KFC, the Physically Challenged and Hollow Laws

The Advocate By Onikepo Braithwaite

The Advocate By Onikepo Braithwaite Onikepo.braithwaite@thisdaylive.com

The Advocate

By Onikepo Braithwaite



On 9/4/2018, I wrote a piece titled “The Pains of Disability in Nigeria”. I recounted the experience I had when I broke my ankle in December 2015, my leg was put in Plaster of Paris for a few months, and I hobbled around on crutches. In short, I was temporarily disabled for those months, and I described that time period as hell, because I discovered that contrary to Section 42(1)(a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended in 2023)(the Constitution) and now, Section 1(1)of the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018 (DAPWDA), Physically Challenged Persons (PCPs) in Nigeria are discriminated upon in some ways, at least in terms of facilities available to them. 

Discrimination and the DAPWDA

For one, many public places across the country, simply do not have facilities that cater for PCPs, particularly those who do not have use of their legs (and the blind). There are many buildings without elevators or functioning elevators, no ramps and no way for a wheelchair-bound person to access the upper floors. I have never seen someone in a wheelchair, inside a banking hall in Nigeria. The small bulletproof entrance to the banks, cannot even contain a wheelchair, so unless there’s an alternative access for wheelchairs, a wheelchair-bound person would be unable to enter the Bank. Even the building where I  worked that is equipped with two elevators, one was permanently out of order with no attempt by the Bank that owns the building to replace it. And, when the second elevator was faulty, it made it impossible to access the office when I was on crutches. Even the Banking Hall in that building is located on the first floor, two flights up, and I heard recently that the second elevator has been out of order for the last few months, which means that any individual who does not have use of their legs and banks with that Branch or works in the building, can neither access the Banking Hall nor their offices, because all the offices are situated on the upper floors! 

I ended my aforementioned piece, by saying that it probably wouldn’t be my last word on the topic of disability in Nigeria, as that particular intervention may have just been an introduction to the topic, because there was still plenty to say about this issue. Alas! Almost six years to the day, I am constrained to revisit this issue, as a result of the disgusting treatment that was meted out to Mr Debola Daniel who is wheelchair-bound, at KFC at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport, Lagos. It was all over the news that Mr Daniel was denied access to that KFC because he is in a wheelchair, even though Section 3 of the DAPWDA guarantees people with physical disabilities, the right to access the physical environment and buildings on an equal basis with others (also see Section 9 of the DAPWDA) and Section 21-24 and the Lagos State Special People’s Law 2010 generally (LSSPL). The right to freedom of movement for all people, at least into the physical environment and public buildings guaranteed by Section 41(1) of the Constitution, cannot be derogated from based on the fact that an establishment decides to violate the law by making its premises inaccessible to a PCP, either because its premises hasn’t been constructed or modified to allow them access, or because they are barred from entry for no just reason. Section 34(1)(a)of the Constitution guarantees every individual’s right to respect for the dignity of their person, and prohibits the subjection of persons to degrading treatment, like Mr Daniel was subjected to. See the case of Ezeigbo & Anor v ASCO Investment Ltd & Anor (2022) LPELR-56864(SC) per Mohammed Lawal Garba, JSC; Okonkwo v Ezeonu & Ors (2017) LPELR-42785(CA) per Joseph Tine Tur, JCA.

It is shameful that those unkind and untrained people who denied Mr Daniel access to KFC, people with such low mentality, are employed to work at a place like the international airport. Not that I mean that it is acceptable for this type of discriminatory behaviour to be displayed only amongst us Nigerians, no, far from it; but, because I cannot but mention the fact that lasting impressions of a country are created at the airport, which is the first and last point of contact of a person who travels by air to visit a foreign country. Such news could find a way to travel fast, that those with physical challenges are not well treated in Nigeria. However, that would be a false impression about Nigeria, just because of the actions of a few cruel ignorami, though I do believe that Government still has a lot to do in the area of better inclusion of PCPs into society. Even though the DAPWDA is a step in the right direction, everything must be done to ensure that it is fully implemented, if not, it will be nothing but a useless piece of legislation. 

By virtue of Section 1(2) of the DAPWDA, discrimination against a PCP is a criminal offence, which upon conviction attracts a N1 million fine for a corporate body, and a N100,000 fine or six months imprisonment or both, in the case of an individual. I hope the appropriate punishment, will be meted out to this KFC Branch and its staff. It seems that just as there has been that regular advert on television, to advocate against tribalism – the one about the Landlord who decides to deny a prospective Tenant accommodation in his house even though she’s responsible and gainfully employed, simply because she hails from a place called Akamata and he hates the people from there, where according to him, they are known for only “bad, bad things” – tribalism and discrimination of the highest order! Similarly, there should be an advert crusade, educating Nigerians about the evils of discriminating against PCPs.

Existing and New Structures 

Despite Sections 4 & 6 of the DAPWDA which provide inter alia that, new structures must be equipped with elevators (where necessary) and other accessibility aids for the physically challenged, and a five year transitory period from the commencement of this law mandated for existing structures to be modified accordingly, we see that such modifications may not have been carried out in many buildings. 

I have used the Bank Building where I worked previously, as an example of how laws in Nigeria are observed in their breach, and there are no consequences for doing same. The commencement date of the DAPWDA is 17/1/2019, which means that the five-year transitory period given by this law for the modification of existing structures to accommodate PCPs has expired, and the Bank Building for one, has not been modified. If the National Commission for Persons With Disabilities (NCPD) was performing its functions as stated in Section 38 of DAPWDA, particularly Section 38(g) concerning modifications of existing structures, and for Lagosians, the Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA) was more up and doing, such a Bank Building would not be able to get away with not carrying out the requisite modifications and denying the physically challenged access, because of its failure to provide a functioning elevator in the building. Of course, there are no ramps for wheelchairs there either. 

Begging for Alms

Though Section 16 of the DAPWDA prohibits the involvement of PCPs in begging for alms, and Section 16(2) thereof prescribes a fine of N100,000 or six months imprisonment or both upon conviction for committing this offence, yet, the roads are filled with beggars, both abled and physically challenged. In Lagos, the junctions of Adeola Odeku and Adetokunbo Ademola Street in Victoria Island, are popular begging spots.


In terms of employment, what opportunities do PCPs in Nigeria have? For example, in October to December 2023, in the UK, there were 5.53 million working-age PCPs in employment (54.2%). Though Section 28(1) of the DAPWDA guarantees PCPs the right to work on an equal basis with others, while Section 38(d) thereof mandates the NCPD to make available not less than 5% of the work force to qualified PCPs, this hasn’t happened. In 2022, according to the World Bank, in Nigeria, out of 18 million working-age PCPs, only a meagre 0.3%, that is, 54,000, were gainfully employed; this is way below 900,000, that is, 5% of 18 million working-age PCPs, let alone 5% of the whole workforce! Meanwhile, as of 2017, the participation of PCPs in the labour force in Rwanda for instance, was 56%. Nigeria needs to do more. How many PCPs do the Banks, Government Agencies,  Multinationals and even Private Companies employ?  


Despite the Educational Objectives contained in Section 18 of the Constitution and the provision of Section 17(1) of the DAPWDA that entitles PCPs to unfettered access to education, how many public and private institutions cater for PCPs? There appears to be just a few schools spread across about some, not all of the Nigerian States, which cater for PCPs like the blind. Does that mean that a child who is blind and resides in Jigawa State, must relocate to Kano to attend either of the two schools for the blind there? Or those in Oshogbo must go to Ibadan, Ogbomosho or Ikirun for their education? 

Though blind students attend several Nigerian Universities, for instance, 126 blind students were said to have been admitted into 40 Nigerian tertiary institutions in 2020, University of Lagos that admits about 9,000 students yearly, only admitted 11 blind students in 2020. My point? There are just a handful of visually challenged students, compared to students without physical challenges. Section 17(2) of the DAPWDA only guarantees free education up to secondary school level for a PCP. Again, this is discriminatory against PCPs and somewhat inconsistent with Section 18(1)(c) of the Constitution, which mandates that Government must strive to provide free university education. 

Some years ago, I heard of a wheelchair-bound University student who had to be physically carried to the classroom because it was located on an upper floor. This is degrading, and should not be so. Either the school should have taken cognisance of him and ensured that the classroom was located on the ground floor for easy access, or an elevator or ramp should have been put in place for students like himself.


Are Nigerian laws simply enacted to decorate our statute books and show that we are up-to-date in lawmaking, but not to be implemented in our daily lives? So many laws, too numerous to mention, are generally observed in their breach. The DAPWDA is just one example. It is imperative that society be geared towards making PCPs  independent, and able to go about their normal routines with dignity. No one created themselves, and it is wrong for society or Government to deny those who are physically challenged their fundamental rights. See the case of Okafor v Ntoka (2017) LPELR-42794(CA) per Helen Moronkeji Ogunwumiju, JCA (now JSC) on the importance of fundamental rights.

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