Promoting the Political Rights of Person Living With Disability in North- Eastern Nigeria

Timothy Ali Yohanna

My personal experience in northern Nigeria where the Islamist armed group known as Boko Haram has been carrying out act of violence and terrorism for over 10 years left me with unending struggles to promote the rights of doubly vulnerable group. Apart from the unrepeatable damaged caused by the armed group, the government security forces have also committed many atrocities during the fight against Boko Haram and added to the figure of disabled populations. The horror and sufferings that many citizens have experienced has left them physically, mentally and psychologically disabled. In Nigeria, there is governmental leadership deficit and a complete lack of structural accountability in governance for the welfare of the people. The sufferings and struggle is more horrible among other poor families, especially those headed by persons living with disabilities (PLWDs). In many cases, they are completely excluded from community life and decision making. They suffer poor access to health and education, and with the impact of this conflict, their vulnerability has worsened, especially the disabled women and children across the region. As human rights activist and advocate of democracy and good governance, I got involved with their issues. In October 2018, I led a delegation of Disabled Persons from North East Nigeria to Abuja to present report on the challenges of persons living with disabilities (PLWDs) in Nigeria titled: "They called us senseless beggars", and in collaboration with Action Aid Nigerian called on the Nigerian President to accent on the Disability Act. Despite the presidential seal on Disability Act, a community of 27 millions disabled Nigerian cannot still point a reasonable number of senators, house of representatives, governors or ministers that was either elected or appointed to represents them in governance and democratic processes. Even at the local level, they are not fairly included in the political process with unequal representation in the decision-making system. Government should take immediate action and play a role in identifying steps needed to improve the participation of persons living with disabilities in governance and the democratic process through equal opportunity to contest elective positions, have access to and adequate protection before, during and after elections, and the ability and opportunity to vote during elections. The desired goal is to increase respect for equal civic rights of persons living with disabilities and improve equal opportunities for persons with special need to participate equally in the electoral and political processes in Nigeria.