Akande* is a 23-year-old Nigerian who lives in the Sango Ota area of Ogun State. At 11, Fatimah lost the use of her legs to muscular dystrophy – a condition marked by progressive weakening and wasting of the muscles– and therefore, required a wheelchair for movement.
Despite losing 7 years of school to the genetic condition, Fatimah did not give up her hope of earning her Bachelor’s degree. Considering accessibility, ease and many other factors, she applied to the National Open University of Nigeria in 2021 where she is currently studying Mass Communication.
Although Fatimah primarily opted for the distance learning mode of education because of her situation, still she experiences hardship whenever she has to show up in school or go out for other purposes. The roads in Nigeria are not built to support her condition and that of hundreds of people living with disabilities in Nigeria.
According to a Facebook post by Fatimah, she not only spends a lot on transportation when she has to attend social gatherings, but she is also subjected to the trauma of having to think deeply before going out. “Honestly, there’s a need for ramps in most Lagos and Ogun locations and even the country in general – schools, hangout spots, houses, banks and many more like that.
I’m tired of thinking deeply before going to places because of limitations and restrictions,” Fatimah wrote. For her and hundreds of people living in Nigeria, the conventional roads are no roads for them, as long as they do not have ramps and other facilities that make them accessible. Although open and in business, centres and places without ramps are closed for people living with disabilities.
The Nigerian Road & People Living with Disabilities in Nigeria
According to 2020 statistics by Dataphyte, Nigeria has an estimated figure of 25 million persons with disabilities (PWDs). This means about one in every eight Nigerians live with at least one form of disability, most commonly visual impairment, hearing impairment, physical impairment, intellectual impairment, and communication impairment.
These people often require extra hands, whether from people, machines or materials to aid their daily activities. Connecting Fatimah’s story to these figures means about 25 million Nigerians pay more for transportation when they have to go out and 1 in 8 Nigerians do not like going out because there are no roads for them.
The type of road network often designed and constructed in Nigeria include private drive pathways, two-lane highways, dual carriageways, expressway, federal, state and district. All of which are designed without inclusion in mind, making it hard for PWDs to attempt using them without help.
Fatimah who further explained her plight mentioned how going out for PWDs costs a lot in Nigeria if they are to be comfortable. “Sometimes I spend 15,000 on a taxi to and fro from Ogun to Lagos mainland, not island oo (sic).
I don’t stay in a far location in Ogun State, I live in one, very close to Bells University and Covenant University (if anyone knows there, you’ll know I live very close to Lagos). Yet, sometimes if I’m going to my school in Victoria Island, I will spend 20k to and fro in a day because the cabman will have to wait till I finish what I’m doing and I will have to leave home at 5 am to meet up.” she lamented.
The Way Forward
In an attempt to lessen her burden and that of others in positions like hers, Fatimah has been writing to car-hailing services to move their services to her location. But so far, her attempt has not been successful. On the other hand, the 2019 Disability Law which seems to provide for the ease of PWDs has not been accepted by many states, and even in states that have signed it, enforcement is low. The Act prohibits all forms of discrimination against persons with disabilities, provides for a five-year transitional period within which public buildings, structures or automobile are to be modified to be accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities, and provides that before a public structure is constructed, its plans shall be inspected by relevant authorities to ensure that the plan conforms with the building code. This makes it glaring that although PWDs are suffering, laws which have been created to protect them are not being enforced
*Mariam Hamzat, a freelance journalist, is a student of Ladoke Akintola University
Photo credit: PT