A new survey conducted across four states in northwestern Nigeria has revealed that Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) are the least benefactors of the various national social protection programmes in these states.

This is in spite of the fact that the PWDs are among the most vulnerable and neglected set of people.

The survey, which was conducted in Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano and Zamfara States, was aimed at determining the level of inclusion and participation of PWDs in social protection policies, programmes and processes.

The Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) piloted the assessment with support from Save the Children, Action Against Hunger (AHH) and Child Development Grant Programme (CDGP).

Released on Monday, the ‘situation analysis’ conducted within four months mirrored the widening gap of social inclusion for PWDs in Nigeria.

The survey mainly focused on providing insight into PWDs’ awareness and accessibility to social protection.

While about 90 per cent of PWDs across the four states have little or no knowledge of social protection programmes, leaders in disability movements in the state claim less than one per cent of PWDs are benefiting from both state and national social protection programmes, the report found.

“There is an urgent need to review and revise the life cycle of various social protection programmes to ensure equal coverage and participation of PWDs,” the executive director of IFA said, while presenting the survey findings in Abuja.

She recommended that data from the assessment should be used as an instrument to “mainstream and capture disability needs in Nigeria”.

Social Protection

Nigeria makes the highest contribution to the global poverty index.

Since 2018, Nigeria has been the nation with the highest number of people living in extreme poverty.

The World Poverty Clock 2020 revealed that more than half of Nigeria’s 200 million people are living below the international poverty line.

The implications of this are even more worrisome for already vulnerable sections of the population, mainly represented by children, women, the elderly, and PWDs.

Since the return of democracy in 1999, successive government administrations, in a bid to alleviate poverty, have introduced various intervention schemes which were unsustainable as they were terminated after each regime.

The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, in 2016, took a step to institutionalise social protection programmes and a National Social Protection Policy (NSPP) was formulated.

According to the policy, social protection is “a mix of policies and programmes designed for individuals and households throughout the life cycle to prevent and reduce poverty and socio-economic shocks by promoting and enhancing livelihoods and a life of dignity.”

Among the overarching goals of the NSPP are reducing poverty among persons vulnerable to being poor and empowering persons vulnerable to economic shocks.

One of its key mandates also includes developing a database of a national social register for poor and vulnerable households.

A key component of the policy is the National Social Investment Programmes (NSIP) which are coordinated through the National Social Investment Office (NSIO).

The NSIP consists of programmes such as the N-Power, National school feeding programme, cash transfer programmes, among others.

Neglected

While accurate data is scarcely available, a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank in 2011, said 30 million Nigerians have one form of physical disability or the other.

About 63 per cent of adults with disabilities in Nigeria are unemployed and 30 per cent out of school children are those with disabilities, according to IFA.

People with disabilities are among some of the most vulnerable people in our society due to their dependence on others for care and support or because of social isolation, their place of residence, or nature of their disability.

While anyone can experience violence, abuse, or neglect, people with disabilities are at great risk. And of all people with a disability, women and girls with disabilities are at even greater risk.

In an attempt to address the situation, last January, Nigeria signed into law the prohibition of discrimination against persons with disabilities bill, after over 20 years of advocacy by notable Nigerians including David Anyeale, a disability rights activist and Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD).

But more than two years after the signing of the law, many Nigerians living with disabilities say the journey towards legal recognition and respect by Nigeria is still long.

The government that approved the law has literally helped violate it.

Evidently, social protection programmes and policies are particularly crucial for the everyday life of PWDs.

But findings by the survey in the four focal states revealed a gross marginalisation of PWDs, coupled with poor awareness.

Even though they typically face tougher barriers to education, health, transport, and other services, the survey revealed that PWDs are continually denied social and economic inclusive opportunities.

Survey findings

The survey relied on interviews with PWDs, leaders of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs), government officials, and key informants in the four states.

According to findings, about 90 per cent of persons interviewed have little or no knowledge about social protection systems in their various states, and leaders of disability movements claim that less than one per cent of PWDs population are benefiting from both state and national social protection programs.

Even those that are benefiting, their disability extra costs are excluded; thereby making little or no impact in alleviating them out of poverty, the report said.

“For instance in Jigawa, while there is an existence of a social security scheme for PWDs, the disability eligibility determination and assessment are extremely weak and leaves room for inclusion and exclusion of errors,” the report noted, adding that the programme does not pay attention to invisible disabilities.

The N-power program is the most popular among PWDs but less than 15 per cent of persons interviewed know beneficiaries with disabilities in their state.

The National Cash Transfer Office (NCTO) in April 2020 confirmed to The ICIR that about 1,126,211 poor and vulnerable households are currently benefiting from the federal government’s conditional cash transfer.

But the survey findings showed that only 5 per cent of those interviewed know PWDs benefiting from the cash transfer.

Two months ago, the National Coordinator of the National Social Safety Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO), Apera Iorwa, said no fewer than 30 million poor and vulnerable Nigerians had been registered under the national social register (NSR) between 2018 and February 2021.

Meanwhile, out of 5.7 million poor and vulnerable Nigerians in the NSR as of December 31, 2020, less than 5 per cent are PWDs, about 274, 000 people, the survey found.

Realities at state-level

At the state level, only 10 per cent of PWDs and their leaders are aware of the social register.

Jigawa recorded the highest number of interventions PWDs are aware of and benefit from. Only the state has a specific disability grant targeting only PWDs.

All four focal states excluding Zamfara have an existing inclusive education policy, but children are still attending integrated, not inclusive schools.

In Jigawa and Kano, there are existing disability laws, while Kaduna and Zamfara laws are at legislation stages.

Beyond policy, disability-inclusive employment and economic empowerment practices are weak across the four states with Zamfara recording the worst.

Recommendations

The report recommended strongly that the data instrument used for the social register be revised to capture and mainstream disability data and possibly disability needs rather than holding a separate disability data collection process.

The improvement of the institutional capacity of Offices for Persons with Disability (OPDs) on social protection was recommended.

The report said there is an urgent need for an increased inclusive awareness and communication strategy.

To ameliorate the extra costs incurred by PWDs, the report suggested that having a standalone disability social protection scheme is the best global practice that should be adopted across states and at the national level.

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