Persons living with disabilities have lamented that they are still facing discrimination across the country despite the passage and assent to the National Disability Bill.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on January 23, 2019, signed into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018 following nine years of relentless advocacy by disability rights activists in the country.
The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability and imposes sanctions including fines and prison sentences on those who contravene it. It also stipulates a five-year transitional period for modifying public buildings, structures and automobiles to make them accessible and usable for people with disabilities.
But as Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark this year’s World Disability Day, persons with disabilities said discrimination against them has not abated.
They said public and private buildings have remained user-unfriendly to their members especially at state and federal secretariats.
Daily Trust reports that aside from the public elevators (lifts) at the Head of Service (HoS) wing and old Federal Secretariat in Abuja, there are no special provisions for persons living with disabilities.
The President, National Association of Persons with Physical Disabilities (NAPPD), Comrade Rilwan Mohammed Abdullahi, noted that though President Buhari had assented to the National Disability Bill which prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, the trend remains a challenge to millions of their members.
“The major challenge being faced by persons with physical disabilities in Nigeria is discrimination which we thought would become history soon after the law was enacted.
“One of the major problems with Nigeria is that we are very good with coming up with laws but when it comes to implementation it is another issue,” Comrade Abdullahi said.
Also speaking, the president, Association of Physically Challenged Applicants, Godstime Onyebulam, said: “Pure discrimination is our major challenge.”
According to him, the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018 gives at least 5 per cent opportunity for persons living with disabilities for every recruitment in the country by both private and government agencies.
“But we suffer from discrimination as we have over 18,000 graduate applicants who are unemployed.”
Our correspondents report that persons living with disabilities in the states have also identified discrimination as one of the major challenges they face.
The people with disabilities have stressed the need for government to give them recognition to better their lot in the society.
Executive director and co-founder of QuestAid Foundation, Aver Akighir, said: “We have over 10,000 persons with disabilities in Benue State. Difficulties in attending to our health challenges are very serious issues because the health workers are not friendly. They are also not trained to attend to our members.”
He also said education poses another challenge for them as schools are not accessible to persons with disabilities, coupled with high fees. He added that skills acquisition, assisted devices for the blind are also not made available. On his part, the State Secretary of PWDs, Uertar Collins, identified stigmatization and discrimination against their members especially when they want to get married.
Mr. Ubong Udo, National Public Relations Officer of Nigeria Association of the Blind in Nigeria and former Chairman of Akwa Ibom Joint Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD), said environmental issues, attitudinal barriers, access, and participation are their major problems.
Udo, who spoke with our correspondent in Uyo, said the practice of exclusion of PLWDs was detrimental to both the group and the society, adding that PLWDs require inclusion and not exclusion in society.
He explained that segregating PLWDs in the society make people sympathetic towards them instead of being empathetic, saying the notion of sympathy meant PLWDs require help, which is not true.
Udo, who is a principal producer with the Akwa Ibom Broadcasting Corporation (AKBC) Radio Service, said his disability has not limited his aspirations in life, noting that the only limitations are people in society. “Though I was fortunate to get a job soon after my graduation, many disabled persons who are graduates are not that fortunate,” adding that between 100 and 150 PLWD graduates in the state are without jobs.
The Secretary, Ogun State Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD), Jimoh Ahmed Abiodun, identified some of the challenges confronting persons with disabilities to include discrimination, lack of jobs, empowerment, and lack of access to quality education.
He said there are over 250,000 people living with disabilities in the state, noting that the figure only captured Abeokuta metropolis, Ijebu-Ode, Ijebu-Igbo, Sagamu, Ilaro, Imeko-Afon and Ota. Abiodun expressed concern that members of the association who have sound education are being deprived employment opportunities.
Chairman of the Joint National Association of Persons With Disabilities (JONAPWD), Comrade Solomon Yahaya, said persons with disabilities constitute about 10 per cent of the over three million population of the state.
He identified some of the major problems confronting persons with disabilities in the state to include lack of inclusiveness, poor welfare, neglect by society and lack of voice in government to push for the well-being of persons with disabilities.
He said the rate of unemployment amongst persons with disabilities in the state is very high, noting that persons with disabilities who are qualified are hardly taken into consideration during employment processes.
He said there is need for the government to establish special schools for persons with disabilities for easy access to education, adding that the state only has one special school for the blind which is not that functional or equipped.
People living with disabilities are facing the same challenges as their counterparts in other states that limit their aspiration. Daily Trust gathered that about 15 per cent of the total population of the state is made up of persons living with disabilities.
Speaking with our reporter, Chairman of the Joint National Association of People with Disabilities, Edo State chapter, Henry Ebose, said they believe that when the disability bill is passed into law in the state, their challenges would be addressed.
Ebose, a graduate of Mass Communication from Auchi Polytechnic, said: “Our challenges range from access to public facilities and structures, education, health and transportation, among others.
“My disability has not really limited my aspiration; I have been working with the Edo State Internal Revenue Service for the past eight years and recently over 30 persons with disabilities were employed by the state government,” he said.
The population of the people living with disabilities in Oyo State, according to the latest statistics of the World Health Organization (WHO), is 17,000, the Executive Special Adviser on disability to the state governor, Barrister Adekanbi Ayodele, said.
Ayodele said he has been mandated by the governor to ensure an executive bill tagged “equal opportunity bill” gets to the state Assembly before February 2020.
The Chairman, Disability Rights Commission in Plateau State, James David Lalu, said the state has over 450,000 persons living with disabilities.
Speaking with our correspondent in Jos, Lalu said the major problems facing persons with disabilities included survival and discrimination, access to health care and education especially for those in the rural areas.
A visually impaired person, Bala Dakup, said he was lucky all through as he has never really suffered discrimination. He said he is a 1987 graduate of Political Science from the University of Jos, and was one of the first physically challenged graduates in the state.
The over 5000 people living with disabilities in Kwara are faced with different challenges ranging from abandonment by parents, societal stigma, marital problems to discrimination.
A former teacher at the School for the Handicapped and member of the executive of the association of the disabled in the state, Mr. Folawiyo Abdulwahab Akanbi, said apart from being discriminated against, they have limitations in terms of access to education. Meanwhile, the state government has said that it is committed to the realization of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030.
In Gombe State, people living with disabilities have complained of being neglected by the state government.
The state chairman of the Joint National Association of People with Disabilities (JONAPWD), Umar Ali Goro, said they have university graduates and higher certificates holders but find it hard to secure jobs.
“Despite having 32 graduates, 28 NCE holders and 99 others with diplomas as well as 486 secondary school certificates holders with 63 that attended craft school, many of us are either roaming the streets in search of jobs or begging along the major roads across the state.
“Out of the 65,000 civil servants in the state and local governments services, only about 500 of our members are fully engaged by the government, leaving over 475,000 jobless because we don’t have godfathers,” he said.
Lagos State chairman of the Joint National Association of People Living With Disabilities, Dr Adebukola Adebayo, noted that private companies shied away from employing PWDs because they believe they are more of a burden and there is a limit to what they can do.
“When it comes to employment, there is a lot of discrimination. We are engaging the private sector. Government employs lots of PWDs in the state but there is a huge gap in the private sector,” he said.
In Kano, Abba Sarki Sharada who is the chairman of Kanawa Educational Foundation, alleged that the disability bill assented to by the president was only signed with the hidden motive to woo people living with disabilities to come out to vote for him.
“The reason why I say so is that from that time to date, nothing has been done to implement the bill for the benefit of people with special needs. We expected to see something earmarked in the 2020 budget for people with special needs to show that the government is serious about us but there is nothing to that effect,” he said.
People living with disabilities want to be sponsored to study in tertiary institutions.
They also said they want some special schools to be built for them while existing centres of learning and vocational training workshops be renovated and furnished with modern facilities that would enable all their members learn skills to better their lives. Speaking to Daily Trust in Maiduguri, the state branch chairman, Joint National Association of People Living with Disabilities, Malam Amadu Umaru, said: “As we speak now, the repentant Boko Haram and IDPs have taken over our rehabilitation centre in Bulumkutu.”
President of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) Osun State chapter, Mr. Kehinde Onitiju, said the major challenges of PWDs in the state included unemployment, inability to use certain public facilities, neglect and financial constraints.
Also, Coordinator of the Albino Foundation in the state, Mr. Lukman Nafiu, said health issue remains the main challenge facing his members, stressing that persons with albinism in the state also suffer economic challenge, stigmatization and myths as many people see them as spirits and believe that it was a curse to be an albino.
Despite complaints in states, leaders of persons with disabilities under the aegis of Access Nigeria: Disability Votes Matter Campaign, said the signing of the Disability Bill by President Muhammadu Buhari is one of the best things that happened to them.
The Executive Director, Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) and coordinator, Access Nigeria, Mrs. Grace Jerry, said: “The signing of the bill by President Muhammadu Buhari early this year is a good development that would ginger us to push for more. There remains the challenge of access to health, education, transportation, and employment opportunities among others.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Farouq, in a press briefing yesterday to mark the celebration of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria, said: “As part of efforts to alleviate poverty and reduce the sufferings among Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), the Federal Government through the ministry has been supporting PWDs on an annual basis with various forms of assistive devices and economic empowerment materials such as wheelchairs, tricycles, Braile Machines, Guide canes, crutches, grinding machines, hairdryers, barbing clippers, sewing machines and vulcanizing machines.”