Hardship was bestowed on most Nigerians when the Federal Government recently announced the fuel subsidy removal. Despite the federal government’s assertion that the removal has resultedin improved finances for the state, the lives and sustainability of ordinary Nigerians, especially those with disabilities, have been severely impacted.
To bridge this significant gap, the Federal Governmentallocated N5 billion to each state and the Federal Capital Territory to procure food items to be distributed to the impoverished citizens in their respective regions.
Moreover, states like Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe, which have been profoundly affected by insurgency in the northeast, are facing increased hardships exacerbated by the subsidy removal. The governments of these states have already initiated the distribution of palliatives.
In contrast, the Oyo state government has taken a more proactive approach. Governor Seyi Makinde has introduced a comprehensive program, the Sustainable Actions for Economic Recovery (SAfER), designed to provide a softer landing for the “poorest of the poor” and the most vulnerable members of our society.
This package includes measures to alleviate transportation difficulties for civil servants and residents through the Omi Tuntun bus transits, extend health insurance coverage to 100,000 individuals, enhance the productivity of 10,000 farmers, and support young business owners and youths.
However, it is worth noting that this generous package, like similar initiatives in other states, does not account for including people with disabilities in its offerings, leaving more than 27 million Nigerians marginalised and unattended to. This exclusion isolates them in their communities and leaves them under the rain at this critical time.
Considering that individuals with disabilities often face greater challenges and adversities than others, the failure to prioritise their inclusion in these programs raises serious concerns. Disabilities often lead to increased risks of poverty due to limited employment and educational opportunities, lower wages, and higher living costs associated with disabilities. When a national relief effort fails to address the needs of people with disabilities, it warrants a closer and more critical examination.
Should we be worried?
Florence Atah, a disability inclusion advocate, tells Prime Progress that her organisation is conducting a survey on whether or not any persons with disabilities have benefited from the palliative packages.
“We have hired a consultant to help us out, and the survey is running. Even though I cannot categorically say whether or not the PWDs are getting access to the palliative until the result of the survey is out. There’s a negative precedence”, she says.
Similarly, in Lagos, Rasheed Owonifaari of Kudirat Initiative for Democracy said that despite the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, flagging off the distribution of food items as a palliative measure to cushion the effects of fuel subsidy removal on residents of the state today, there has been zero modalities on how PWDs will assess palliative.
“We are planning to commence robust negotiation with the government,” he said, hoping that the government across all levels in the country will get to a point where PWDs will be at the top of their minds.
Over the years, people with disabilities have been the least benefactors of the country’s various national social protection programmes. The gap in inclusion has become so wide that an observer would think they do not deserve a sense of belonging in social protection policies, programmes and processes.
In May 2021, about 90%of PWDs across Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, and Zamfara States had little knowledge of social protection programmes. More worryingly, less than 1% of PWDs benefited from state and national social protection programmes.
Meanwhile, when discussing vulnerable people, even though PWDs are not the only class necessary to be captured, they are the largest chunk of the group.
Now that neither the federal nor state governments have indicated their assistance will reach them, the country leaves many holes unfilled.
Oyo state government repeatedly gave civil servants assurance with its SAFER programme. But it failed to tell whether its disability-non-compliant Omi Tuntun buses will be put together in ways accessible for PWDs or where they will get their slice of the foodstuff it promised.
In a country such as Nigeria, where equity is hard to come by, the government must consider the PWDs in their programmes as they do while seeking their votes.