country's overall development
Social work plays a vital role in national development through empowerment of the vulnerable and disadvantaged people thereby reducing the gap between the poor and the rich.
Nigerian should take a clue from the western world by implementing good and effective welfare programmes for the less privileged as it has been found that most of the developed world have considerably lower poverty rates than they had before the implementation of such programs.
The Nigerian legislation is gradually warming up to protecting the rights of the people living with disabilities. In April, 2012, the Nigerian federal house of representatives passed into law a bill sponsored by the Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa for the Full Integration of Nigerians with Disability into the Society and Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Them"
Likewise in March 2014, the Nigerian Senate also passed into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities Prohibition Bill. The bill which was sponsored by Sen. Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman, seeks to protect the fundamental human rights of people living with disabilities.
Both laws prescribes financial penalties and jail terms for those who contravene them whether corporate bodies or individuals.
With the exception of Lagos, most of the other states in Nigeria don't have laws yet protecting the rights of the people with disabilities but this has to change.
For how long shall people inflict pain and torture on those with disabilities just because they are seemingly weak and unable to defend themselves?
Ours need to be a community that is more sensitive, receptive and protective of the rights of people with disabilities because in the words of Nelson Mandela "to deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity."
Dr Freeman Osonuga
Heal The World Foundation Nigeria