Author(s): Timothy Ali Yohanna, Holly Cartner, Prof. Anna Mohammed Malgwi et al.
Affiliated organization: Grassroots Researchers Associations (GRA)
Type of publication: Report
Date of publication: 2018
This report, produced by the Grassroots Researchers Associations (GRA), examined the conditions, vulnerabilities and rights of PWDs in Nigeria, including in particular in the crises-prone North-Eastern States of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. GRA interviewed 70 PWDs in the North-East region about the impact of the conflicts on their lives and the challenges they face generally. Most of those interviewed reported stigmatization, discrimination, exclusion and neglect of their special needs as major concerns.
“PWDs are often predisposed to dependence on street begging, which further endangers their lives”. The government does not uphold the rights of PWDs within state institutions, and does not guarantee that these rights are respected throughout Nigerian society. Harsh economic realities prevail, and there is little support outside of benevolent family caregivers for many forms of disabilities. As a result, PWDs are often predisposed to dependence on street begging, which further endangers their lives.
TYPES OF DISABILITIES
Disability knows no race, age, gender or status and may be hereditary or congenital. It is defined as any restriction or lack of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being due to impairment.
There are wide variations in the classification and types of disabilities. The World Health Organization provided an international classification of disabilities as it relates to the consequence of diseases. These include: behavioral disabilities, communication disabilities, personal care disabilities, dexterity disabilities, situational disabilities, particular skill disabilities, body disposition disabilities and loco motor disabilities. Others classified disabilities into physical, sensory and mental disabilities. This is due to the fact that there is no universally accepted standard definition or conceptualization as it is influenced by factors including but not limited to causes, cultures, ideologies, beliefs, societies and history.
In view of this, the following subcategories of disability can be adopted for ease of understanding:
- Physical and mobility disabilities
- Vision disability
- Hearing disability
- Mental disability
CHALLENGES OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
Persons living with disabilities in Nigeria face several challenges which include difficulty in accessing public buildings, high unemployment, negative treatments and attitudes especially from their able-bodied counterparts, poor provisions of education and health services, among others, which often lead to their exclusion from community life and decision making.
Disabled people in Africa, including Nigeria, are usually extremely poor, often living in rural and other areas where medical and other services are scarce, or even totally absent, and where disabilities are not detected in time. When disabled people receive medical attention, if at all, the impairment may have become irreversible.
I became blind as a result of measles.I was 17 years old then and I could remember there was no medical centre or facility in my village then
A 58-year-old blind man from Damaturu, Yobe State, narrated that getting access to medical care back then was difficult but even with the modern health facilities now, PWDs still face the same situation:
“I became blind as a result of measles. I was 17 years old then and I could remember there was no medical centre or facility in my village then. My blindness was as a result of in-efficiency of our government to do the needful in the local communities. Though there is a Primary Health Centre now, medication for the illness is not free and medicine is not available. There was no time that I was given free medical care because of my disability. I have to buy medicine whenever I or any of my family member takes ill”
A 65-year-old leprous man interviewed in Borno state shared his experience about the Leprosy Hospital located in the Molai community in Maiduguri. He narrated that there are no drugs in the hospital. Previously, services offered by the hospital included general medical treatment, general surgeries, laboratory, eye care and physiotherapy. It was considered one of the best hospitals, but the situation dramatically changed after Netherlands Leprosy Relief (NLR) stopped providing financial, material and technical support some years ago. Another factor that contributed to the failure of the medical center was conflict: The General Hospital was rocked by a bomb-blast last year.
“When we go to the hospital, we buy drugs ourselves; no assistance from the government. Molai hospital which was meant for the leprous has nothing working in it; no drugs, less staffs with old equipment”
PWDs lack equal opportunities for education, as their able-bodied counterparts are considered first during admission screenings. Even when they gain admission it may not be affordable to them to cope with the speed of learning with non-disabled students and might cause emotional distress due to segregation. For those able to afford the cost of education, limitations and constraints of mobility and accessibility are insurmountable daily hurdles as most school buildings or service points have no disability provisions. Coupled with untoward disposition from individuals in the academic environment, they are constantly disposed to physical, psychological trauma resulting in various degrees of self-limiting withdrawal reactions.
As a student, arriving at lectures on time is always difficult for me due to the discriminating way most buildings were constructed with no considerations for students with disability. Sometimes I make it to exam halls late
There are no services available to PWDs in both private and public schools. Our findings reveal that there are no structural considerations to ease the mobility of PWDs in public schools as such building were not built with them in mind. Adapting to such environments is a huge challenge to students with disabilities, as recounted by 27-year-old physically challenged student of Modibbo Adama University of Technology Yola of Adamawa state: “As a student, arriving at lectures on time is always difficult for me due to the discriminating way most buildings were constructed with no considerations for students with disability. Sometimes I make it to exam halls late.”
A large number of the respondents we interviewed talked about the strict protocols and procedures of the banking industry. PWDs, along with their family members, are not treated with respect and courtesy in the bank environment. Most of the commercial banks do not show efforts to make banking easy and convenient for PWDs despite their policies that encourage inclusiveness in products and services. There is no provision for physical access, friendly interacting or special doorsteps.
Political and Electoral Participation
PWDs face diverse attitudinal, physical and institutional barriers which stifle or quell their dream for political participation or representation in Nigeria. They are noticeably absent in politics and political offices, are largely neglected in governance and democratization, and have limited access to electoral process participation. There are no affirmative measures by political parties and the electoral body to reserve certain political positions for people with disabilities. Although PWDs are a large minority, they are particularly affected by bad governance and during political violence. More specifically, the financial cost of political participation is often too high for a typical PWD.
In both the private and public sector, employers aim to create equal opportunities for recruitment on the basis of experience and eligibility but in reality, they don’t consider persons with disabilities at all; except in some rare cases in which PWDs are accepted base on their qualification despite their disabilities. A disabled person from Adamawa State recounted that:
“With my National Diploma certificate, July this year I went to apply for Post Primary Education recruitment, but the officials on reaching to purchase a form engaged in a debate as to how I can be employed with my disability, and that was how I didn’t gain employment with the Adamawa State Post Primary Education. [The same thing happened with my application at the Adamawa State Auditor General’s Office 2018.”
- The Federal Government should as matter of urgency consider accenting the Disability Bill that was passed by National Assembly recently to address the perpetual plights, needs and vulnerability of PWDs in Nigeria.
- North-Eastern State Governors should consider the vulnerability and direct impact of the conflict on PWDs to regularly support them with employment slots, affordable education, standardized medical bills, political appointments and easy accessibilities to other social amenities.
- Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development (MoWASD) should invest in psychosocial support/counseling and effectively work with local disability groups to identify information gaps or barriers that exclude, sideline and discriminate against PWDs. Government Institutions, traditional institutions, Private Sector Associations of Disabled Persons, Developmental Partners, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA)should develop strategies by designing a unique mechanism to create special units that would prioritize the needs of PWDs in conflict situations, more especially on women and children with disabilities.
- Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should consider in Preparation for 2019 elections alternative ways of creating enabling voting centers for PWDs where they can comfortably participate in elections without waiting for hours in queues.
- National Directorates of Employment (NDE) should analyze data of employed and unemployed PWDs to ensure employment slots for them, hence, removing barriers to recruitment and participation at all levels using Federal Character Mechanism.
- Encourage preliminary research on how best to represent and include the needs of PWDs in program design, implementation and evaluation. · INGOs: Prioritize initiatives that mainstream aid programs on the livelihood of PWDs and include disabilities in all developmental projects. · NGOs: Encourage direct engagement with PWDs in decision-making, service plans and support to live independently. · Embassy: Support local initiatives and programs that represent the interests and rights of PWDs.
- Challenge the negative beliefs and attitudes toward PWDs and support them with basic needs that would discourage them from street-begging and other activities that are harmful in societies.
- Create an enabling environment for PWDs by including them in public duties, activities, leaderships, programs and pilgrimage to the holy lands.
- Preach against stigmatization, discrimination and non-inclusion ofPWDs. Quote all the passages in Holly Books that support equality.
- Provide avenue for participation in traditional activities, festivals and related issues that promote their status in societies with a sense of authority.
- Challenge violence and bullying of PWDs by giving them traditional titles, land ownership and sense of belonging in the community to promote their status and that of their family members, children and dependents.
- Avoid sectionalism or discrimination in all forms of opportunities by encouraging equality and inclusiveness of PWDs.
Associations of Disabled Persons:
- Participate in programs as a team and promote the activities that support PWDs at the local, national and international level.
- Advocate and campaign on the Rights of PWDs by representing the views of the groups constitutionally, objectively and peacefully.
- Become involved in awareness by collaborating with government agencies, developmental partners, Communities/Religious leaders and ordinary citizen to promote public awareness without violence.
- Support PWDs with reasonable employment opportunities, affordable accommodation, partial tuition fees, light medical bills, special services and other day to day needs.
- Ensure adequate access for PWDs in construction projects such as banks, shopping complexes, housing estates, public transport, sport centers, public toilets and other facilities.
- Provide technical assistance and easy access to PWDs to obtain loans to engage in any kind of business with any barriers.
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