In this episode, Zainab Ibrahim and Emmanuel Ayogu discuss the effects of corruption and its impacts on the growing population of Persons with Disabilities. They also explore how discrimination against Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria makes them vulnerable to corruption.
You’re listening to Partners United on Accountability brought to you by the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Foundation.
Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the Partners United podcast on governance and accountability brought to you by the Shehu Musa Yar'Adua Foundation, and today with me we will be exploring how discriminating against persons with disabilities in Nigeria makes them vulnerable to corruption and the effects of corruption on the lives of people with disabilities. I am joined by a very special guest, Mr. Emmanuel Ayogu. He is the COO of the Cedar Seed Foundation. Cedar Seed Foundation is the youth led non-governmental, nonprofit and non-sectarian membership-based organization. It was established in 2011, with a mission of providing services that support persons with disabilities. So, Emmanuel, before we go into the conversation, can you in a moment explain what it means to be a person with disability in Nigeria,
It's nice being here. Thank you for having me. Disability issue in Nigeria, it's a very big concept. It's a very big issue to actually look at but since, we are narrowing it to what it means to be a person with disability in Nigeria, I wouldn't like to give you an academic definition, I would like to paint you a picture of what it means to be a person with disability in Nigeria. What it means to be a person with disability in Nigeria is one, the means of transportation in Nigeria is highly, highly excluded. In terms of you do not have access to facilities that will help you to move around in Nigeria. The schools in Nigeria are not accessible to children with disability. Most children with disability in Nigeria have been locked away and hidden. Because the families where these kids are coming from are ashamed of them. If you are a person with disability in Nigeria, the society looks at you as if you are cursed. The society looks at you with disdain. The society does not treat you with equal respect equal the society the society does not give you equal value that it regards to every other person or persons without disability. So being a person with disability in Nigeria is a whole lot of discrimination. A whole lot of disenfranchisements, a whole lot of denial, a whole lot of societal neglect and discrimination. That is what it means to be a person with disability in Nigeria.
Thank you for painting that mental picture Emmanuel. It seems like we have a long way to go in Nigeria because it just feels like people with disability are not Nigerians basically more or less. Thank you for painting that picture. Your Foundation recently published a report on the impact of corruption on the lives of persons with disability. Tell us a bit about the methodology for your research. and the most intriguing discovery from the reports
The report was actually conducted in FCT. FCT was our target location because for us it's a step. It’s a starting point. We wanted to find out how corruption affects person with disability in Nigeria, but we started with FCT and to get a full picture without being having any bias to the results of our research. We explored so many channels so many research approach, though our research was mostly qualitative. We deployed key informant question yes, we deployed surveys, we deploy focus group discussion. We had different focus group discussions, focusing on different clusters of the disabled community. We also looked at case studies and at the end of all this, what we discovered in the research is, what constitute corruption for persons with disability or for the community of persons with disability is not extortion. Really, it's not enough, you know, like financial embezzlement, no! what constitutes corruption for persons with disability is discrimination. Right, because from what we find out, discrimination leads to denial. Discrimination leads to denial of property right, denial of employment right, denial of education right, denial of even the most basic Human rights, like education, and so on. So that is what we found out in our research.
The World Health Organization stated in the 2011 world disability report that about 15% of Nigeria's population, or at least 25 million people have a disability, which is a lot of people. So many of them face involve human rights abuses, including stigma, discrimination, like you, like you mentioned, and you have personally experienced and lack of access to health care, even basic things like housing and education. You have emphasized in your report that the top human rights abuse faced by people with disabilities is discrimination. That's clear cut. Can you explain using instances how discrimination leaves people with disability vulnerable to corruption.
That World Health Organization report is actually a bit. For now, I think it's understating the, because the insurgency also and the crisis that we have had the last past 10 years or so have actually led to a lot of persons getting mutilated and joining the population of persons with disability in Nigeria, so the amount of persons with disability is rising every day because of different factors. Like I've said, the, the insurgency the, and so on. Now, back to your question. I just recently came back from Gombe state where we're implementing a project and we had a town hall meeting, one of the things that the stakeholders were saying is how that kids, I just wanted to start from that kids who, according to that report from World Health Organization, is estimated that we have about 5 to 7 million children with disabilities who are out of school, and why are these persons out of school, these persons are out of schools, because one, the schools will not take them, because the schools or the school management think that they will not fit in, and they are not also making available reasonable accommodations that will help these persons to be fit into the school system effectively. Secondly, the parents and the relative and the guardians of these persons of these children with disability will not be too willing, or be easily willing to actually enroll these children in school. Why? Because they are shamed of these children. That's discrimination. Our hospital system is such that if a young lady with disability that is pregnant, goes to a hospital and this instance I'm telling you it's not something I cooked up during our key informant interview, we got this information, a young lady that was pregnant went to a hospital for her antenatal. And then instead of the medical personnel or the medical personnel to render the service for which the young lady had come, they focused on her disability, and they were you know, degrading her, saying all manner of things that are inhumane to her. And what happens when these persons are unable to access these basic services, what happens is that they are exposed to people trying to extort them, because, you know, since they cannot get these services straight, or they cannot get it in the normal way and easy way that every other person gets it. persons will begin to you know; service providers will begin to exploit them. I'll give you another instance, a volunteer with Cedar Seed Foundation, who finished her youth service. She applied for a job in government institution, she also applied in a private institution. In her conversation with the prospective employer. Before they met her, they were enthusiastic about hiring her but immediately she arrived at that particular office for the interview, the enthusiasm which these employers had dissipated overnight why because she was a person with disability. So, you see, discrimination perpetuates this, you know, corruption that we are talking about it continues, the cycle continues and continues and continues. So that is why the major thing like I said earlier, about corruption with regards to the community of persons with disabilities is the discrimination which fosters further types of corruption.
Basically, this is the thing of sensitization again, I guess, because from the from the home front, these kids especially you mentioned that some kids are not even comfortable enough for them to be integrated into the society like every other person because even their parents are ashamed of them. So, and then if you happen to go into the world and you have that confidence it will be, will be minimized due to, I don't know, different reasons. But thank you for thank you for painting that picture for us Mr. Emmanuel. And this brings us to the next pillar of our conversation today, which is the law that protects the interest of people with disabilities. So in 2019, the Disability Act was signed into law, the Act prohibits all forms of discrimination against persons with disability. However, as at December 2021, 24 states in Nigeria are yet to adopt the act an indirect endorsement of discrimination itself. How does this make it a barrier to accessing justice and challenging corruption?
Thank you for that question, Zainab. I always say that the greatest thing that the greatest thing that happen to the movement for inclusion in the disability community in Nigeria is that particular law. However, it's not just the law alone. And perhaps I should, I should also say that the law has a five-year transitional period, meaning that nobody can be held liable within this period, right for every or any violation of the provisions of that law. So even if people violate it, they won't get the necessary punishment or punitive action that is stipulated in that law. Now, the states that have adopted it that have ratified it, whatever legal word that you're using, what have they done? That is where we should start from right. Here in the FCT, the building code in FCT has not changed. The building code is still the same, new projects that is been implemented, how many of them are accessible to persons with disability? Since the law came into existence? How many of the already existing pedestrian bridge has been reconstructed or has been given, you know, appendages that makes, you know, access to it by persons with disability inclusive? How many? How many schools in Abuja here? I'm not even talking about state, how many schools in Abuja here are inclusive. Right? So, we are still running this mentality, this idea of, you know, give these persons give them charity, it is their fundamental human rights. Children with disability are supposed to have equal access to regular schools, like children without disability, right. So, the state of implementation is still very, very, very low. I can tell you very low, right. Part of the provisions of that law is that in every government, parastatal in every government institution, 5% employment will be reserved for persons with disability, I dare you, go around Abuja, how many institutions are obeying it? How many, let's not even get to the private sector, let's not even get to the States. Right. So, we still have a long, long, long way to go. We still have a long, long way to go. And that is why we in disability community, we are advocating that, look, the government must take the first step, the government must be shining light in terms of obeying even the provisions of the law. Employment, we must begin to take this thing serious, we have been paying a lot of lip service to it, we're going to do this, we're going to do that. But the actions are not speaking enough. The action is still very, very minimal. Very, very little I was I was in Kuje recently. And then in Kuje, there is this school for the deaf in Kuje. And one other school in Kuje there. The basic things that these kids with disability require for Inclusive education, the materials, even the school for them to move around, it's still not there. It's still not there. So, in as much as we celebrate the law, a lot still needs to be done a lot and a lot still needs to be done. And the states that are not adopting the law, or the act, it goes to show you how we still see issues of persons with disability it goes to show you how the Nigerian society still sees issues with disability because we think that those ones are maybe perhaps, they are you know, they are cursed or so but we forget, like I said earlier in this discussion that the population of persons with disabilities is increasing right when you do get old. We also fall into this category of persons with disability because our systems begin to fail. And that that is that is that is the idea that our people have not actually begin to know, begin to come to terms with.
You're absolutely right, Mr. Emanuel, because you just painted a picture for me in my head. Once we become not even let's use the example of our grandparent and you know, grandparents, when they go into a building and you know, they are physically challenged, or they have to use a stick, it is already an issue for them to get into a building of example, Let's even say a pension building, they find it difficult to go up the stairs, or there's no wheelchair accessibility for them. So basically, it's just a thing of, okay, we've signed the bill with classes, but then what next? are we actually doing anything about it, the National Commission for persons with a disability was established to promote, protect and prioritize the rights of persons with disability and to further enhance their, you know, productivity through education, health, and even just socio-economic activities like every other person, obviously. So, um, how effective has the commission been?
Quite alright, the commission is trying its best, the commission is trying as much as possible even in in terms of okay, trying to go to sensitize other government parastatals and agencies right, you know, about the law about what they need to do but the level of funding for the commission is too poor for them to actually have any meaningful impact. That is the truth, it is so meager that they can't actually do much. So there is a need for governments to look at how should this, how best, can we, you know, if we want to really bring these persons into, if you want to integrate them into the main Society of Nigeria, if you want to make them feel like they are also part of the Nigerian society, we need to begin to put our money where our mouth is, it's not just enough for us to form a commission, but fund the commission so that the Commission can play the roles can do the job for which it was set up. Right. So, but what the commission for, from what I've seen from the experience, I've had. The interaction I've also had with them, I think they are doing their best, considering the amounts that are getting, considering the attention that they are getting from the government. I think they are doing their best; they are doing their best. That's just what I have to say, they are doing their best, but like I said, It’s still way, way below what we expect from, you know, government and the commission that has been set up.
Thank you for that Emmanuel. You've already answered our next question, which was, I was going to ask about, you know, the budget cut from a whopping 41.7 billion to 1.7 billion in 2020. And I think you already mentioned, what factor do you think played a role in this budget cut? Was it discrimination? Do you think it's corruption or both?
I have not actually been to UK. I have not been to anywhere near there. But I wouldn't even use that. Let me use Uganda here. Right, in Ugandan Parliament, because there is this lady who is in an MP in Uganda. In Uganda, 5% of their parliament is exclusively reserved for persons with disability. It shows you I'm not talking about foreign countries, I mean, Western or developed nations. I'm talking about Africa here third world. It shows you the value that the society places on its population of persons with disability, for the fact that the budget was cut from 41.7 billion down to 1.7 billion, it shows you also the value. Look, these things are not there are societal, there are societal entrenched value, that have, you know, metamorphosed into this whole government neglects institutional neglect for persons with disability society, even in the private sector neglect, right? It comes from, the foundation of the society, how does society view a person with disability and that is exclusively discrimination. Right? So that discrimination is what we need to be looking at, you know, we need to change it, we need to begin to re orientate ourselves that look, persons with disability are not necessarily persons that have no ability. Right. These persons can do a better job than you and I or any other person can do given the necessary and reasonable accommodation that they require. You know, I was I was its a challenge that we need. So, the idea for me what formed it is not because lack of money it's not because of economic situation in Nigeria, it is exclusively out of discrimination out of the poor societal perception for persons or societal value for persons with disability it is for me that is what forms that decision. That is what informs that decision.
Thank you for that Emmanuel. So, can you briefly just tell us how CSOs can collaborate with people with disabilities to champion this cause, and also amplify the voices of people with disabilities in Nigeria, because the Commission recently unveiled a five-year strategic plan to you know, integrate people with disabilities into the society. So just briefly, tell us how CSOs can go about that.
I would use to two instances to actually answer this question. Sometimes last year, I think that was late last year, an organization reached out to us that they wanted to partner with us, okay, with regards to issues of how to, you know, mainstream issues of persons with disability. So, when we went there for a meeting, the first thing we noticed there is that is that our ED, who is a person with physical disability could not assess the building. So, the building itself was not right, accessible. So. So that's, that's like the first point of a no, no. But we later found a way and had a meeting. Now, at the end of that meeting, that organization that was reaching out to us, were clearly sensitize, were clearly made aware of what they have not actually been seen. To them, they have, you know, they just they were reaching out to us because they want to like lend out a helping hand. Right. So also, in my recent trip to Gombe, after the town hall meeting, a lot of persons became passionate, passionate, why, because we had shown them the things that they have not seen. Meaning CSOs need to begin to take advocacy, serious awareness creation, we need to begin to sensitize the public, the general public. And that is why I call on certain government institutions like the NOA and other agencies to begin to avail their platform to CSOs who are working in the disability community, you know, to make use of this platform in the advocacy messages, in the advocacy messaging, in the advocacy and awareness creation, because a lot of orientation needs to be done. People need needs to begin to have empathy. Empathy, in the sense of not a charity-based empathy, but empathy, on the side of right base empathy towards persons with disability. And, you know, we need to begin to reoriented the society. The CSOs needs to do more in this area. Begin to engage persons, begin to engage institutions, begin to engage the government at all levels. To understand that, look, we can't continue like this. Imagine the population that I talked about earlier, about 7 million children with disability that are out of school, imagine what it constitutes, imagine the burden it constitutes to the society. Imagine if these persons are educated, what they will contribute, the level of contribution that they will bring to the society. So, the CSOs, you can, you know, help and key into the five-year strategic plan by you know, carrying out more engagements with critical stakeholders in our society, government and all the others. That is what I think.
Thank you so much Emmanuel, this has been a fascinating discussion and I have personally learned a thing or two that I can do to just, you know, make life easier for people with disabilities because one way or the other, we're all we are them. We have them at home we have, you know, so thank you so much for that. And this is where we draw the curtain today. We're thankful that you could join us today and we can't wait to have you back on our next episode. We look forward to having you all. Have a beautiful day and thank you again, Mr. Emmanuel.
It's a privilege to be here. Thank you very much for always supporting us. Shehu Musa Yar'Adua Foundation. Thank you so much for the support that you gave us during the research work. We, we do not take your support for granted neither do we take it lightly. Thank you so much Zainab for having me.
Thank you so much. Have a beautiful day listener.