He said it was ironic that among the three arms of government in Lagos, the judiciary is the only one that has not taken steps to comply with the Special People’s Law. Onwe noted that there were parking lots for persons with disabilities at the State Secretariat, Alausa, and at the Lagos State House of Assembly, but none at the courts. According to him, the judiciary ought to take the lead in human rights protection. “Ironically in all the court complexes in Lagos, there is not even a single parking lot reserved for persons with disabilities. Litigants and lawyers with disabilities coming to any court in Lagos would just have to scramble with every other person for the general parking lots. “And where none of the general parking lots is available, they would be made to park outside the premises, often time quite far away from their court or office of destination. In other words, they are just on their own,” he said. Onwe, who has a physical disability, said he has written three Chief Judges of Lagos since the law was enacted, but got no response. He first wrote Justice Inumidun Akande on October 7, 2011. He received no reply. Two years later, he wrote Justice Ayotunde Phillips on October 2, 2013, but still got no response. He is yet to get a response to his last December 11 letter to the incumbent, Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade. “The judiciary is yet to take any step to comply with the law,” he said. As a last resort, the lawyer is considering taking legal action to compel the judiciary to obey the law. Onwe, however, admitted that the Samuel Ilori Courthouse in Ogba is accessible to those with physical challenges. It has a ramp and a lift with audio guidance and appropriate signages. These, he said, is to the credit of the executive which built it. Onwe’s letter to Justice Akande was in 2011, soon after the Special Peoples Law was enacted. He wrote: “The Lagos State Special People Law seeks to give equal playing field to persons with disabilities in Lagos State. Accordingly, it provides, inter alia, that portions of parking lots at public places should be reserved for persons with disabilities. “This would alleviate the hardship they would face when relevant parking spaces are unavailable thereby necessitating parking afar off and the taking a long walk to their destination. “The law also provides that public building should be made accessible to persons with disabilities, including those on wheelchair. This means that lifts and ramps should be installed to complement the steps and staircases. “To the best of my knowledge most of the court rooms in Lagos are located upstairs, and I am not aware of any lift or ramp in any court building in Lagos. “The architectural barrier in the courts makes my attendance of court physically excruciating and psychologically demanding. Despite these odds, I have fared well by the grace of God. “I think the temple of justice should blaze a trail in demonstrating obedience to the law, especially the one such as this that seeks to do justice to a class of people that have really suffered, and are still suffering, injustice in the scheme of affairs in the society.” No judiciary official was available for comments on why Onwe’s letters were ignored. Source: Nation]]>

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