The Dilemma of People Living With Disabilities In Nigeria

Dilemma of People living With Disabilities In Nigeria

By Salihu Bashir Nguroje,

Think for instance accessing a building for a shopping transaction without your two legs, think of alighting from a taxi, exchanging change with a cap driver without the gift of sight, doing your laundry without your two arms. Also think of crossing the high ways without the gift of sigh, think of putting on your cloth without the two hands. This is the typical example of difficulties people with disabilities go through in everyday of their lives

Able-bodied persons often take their physical health for granted without any consideration of people living with disabilities. In all, analysis shows that, such misguided perception tends to limit persons with disabilities from reaching their full potentials and limiting their potential contribution to Nigerian economy. This therefore calls for full integration of persons with disabilities in to the society.

According to the World Health Organization and the World Banks about 10 percent of the world population is living with disabilities and 80 percent of them are from developing countries making them the world largest minority. Another studies by the United Nations organization on disabilities shows that only 45 countries in the world are able to implement the anti–discrimination  and other disabilities specific laws. Only few countries have adequate mechanisms in place to respond to the need of this people who often face stigma and discrimination.

In a typical city in the north, you hardly walk a kilometer without coming across these people with disability chanting their songs of begging, but mostly these people are found in car garages, mosques, churches and other public places and gatherings.

Fatima Muhammad is 25 years old who came from Zamfara to Abuja for begging, she shed more lights on the hardship of life she is exposed to as a result of her disability “I became disabled from childhood as a result of sickness, even after becoming disabled I promised that I will not go in to begging, but because of the difficulties of life and intense discrimination, sometimes I even lack what to eat, hence I find myself begging”. when asked how much she earns a day she said “Sometimes I get one thousand naira and sometimes even less than that, in fact sometimes if we come out we cannot even get the transport money that will take us back let alone the food we can eat” She complained.

Stigma and discrimination is one of the terrible challenges faced by the people living with disabilities which no doubt limit the level of their interaction with even their relatives forcing them to live a bitter secluded live. Fatima attributed her inability to get married to her disability“as you can see me now I am not married an as you know every woman wants to be in her husband’s house but because of this disability I have to be on the street begging”.

She strongly frowns at government action on the beggars within the FCT saying “the decision of government to deny us from begging is a inhumane and lack of mercy, the government did not help us with anything but is arresting us and denying us our way of getting food, see arm robbers everywhere they are not hunting them like they are hunting us, if you don’t want us to beg, give us a business to do and see if we can beg again. The government promise to help us several times but never fulfill it promise even once” she said.

Ramatu Husseni is a mother of two with a blind husband narrated why she is in Abuja for begging “I came from the far away Zamfara state me and my husband who is also blind, in our society today if you are unfortunate to have any form of disability, you are bound to face a lot of challenges which is a reason why we are forced out of our native home to come here. Please let the government know that we are also citizens of this country like everybody, therefore we also need to be helped, ourselves we are not happy with this begging but if we didn’t beg what shall we eat” she lamented. Narrating how she fall a victim of disability she said “It just started as a minor fiver when I was very small but the fiver persisted for a very long period of time and as a result my legs could not function again, and when I grew up my parent were very poor they could not even support themselves, therefore I had no option than to beg, and later, on the process of begging I met a man who is also a beggar and he married me now we have two kids”.

On fifth February 2013, the disability bill was passed for the second reading in the senate, the bill seek to address the challenges faced by people living with disabilities including issues of poverty, unemployment, access to security and assistive devices, education to children and young people with disabilities, access to building and public services and transportation.

Nigeria is a country with about 20 million people living with different forms of disabilities, the welfare of this large section of the Nigerian society deserves attention. The Nigerian government expressed it desire to address the right of people living with disabilities by signing and ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities and it accompanying optional protocols in 2007 and 2010 respectively.

But regrettably there is nothing to write-home about if you take a look at the prevailing situation of the people living with various forms of disabilities in the country. The disability bill which is an improved version of a similar bill known as the Discrimination against disabled person’s bill 2013 which was passed by the senate in 2010 but is yet to receive President Jonathan assent and the government is yet to give effect to the provision of this international instrument by failing to domesticate it through the national legislation as required. In addition, Nigeria is one of the counties which do not have a dedicated department committed to managing disability issues. The inability of the government to provide an enabling environment and a legal framework to safeguard the right of the people living with disabilities has reflected in the number of beggars we have today roaming our streets

People living with disabilities can make the best use of their potentials and contribute to the national development if given the necessary support. The case of Nigerian Paralympics team which won several medals in London Paralympics games in 2012 shows the extent to which people living with disabilities can contribute to overall progress of the country. Rather than treat the problem of disability as a charity issue, the government should adopt a right based approach rooted in legislation which broaden the inclusion of people living with disabilities in all aspect of life particularly their inclusion in democratic governance.

Begging among the disabled is very common in the northern part of Nigeria where the population is largely dominated by Muslims. What is the position of Islam on begging? Uztas Abdulganiyu Abdulraheem Azzuwairi is an Imam of Gwarinpa Jumma’at Mosque in the federal Capital Territory, he shed more light on the position of begging in Islam “begging has different views in Islam, sometime begging may be allowed and sometimes begging may not be allowed, there are people that Islam consider as lee privileged who cannot provide even the daily meals for themselves, so Islam does not neglect them, therefore this people need to be helped. But mind you Islam has strongly discouraged laziness, there is no room for laziness in Islam, infect it is demonstrated by the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him that if a healthy person approaches you begging you should reproach him and encourage him to go and work like the prophet himself did. Now there is clear distinction between Islam and begging, Islam says no to begging and yes to helping those are are genuinely in need” Uztaz Abdulrahman opined that in a country like Nigeria which is endowed with enormous resources, there is no reason why the government will not empower all the beggars with a business that will sustain them and their families.

There is a wise saying in hausa that; inbaka mutuba hallitarka bata kareba meaning: once one is alive his creation is still in process. This wise saying teaches that anything can happen to any of the organs of one’s body which may also render him disabled. Therefore nobody can predict what he is going to look like tomorrow. In light of the above statement, people need to put themselves in the shoes of these disabled persons and imagine what they will feel if stigmatized or discriminated.

Civil Society Organizations especially groups working on disability issues have a major role to play in addressing the plight of people living with disabilities. These groups should intensify their advocacy for enactment of and implementation of a legislation addressing the welfare of people living with disabilities.  And government on it own side should look into the situation of these large number of the citizens who are very unfortunate to face this terrible situation of life.



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