Kaduna COVID-19 Lockdown, People Living with Disabilities and Inclusion

By SMITH WAYA

Before the index case of Corona virus (Covid-19) in Nigeria, the Kaduna state government held a public hearing on the proposed Kaduna state social protection policy, in line with the administration’s slogan of putting the people first. The Joint National Associations of Person with Disability(JONAPWD), Kaduna chapter, as the umbrella body for people living disabilities in the State, were invited to present a position paper on their expectations of the new policy.

The Disability Community took advantage of the town-hall meeting to appeal to the state government to work assiduously towards reducing poverty and hunger in their household. The Governor, Mallam Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai, assured them of the state government’s commitment in ensuring that no one is left behind especially people living with disabilities.

Incidently, as the State government is in the process of developing its social protection policy framework, the Governor ordered the restriction on movement in the state in a bid to curb the spread of deadly COVID-19. Consequently, the state government released the sum of five hundred million naira (N500m) for the procurement and distribution of relief materials to vulnerable groups to reduce their suffering due to the lockdown.

Upon receiving this news, many were excited that the vulnerable groups, like the people living with disabilities, would be rescued from extreme hardship compounded by the necessary lockdown. However, during the distribution, many of them were excluded from the list of beneficiaries generated by the cluster committees.It seems that the hardworking palliative committee, headed Secretary to State government, forgot about the persons living with disabilities in the State.

Also, the absence of the civil society organizations (CSOs) in most of the cluster committee set up to identify beneficiaries and distribute the relief materials also contributed to the exclusion of the PWDs. The CSOs under the Technical Working Group of OGP have been working with government for the past two years, in a bid to ensure transparency, accountability and restore the trust between government and citizens.

However, the state government either by omission or commission did not adequately carry CSOs along in the 8 pilot local governments; presumably, this is because the palliative committee did not recognize CSOs as the bridge between the government and the people. The CSOs would have ensured that the Disability community, which is one of the most organized among the vulnerable groups in the state, with clusters in all the wards in the state, are not largely excluded.

The question on the lips of many observers is: if majority of the disabilities, the elderly and the widows did not get the food stuff, then who are those vulnerable people that benefited from the N500 million naira worth of food stuff in eight local government council areas?

Collaborating with CSOs, the media and other development partners, especially those ones working with the vulnerable groups in the state such as the Kaduna Social Protection Accountability Coalition (KADSPAC), OGP Technical working Group, Save the Children, Partnership to Engage, Reform & Learn (PERL) and other interested group’s or individuals will go a long way in ensuring that the real vulnerable groups benefit and the government gets the credit.

However, the Governor el-Rufai led government must be commended for its proactive measures in curbing the spread ofCOVID-19, and the good intentions towards the vulnerable groups in the state despite some shortcomings largely by some of the cluster committees in ensuring adequate inclusion of PWDs as beneficiaries.

As an Active citizen that believes in good governance, I advocate that the state government should review the concluded pilot phase by involving CSOs and media to make the process more equitable, transparent and accountability. These groups and media working around social inclusion will surely support the government in identifying the real vulnerable group’s and monitor the whole process to ensure it is result-driven.

Smith Waya
Head – Social Inclusion & Gender Equity
Coalition of Associations for Leadership, Peace, Empowerment & Development (CALPED)

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