Lalu and the Disabled Commission: The Untold Stories
By Mukhtar Ya’u Madobi,
One particular name that will continue to soar high across Nigeria’s disabled persons’ sector for many generations to come is that of James David Lalu npom, an astute and accomplished administrator par excellence.
Mr. Lalu is the pioneer Executive Secretary and the Chief Executive Officer of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD). The act for establishment of the commission was signed into law pursuant to section (31) of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disability (Prohibition) Act 2018 by Muhammadu Buhari, the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Recalled that Mr. Lalu assumed office at the agency in August 2020 when the statistics of people with disabilities (PWDs) in the country and across the world, was worrisome. Then, a report showed that about 25 million Nigerians were living with one form of disability or the other. While on the global level, statistics revealed that 15% of the world population, that is more than one billion people, are disabled with one form of deformity.
In recent years, the number of world people with disabilities is increasing exponentially. This is due to demographic trends and increases in chronic health conditions, among other causes. It is assumed that almost every person is likely to experience some form of disability – temporary or permanent – at some point in life.
Thus, owing to above figures, there is a need for a country like Nigeria to assign the role of protecting the rights and ensuring the welfare of these people by entrusted personnel who are well equipped with requisite expertise to project the commission.
In his words, Lalu stated that “What we want to achieve is to make Nigeria a country that is comfortable for people with disabilities.by ending discrimination and providing adequate reporting system.”
Lalu’s vision is in conformity with the core mandates of the commission which is to coordinate and implement activities that guarantee full inclusion of Persons with Disabilities into the society in areas of education social economic and civil rights and related matters as entrenched in Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018.
In addition, the agency is expected among other things to promote, protect and prioritize the rights of persons with disabilities, and to further enhance their productivity through education, health and other socio-economic activities of the state.
With the assumption of Lalu as the pioneer chief of the commission, he has already set it on the trajectory toward actualizing its mandates into reality. This is because Lalu was a veteran and seasoned celebrated personality in this sector as a result of his vast years of experiences.
He has demonstrated his capacity and willingness to serve for the cause of Disabled Persons right from his state of origin where he started to the extent that his past antecedents on the success stories earned him a national recognition to serve his fatherland.
Immediately upon bagging his Bachelor degree from the prestigious University of Jos, Mr. Lalu joined partisan politics and got appointed as Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Plateau State, David Jonah Jang, on Disability affairs. He held this position for Six years before he got elevated as Member, Plateau State Disability Rights Commission in 2013.
Lalu was in that position for two years before he was subsequently appointed as the Executive Chairman, Plateau State Disability Rights Commission in January 2017.
Upon all these portfolios assigned to him, he has served excellently and impacted positively on the lives and well-being of disabled persons whom he considered keenly with the sense of brotherhood. Perhaps, this is undoubtedly the secret behind his rising to the upper levels among his peers as demonstrated in his profile.
Furthermore, as a man of destiny, Lalu rose to become the pioneer Executive Secretary, National Commission for Persons with Disabilities on the 4th August, 2020 and a Member of All-Progressives Congress’ (APC) National Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee from the Month of May to December 2020. This has ultimately given him the euphoria to bask as the longest serving political appointee with disability to oversee Disability Affairs in Nigeria.
As a result of his footprints, commitment and dedication to the cause of Disability, he was elected at an International Conference to represent Nigeria on the Executive body of the Community Based Rehabilitation Africa Network. This later earned him recognition to be elected later in India as the President of the Community Based Rehabilitation Global Network.
Adding to his credentials, Lalu is an alumnus of the prestigious International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) of the US Government. He attended several local and international training courses on Disability and made paper presentations at International and local conferences which gave him the opportunity to bag many National and International Awards.
As they said, there is always a reward for hard work which was exactly what has been happening to Lalu. Recall that, in 2010, he received the Volunteer Service Award of the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama among other several National recognitions received so far. As a man of vision and wealth of experience, James David Lalu has traversed more than 10 countries cutting across Europe, America, Asia and Africa mostly on a developmental cause for the PLWDs.
With these enviable commitment and passion shown all through his service to the disabled community and by extension humanity, James Lalu became the first Nigerian with disability to be presented with a National Productivity Order of Merit award in 2017, by the Commander-in -Chief of the Armed Forces, President Muhammadu Buhari.
As the head of NCPWD, Mr. Lalu has demonstrated skillfulness and proved his worth judging by his past and present performances which have surpassed expectations. He has been unrelenting in his efforts towards synergizing with critical stakeholders for the betterment of PLWDs.
Recently in September, Mr Lalu, in his bid to provide accessibility for Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria, he paid a courtesy visit to the Management of the National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), Abuja. Speaking at the meeting, Lalu pointed out that the Council has been identified as one of the ideal associates in the efforts to providing accessibility to PWDs.
“And that is why we are willing to share the over 200 page Document on Accessibility Minimum Standard developed by the Commission with major stakeholders like your organisation for onward review and adoption before it goes to the press,” Lalu added.
The Executive Secretary further noted that the Commission will need the support and expertise of the Council to help in reviewing the Accessibility Minimum Standard document on the areas of transportation for Persons with Disabilities.
Also, owing to his doggedness, the NCPWD is also in collaboration with foreign partners like Amnesty International in order to ensure robust protection of the rights of PLWDs.
Mr. Lalu equally assured of the steps taken by the Commission to enroll over 6000 PWDs in the National Health Insurance Scheme in order for them to get access to good healthcare services in the 36 States of the federation and the FCT, Abuja.
Still, in another bid to provide stress-free access in communication with the disability community, the management team of the NCPWD led by Lalu had in mid September met with the leadership of National Communication Commission (NCC).
He took his time to reel out key demands which will ultimately benefit the entire community of persons with disabilities, still agitating for inclusivity of PWDs in the Communication stream, the Commission Boss drew the attention of the meeting to the provisions of the 2018 Act.
Lalu in addition suggested that the use of Video- Relay Service (VRS) will be of a tremendous benefit to persons with hearing issues if introduced.
In his response, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta stated that his commission has deployed 84 assistive information technology projects at different locations in Nigeria to support people with special needs, while supporting policies that enable disadvantaged members of the society to live a more qualitative life.
These giant strides of the NCPWD boss are nothing but just a tip of an iceberg. Indeed, James Lalu, an endearing personality, is truly eloquent, and passionate about persons with disabilities, and that has been the secret of his success so far.
Hence, I beseech all and sundry to join me in singing his praises to high heavens, while hoping that the better days for our NCPWD, under James David Lalu Npom, are yet to come.
Mukhtar is a Staff Writer with the Emergency Digest