Home Feature Poverty as an issue in disability in Kogi

Poverty as an issue in disability in Kogi

by Isiyaku Ahmed
0 comment

By Dada Ahmed

Kogi State was created on August 27, 1991, by the military regime of General Ibrahim B. Babangida. It is endowed with rich and abundant human and natural resources.

Most of these endowments such as tourism and mineral resources remain untapped, hence the state remains poor in comparison with a few other states in the country.

The over 40-year-old Ajaokuta Steel Project in the state is yet to commence production.

Mohammed Ali an Economic expert identified the lack of production at the steel project as another factor contributing to the heightened prevalence of poverty amongst People with disabilities (PwDs) in the state.

He says if operational, the steel project would have benefitted the PwDs as well and reduced their poverty level because some of them would have been employed in areas that need less physical activity.

Natalie Smith in research on the level of poverty in Kogi and Niger States, entitled, “The Face of Disability in Nigeria: A Disability Survey in Kogi and Niger States in May 2011 revealed that the most common disabilities in Kogi state are vision, mobility, and hearing.

The research acknowledges poverty as the shouting factor contributing to the concept of physical disability in the state.

He says that out of over 1,000 PwDs interviewed in the two states, less than 30% received primary, secondary, or tertiary education while those that obtained good certificates struggled in vain to be employed in government agencies and the private sector.

Most of the PwDs live in poverty with minimal income and resources, the research reveals.

“Over 70% were unable to access disability-specific health services, and 37% reported having an assistive device.

According to Smith, half of all working-age adults who experience at least one year of poverty have a form of disability or the other while nearly two-thirds of those experiencing longer-term poverty also have a disability.

He added that the poverty rate for working-age people with disabilities was nearly two and a half times higher than that for people without disabilities.

He expressed concern that people with disabilities were also much more likely to experience material hardships—such as food insecurity; inability to pay rent, mortgage, and utilities; or not being able to get needed medical care—than people without disabilities at the same income levels.

Poverty in this context is a condition in which a person or community lacks the financial resources and essentials for a minimum standard of living.

18-year-old Ismaila Abubakar survived a motorcycle accident in Kaduna ten years ago that left his right leg amputated.

He now lives from hand to mouth, begging for alms in Lokoja.

He relays his ordeal.

“I am a product of a poor family in one of the northern states. I helped my mother hawk groundnuts to eke for the upkeep of the family.

“It was in course of hawking that I was knocked down by a hit and run driver in Kaduna and I lost one of my legs.

“All efforts by my family to raise money to buy an artificial leg for me proved abortive, hence my joining other beggars in Lokoja to beg for money.

“I don’t like begging but it appears this is the only option for me now as my parents can neither buy me the artificial leg nor enroll me in school.

Malam Salami Uhuotu is a social development expert in Lokoja.

Uhuotu describes Abubakar’s fate as typical of the relationship between poverty and disability in Lokoja, and how it has aggravated the penury of many PwDs in the State and the country at large.

“I see PwDs in absolute agony of their disability swimming in the ocean of abject poverty, I spend a reasonable amount of money to uplift the life of some of them on a monthly basis.

“Some of them go about with tattered dresses, yet with an empty stomach.

“You can see the anguish boldly written on their faces as they stretch their hands or cap in hand begging for alms in this harsh economic reality in the state.

“This shows the frightening level of poverty, particularly as it affects PwDs in the state.

“It is simply terrible seeing a fellow human being in such a sorry state of existence,” he bemoans.

The Chairman, Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAWPD) Kogi state Chapter, Comrade Solomon Yahaya says the effect of poverty on PwDs is enormous and capable of weighing down their morale to achieve productive life to get out of poverty.

“We cannot engage in many practical commercial enterprises like complete persons do to earn a living. It has been difficult, really, for my members to earn a living with our disability.

“We cannot ride commercial motorcycles (Okada) or drive taxis or any other jobs, a situation that has subjected us to the already saturated unemployment market.”

He also traced the poverty issue to the twin problems of discrimination and stigmatization against PwDs by society.

What Kogi State government can do to ease life for PwDs.

The State JONAWPD Chairman says the government can empower PwDs by granting them soft loans to buy equipment to set up their workshops.

“When engaged in productive ventures, we can become employers of labour,” he assured.

He described PwDs as special persons in need of empowerment, not pity from the government and concerned members of society.

“Create enabling environment for PwDs will make our lives better.”

He calls on PwDs not to bemoan over their unfortunate circumstances in life, stressing that “everyone is disabled in one form or the other, what matters is the degree of disability.

“If we allow the circumstances of our life to weigh us down, we will have a double disability to deal with; we will be an annex of poverty.

“Therefore, I urge PwDs to jettison lamenting over our physical disability, take our destiny into our hands and engage in a venture that will ginger government to come to our aid,” he advised.

The Kogi Chairman, Office for Disability Affairs, Mr Ibrahim Daniel Arome is a polio victim. He became disabled three years ago but holds HND in accounting from the Kogi State Polytechnic, Lokoja.

He is also on the payroll of the state government.

He traced poverty as an issue in disability to many factors.

Foremost, he said: “The inaccessible nature of educational institutions in Kogi state is a big contributory factor to poverty among PwDs.

“Many PwDs in the state with burning desire to acquire formal education, obtain certificates or employment cannot do so because the structures of the institutions in the state are not disability compliant.

“Many PwDs find it difficult to climb upstairs to receive lecture or move from one class to another with ease, compared to their able-bodied counterparts.

According to Arome, this problem has forced many PwDs to remain out of school, hence unable to be gainfully employed in government establishments, they remain unemployed, and poverty sets in.

“If you are not educated, you are exposed to poverty, therefore, the inaccessible nature of educational institutions in this area has contributed greatly to the high level of poverty among PwDs.

He argued that poverty and disability exist side by side among PwDs due to a lack of funds.

Arome noted that many PwDs acquired skills and experience to be able to be self-reliant, but they lack funds to set up the trade they learned to make a living…..this is unfortunate.

On the other hand, he blamed many PwDs for inflicting themselves with poverty by having low self-esteem about their condition and withdrawing from the society into a life of seclusion.

“If you indulge in such a lifestyle, you deny yourself the opportunity of belonging to a productive society that would have earned you a living.

“They believe that they could depend on the abled-bodied counterparts to survive, unknown to them that disability is an advantage to live big when the talent is covered and put to effective utilization,” he cautioned.

He, however, advised members of able-bodied people against the use of vulgar language for PwDs in society.

The Chairman, Kogi State Office of the Disability says there is light at the end of the tunnel for PwDs in the state.

He says the present government has the political will to include PwDs in governance.

“For instance, Governor Yahaha Bello has given an automatic ticket to a member of PwD, Mr. Emmanuel Aduku to contest the 2023 State House of Assembly Electíon on the platform of the All-Progressives Congress, APC.

“And, the Office for Disability Affairs is another bold political will demonstrated by the present administration in the state to tell PwDs that they are part of the larger society.”

He promised that his office would soon employ many PwDs to reduce unemployment, poverty, and other problems confronting them in the state.

Mr. Ina Huseni Isaac is Director, Planning, Research and Statistics, Kogi State Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.

He says no fewer than 20 PwDs were employed in the State Civil Service in the last five years.

Abigail Samuel is one of such PwD employed by the State as an accountant at the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.

Isaac expressed delight in her employment and is satisfied with her productivity.

You may also like

Leave a Comment