Chineme Okafor in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari Thursday signed two laws to ensure the mandatory maintenance of public buildings and facilities in Nigeria, as well as to protect and advance the rights of the physically-challenged, using such public buildings.
The Minister of Power, Works an Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, who made the disclosure in Abuja at a press briefing, said that the two laws on national maintenance framework for public buildings, and another, to prohibit discrimination against persons living with disabilities at public buildings were recently approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
According to him, while the implementation of the law on maintenance of public facilities will first start with public buildings and subsequently extend to roads, bridges and airports among others, the one on the protection of people with disabilities provides for specific actions that must be taken within a period of five years to provide opportunities for such persons to live as normal a life as possible.
He explained that the government considered the economic impacts of instituting a law on the maintenance of public buildings, including the jobs it would create for Nigerians and decided to enact it.
This, he noted, would ensure that on an annual basis, public buildings would be maintained and then stopped from dilapidating, adding that it would empower Nigerians at the base of the economic pyramid who are artisans, and those at the middle of the pyramid who own small shops for maintenance materials.
“This only applies to public buildings but will ultimately extend to other public assets like roads, bridges, rail, power installations and other infrastructure of a public nature.
“What the FEC approval means is that after decades of agonising about lack of maintenance, the Buhari-led government has chosen to act. This is policy decision of enormous profundity because the records do not indicate that any such policy decision has previously been taken at the federal level,” Fashola said.
His ministry, he said, submitted the memorandum for the law to be enacted, adding: “The memorandum argued and FEC agreed, that maintenance of infrastructure, whether public or private, is not a cultural issue but an economic one.
“The memorandum showed that in the built industry, only about 23 per cent of the workforce is employed by design (six per cent) and construction (15 per cent), governance (two per cent) , while the remaining 77 per cent are employed by maintenance and operation.
“Council was persuaded to accept that while skill training and vocational centres exist almost nationwide for training artisans like plumbers, painters, bricklayers, welders, tilers, electricians, there is a lack of national policy that makes the practice of these vocations economically worthwhile on a sustainable basis.”
According to him, assessment of affected buildings would be conducted, and procurement for their maintenance competitively conducted, with each ministries, departments and agencies responsible for their
“The award of contracts will not only drive employment for artisans, it will drive demand of manufacturing and suppliers of parts like wood, pipes, paint, tiles, electrical fittings, windows and tools, in addition to those of cleaning items like soap, detergent, polish, varnish.
“This is the economy that we see ahead as we set out to implement this approval starting from buildings, and as I said, and extending to roads, rail, bridges etc. as we progress,” he stated.
On the law to protect citizens with disabilities, Fashola said: “President Buhari raised the bar for construction, services and a new way of life for Nigerians when he signed the law to protect people living with disability from discrimination and exclusion.
“We have five years to comply, and this requires that all our buildings must have lifts and ramps. By this I mean well designed ramps for people confined to their wheelchairs, not hills they cannot use on their own.
“We must modify all our toilets with support for our brothers and sisters who are living with disabilities, as we must build sidewalks for them to use our roads without colliding with vehicles.
“Our airports and parking lots in buildings must become compliant with international best practice by providing corridors and facilities for people living with disabilities at arrival and departure points, while a minimum number of slots clearly designated must be provided for