Mr Olumide Akpata, the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), on Tuesday has inaugurated a Lawyers With Disabilities forum (LWDF).
Speaking during the inauguration in Abuja, Akpata said the forum is aimed at engendering diversity and inclusion in the affairs of the bar as well as offering the educational and networking resources that the members need.
He also said the forum is poised to cater for the distinctiveness of the Lawyers with Disability group and promote their general professional wellbeing.
“It is better late than never to have the forum inaugurated and for the committee to swing into action immediately for the betterment of the association and the public.
“Today is the day many of us in this room have been waiting for. We at the NBA are extremely delighted that we are able to formally inaugurate this forum.
“The NBA has several sections, various committees and forums, but this is essential to us because when I was campaigning for this position as president.
“I made inclusivity a cardinal point of my vow and that is why I have prepared this bridge for lawyers with disability in government, in commercial practice,our women and all lawyers with disabilities to enjoy inclusivity,” he said.
Akpata said that he identified with the fact that many lawyers with disability had long felt alienated in their struggle and that was why the forum had now been put in place to champions it course.
He urged the committee to ensure it delivers on its mandate to educate, sensitize and bridge the gap in practice amongst lawyers with disabilities and their fellows.
Mrs Asia Ahmed-El-Rufai, the Chairman of the forum lauded the NBA president for the initiative to put in place a forum to enhance inclusive practice amongst lawyers.
Ahmed-El-Rufai said that the forum would do its best to ensure that its responsibilities are effectively carried out.
“The LWDF has been saddled with responsibilities beyond legal practice and we would not let the NBA down.
“Part of our mandates includes to enlighten and sensitize the elites and the society at large, as well as give lawyers with disabilities the voice they need.
“Very importantly also is that we would work towards gathering the data of lawyers with disabilities across the country.
“This would help us plan better and we assure that the voices of lawyers with disabilities would be heard far and near, especially in policies and decision making,” she said.
Mrs Patience Etumudum, the Secretary of the forum, commended the NBA for identifying with the struggles of lawyers with disabilities and for inaugurating the forum to bridge the gap in practice.
“It is a great day in the history of the legal profession im the country to have a forum for lawyers with disabilities.
“We are glad that the forum has come to pass and we hope that the impact of the forum would be felt in the profession,” she said.
She said that the forum would boost entry of potential lawyers with disabilities into the noble profession in the future.
The members of the inaugurated forum committee includes, Asia Ahmad-El-Rufai, Chairman, Patience Etumudun, Secretary.
Other members are, Kassim Lawal, Florence Marcus, Ikem Uchegbulam, Dunk Prosphen, Daniel Onwe, L.A Archibong, Rex Erameh, and Emmanuel Ufio.
On his part, Mr Daniel Onwe, the President of Association of Lawyers with Disabilities (ALDIN) lauded the historic step by the NBA to inaugurate the forum.
Onwe in a press conference held after the inauguration ceremony said that it was a historic milestone in the Nigerian legal profession.
“The Olumide Akpata-led NBA, in response to ALDIN’s strategic and constructive advocacy for a level playing field for persons with disabilities in the NBA has constitutionally established the NBA Lawyers with Disabilities Forum.
“This is the very first of its kind in the history of the NBA, and the first among the bar associations across the continent of Africa.
“NBA President is indeed fulfilling his campaign promise of making the bar work for all and we pray that the forum will work in synergy,” he said.
Onwe said that while the forum would be dedicated to making the NBA space enabling for persons with disabilities, ALDIN would be focused on providing the much-needed legal solution to the plights of PWDs in the larger society.
He called on all lawyers with disability to get involved in the affairs of the NBA, especially at the branch level and also for the NBA branch to replicate the disability forum.
Onwe appreciated the Disabilities Right Funds (DRF) for its support and called for more support to further boost advocacy and enhance both the living condition and practice of lawyers with disability across board.