#BounceExclusive: Disabled Lawyer Takes President Buhari To Court
In the broadest sense, Daniel Onwe is fighting for people living with disabilities on many fronts.
He's facing the presidency and the legislature on one end, and the Lagos state judicial system on the other.
His direction was set after his legs went almost limp with polio before he was 2 years old, causing him to face the strain of climbing long flights of stairs through his university days in law school to get to the court room.
He decided in those moments that this had to change.
"Disability advocacy has been for a long while now. It started when the advocacy was based on sentiment, we have infused some expertise into it, so its advocacy based on law, because the issue of disability is a fundamental right issue" he said.
Daniel and some other legal practitioners pushed for the legislature to protect persons living with disability and sent a bill since 2007 to the national assembly, the legislation was also adopted for Lagos, which metamorphosed to the Lagos Special Peoples Law.
"It was a huge milestone, there was nothing like that before. It’s a big step in the right direction, we have the office of disability affairs and the disability trust fund. After the law was passed buildings have things to help people with disabilities, like the courts in Igbosere and Ogba have ramps, demarcations in parking lots were people with disabilities can park"
It is still an uphill task as the Lagos Special Peoples Law makes it clear that public buildings had the deadline of 2016 to provide structures that will make it easy for people with disabilities to access public building.
But many buildings in Lagos including courts have not met up with these requirements.
"The judiciary is the least out of those that are complying with the law, they have not complied with the basic parking space in older court houses, talk less of getting people sign language experts who will help litigants who are deaf and dumb. A lawyer should be able to practice, and not be inhibited by man made architecture. This is violating our rights, so I am preparing a suit against the Lagos judiciary. The law must be obeyed. I have written to the 3 past chief justice of Lagos and they did not have the courtesy of replying me" he said.
"It is embarrassing that the judiciary are breaking the law, the judiciary should be trailblazers of the law, its shameful" he added.
On the federal level, the disability bill that was sent to the national assembly has still not been passed a decade later.
"Federal buildings are not designed to be accessible to people with disabilities, for some one like me who goes to a federal court, it's difficult. It's already strenuous trying to climb the staircases because most of the court rooms are on the first floor, then you have to carry your wig, gown and files up the staircase while balancing on your crutches. How is that even possible? When the lawyer is using a wheel chair, how would he get up the stairs? He would have to be carried up the staircase by someone like a sack of rice, how is that dignifying?" he said.
Presently he has taken the presidency and the national assembly to court, as part of his advocacy for people living with disabilities, and the next hearing will be at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos on June 16.