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HomeNEWSPWDs empowerment: Humanitarian Affairs unearths abilities in disability

PWDs empowerment: Humanitarian Affairs unearths abilities in disability

Right from its creation the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (FMHADMSD), under the leadership of Sadiya Umar Farouq, has prioritised empowerment of persons with disabilities (PWDs) thereby unearthing abilities in disability, PAUL OKAH writes.

When the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, was created by President Muhammadu Buhari on August 21, 2019, it was with the clear mandate to provide succour to disaster victims, the less privileged, the downtrodden as well as lifting millions of Nigerians from biting and excruciating poverty.

Following the appointment of Sadiya Umar Farouq as the pioneer minister in recognition of her giant strides and records of achievements as the Federal Commissioner; the National Commission for Refugees; Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI); a number of agencies have since been brought under the supervision of the ministry.

They include: National Commission for Refugees; Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI); National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA); National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP); North East Development Commission (NEDC); the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD); and Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (OSSAP-SDGs).

Three years down the line, the ministry is regarded as one of the important ministries in the country as a result of its regular and daily interactions with the less privileged, disaster victims and ensuring alleviation of poverty, especially the inclusion of PWDs in the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP) overseen by the ministry.

About PWDs

World over, an estimated one billion people are said to be persons with disabilities. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2011 World Disability Report, out of over 200 million people in Nigeria, more than 15 million Nigerians are with one form of disability or another, including mental illness, chronic pain or fatigue, sight or hearing impairments, diabetes, brain injuries, neurological disorders, learning differences and cognitive dysfunctions, among others.

While many were born with deformities, others grew up to become deformed, while many are likely to sustain deformities in the cause of wading through life, though, discouragingly, at different times, whether at home, work place or public, this class of people have been visited with stigma, discrimination and neglect for no fault of theirs.

Many countries of the world have since embraced caring for and meeting the needs of people with disabilities; in terms of protection of their rights, access to healthcare facilities, educational facilities and economic activities, with the federal government often reiterating it cannot afford to remain isolated among comity of nations, with respect to paying special attention to her citizens who have special need.

From day one, the minister hit the ground running with her determination to carry everyone along, especially the department and agencies brought under the ministry to be able to achieve the purpose of its creation and cater for PWDs.

This is coupled with President Buhari’s signing into law on January 23, 2019 the Act establishing the Discrimination Against Persons Living with Disabilities (Prohibition Act), in fulfilment of Nigeria’s obligation under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).


The issue of PWDs has always been a source of concern to the federal government as this class of people are often neglected, abused and dehumanised under different guises by other members of the society.

To ensure that PWDs had their pride of place in Nigeria, the minister has been championing the training and empowerment of PWDs in different parts of the country, to give them a sense of belonging and to unearth the hidden abilities in their disabilities.

As part of efforts to eradicate poverty and reduce the sufferings among PWDs, the federal government through the special needs department of the ministry has been supporting PWDs with various assistive devices and economic empowerment materials such as wheelchairs, tricycles, braille machines, guide canes, crutches, grinding machines, hair-dryers, barbing clippers, sewing machines, vulcanising machines, among others.

Over 750 PWDs and disability-focused NGOs have been provided with the aforementioned assistive devices and empowerment materials.

This is as the ministry saw to the establishment of the National Commission of Persons With disabilities, appointment of members of its governing council as well as the Executive Secretary, James Lalu.

Similarly, the special needs department carried out step-down training for caregivers of children with special needs in Adamawa, Kaduna, Lagos. Imo, Oyo, and Delta states. This enhanced the capacities of 71 teachers, parents/caregivers of these categories of children to effectively care for them.

The department successfully trained and graduated 48 trainees at the Nigeria Farmcraft Centre for the Blind in Lagos, and paid their resettlement allowances.

They acquired skills in such areas like crafts and arts, agriculture-farm crops and animal husbandry, basic computer skills as well as recreational activities.

N-Build training

PWDs were included in the recent training of 40,000 Nigerians on different skills under N-Build, one of the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP), as they showed interest in learning carpentry, automobile repairs, plumbing and other occupations under Batch C Stream 1 of the N-Build programme.

Though the N-Power Build programme is aimed at building competence and capacity of non graduates in highly demanded technical and vocational skills, including Automobile, Agric. Tech, Carpentry & Joinery, Electrical Installation, Hospitality, Masonry & Tiling, Plumbing & Pipefitting, Blueprint Weekend discovered that many PWDs, women, girls are dominating in the training centres.

While many physically challenged people often prefer to sit under bridges and pathways to beg for alms using their disabilities as excuse, Fatima Nuhu, woman with disability, preferred to be trained on Catering at the ITF Training Centre.

On June 8, when the minister visited the centre for the closing ceremony of the Batch C Stream N-Build Programme, after three months of in-house training, Miss Nuhu was among the beneficiaries who were awarded certificates of training and starter kits for six months apprenticeship with other organisations.

Speaking with our correspondent, the beneficiary said she did not want her disability to affect or limit her as she believed in breaking boundaries by acquiring skills that would enable her fend for herself thereby exhibiting the abilities in disability.

FCT training

The ministry, in collaboration with the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), on Tuesday, October 11, organised skills acquisition training for women and girls with disabilities and caregivers of children with disabilities in the FCT.

Nineteen PWDs benefited from the training, with 12 trained on hospitality and event management, while seven were trained on cosmetology and make up.

Speaking during the graduation/closing ceremony of the vocational skills acquisition training, Hajiya Farouq, who was represented by the Director of Special Needs, Mrs Nkechi Onwukwe, said that the decided to organize the training in order to enhance the skill of the trainees in selected trade areas.

She said: “There is no gainsaying the fact that great proportions of the Nigerian population are persons with disabilities. It is also a fact that women and girls with disabilities suffer the double burden of being women and also with disabilities.

“We are aware of the global economic crises bedevilling the world in recent years, and its attendant consequences which Nigeria as a country is not immune to.

“There are equally empirical evidences which indicate that persons with disabilities and more importantly women and girls with disabilities are disproportionately affected by these ugly economic and developmental indexes.

“Thus my Ministry through the Special Needs Department under the mantra that there is ability in disability and that there is entrepreneurship in disability and in line with our mandate, thought it wise to organise the training.

“The FMHADMSD in discharge of its mandate has through the Department of Special Needs, formal Rehabilitation Department, has embarked on numerous programmes and activities aimed at ameliorating the problems affecting PWDs in general and women with disabilities in particular.”

North-west PWDs training, empowerment

It is a common sight to meet PWDs begging at car doors in traffic, seeking aid to cross the road, hoping for alms under the scorching sun or torrentially rain in pedestrian bridges or even being sexually abused by caregivers and strangers.

On May 14, at a capacity building training workshop on income generating activities for persons with disabilities in Oyo state, the minister stated that the present administration’s goal of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2029 cannot be achieved without full involvement of PWDs.

Represented by the Mrs. Onwukwe, she said: “The training is to enable PWDs in exploring greater possibilities in our collective quest to combat the challenges confronting the advancements of PWD for a sustainable development.

“I understand that livelihood interventions are critical to addressing economic challenges among PWDs and therefore the present administration’s goal of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2029 cannot be achieved without full involvement of PWDs.

“The ministry commenced the processes of repositioning the Nigeria Farmcraft Centre for the blind in Lagos, to be in tune with current realities in the areas of entrepreneurial and empowerment angles of trainees.

“The Ministry also conducted a specialised professional training -of- the trainers for selected staff of the department, management staff of 6 Braille centres and Farmcraft Centre for the blind Lagos, in order to build their capacities for efficient discharge of their mandates as social workers.”

Also speaking, the Director, Rehabilitation, M.O Akande, who representative of the Oyo state Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Inclusion, said the economic hardship bedevilling Nigerians are doubly manifested in the lives of PWDS across the nation, hence the need for all critical stakeholders to come up with profound and pragmatic measures to lift vulnerable groups of people out of their current economic hardship.

…Kano too

Also, on May 18, speaking during the opening ceremony of a three-day capacity building workshop held in Kano for PWDs in the North-west, the minister said that a grant of N100,000 would be given to each PWD at the end of the training.

Director special needs, who represented the minister, said: “With the current trend in world economies, it is expected that poverty level of most vulnerable may likely increase. Therefore, the Ministry has taken the situation not just as unexpected challenge, but as a veritable opportunity to deepen the foundations of the Federal Government’s humanitarian intervention; in order to build poverty alleviation systems that are truly responsive and resilient.”

In her remarks, the Kano state Commissioner for Women Affairs, Dr. Zahra’u Mohammad, applauded the federal government’s foresight in organising the capacity-building training, noting the training would play a vital role in addressing the menace of street begging and other related issues.

Success stories

Many PWDs have testified to the interventions by the ministry, especially with regards to training and empowerment.

During N-Power N-Skills training recently at LEA Primary School, Wuse Zone 2, Abuja, a person with albinism, Samuel Omatha, who resides at Nyanya, Abuja, said he learnt a lot about phone repairs and servicing and was applying the knowledge and skills to his life and business.

He said: “I have been on the training for the past four weeks. The training has been great. We started life skills, which was wonderful. I have started applying some of the things I was taught here in my personal life and business.

“Presently, we are learning the Smart Phone Repairs. We have been taught the workings of a smart phone. We have learnt the theoretical aspect and now we are learning the practical aspect. The instructors are nice and thorough. They take their time to explain everything in details so we can understand.”

Also, speaking to Blueprint Weekend a man with disability, Bello Abdullahi, who lives in 3rd Avenue, Gwarimpa, said that the training would help improve his life.

He said: “Honestly, we are benefiting from the training a lot. In the first week, we were taught the basics about smart phones and its entire component.

“This week, we are all taught how to fix each component when it goes bad. Firstly, we were taught how to change the power point of a smart phone and also how to replace a screen/calibrator when it’s broken.

“We have been provided all learning materials training manuals, caps, t-shirts, and also weekly feeding and transportation allowances of N13,500 each week. We thank the federal government for this initiative of helping the youths. We express special gratitude to President Buhari and the minister not just for this programme but also for the establishment of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities. Now our people can have more confidence to participate in anything they wish to without fear of discrimination.”

More interventions needed – CSOs

Investigations by our correspondent revealed that Nigeria was one of the few African countries that have set up a commission for PWDs, which is indicative of government’s intentions to improve their lot.

However, unlike advanced countries, the discrimination against PWDs is yet to ebb as it is commonplace to have Nigerians engaging in physical, verbal and sexual abuse of PWDs.

In a chat with Blueprint Weekend, the Executive Director, Rights Enforcement and Public Law Centre (REPLACE), Barrister Felicitas Aigbogun-Brai, said that PWDs are greatly marginalised in Nigeria and called on government for urgent intervention.

She said: “Out of Nigeria’s estimated population of 200 million, approximately 27 million people live with disabilities. A 2005 study by the Leprosy Mission Nigeria found that, of its 1,093 respondents, 37 per cent struggled with visual impairments, 32 per cent had limited mobility, 15 percent had reduced hearing and the majority of people surveyed- 61 per cent- were unemployed because of their disability.

“People with disabilities in Nigeria typically receive little support from the government and instead rely on family members, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and religious groups.

“One of their biggest obstacles is the stigma surrounding their disabilities, which excludes them socially, economically and politically. The challenges posed by the above for access to justice cannot be overemphasised, hence the need to bridge, to a considerable extent, identified gaps by devising guidelines consistent with the best global practices identified earlier, including social, spatial, political, economic and other factors.

“In January 2019, President Buhari signed it into law the Nigeria Disability Act. As this law comes into force, activist and organisations now have a significant legal basis for calling on Nigeria to do more for PWDs, in line with relevant norms and standards.

“While Nigeria has a way to go to give people with disabilities equal opportunity, the passage of this law is a great start. By increasing access and protection, people with disabilities in Nigeria can have a greater voice in politics, education and the economy.”

Also speaking with our correspondent, the Executive Director of Disability Rights Advocacy Centre (DRAC), Irene Patrick Ogbogu, called on relevant stakeholders in the transport sector to build synergy aimed at implementing access to transportation facilities for persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Nigeria.

“For a very long time, there have been incidences of discrimination in the transport sector against persons with disabilities and they have been experiencing different types of challenges in land, air and rail transport.

“Most of the buildings in public places are not planned for persons with disabilities to access. We know that accessing these transport facilities is a fundamental right for them, so government should review policies and upgrade transport facilities to enable persons with disabilities to have access,” she said.




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