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Economic Crisis Renders PWDs Jobless in Niger

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Economic Crisis Renders PWDs Jobless in Niger

Barira Yakubu, a physically challenged woman in Minna, Niger State, could not imagine that her multiple, small-scale businesses would stop sustaining her as prices of goods began skyrocketing at the start of 2024.

“I am into many things like soap making and production of local spaghetti from flour, yet I am in a harsh economic condition just like others,” she told FIJ.

The mother of seven noted that she felt so sad seeing children begging under the sultry sun when they should be within the four walls of a classroom. “Some of them here don’t even go to school,” she said.

Although her children attend a nearby public school, her inability to pay their school fees as and when due forced the teachers to send them home oftentimes. “Even report card issuance fees, I can’t afford, and this means they will not attend school during that time,” Yakubu told FIJ.

“Those of us at home are not happy seeing those going out to beg; it is disheartening to see them begging daily. [I’m] appealing to businessmen to slash their prices. We are in the holy month of Ramadan, and no matter how small you reduce your products’ prices, it will be helpful.

Following the rising cost of living in the country, locals have trooped out in different states to protest unaffordable food items as a result of government’s economic policies. In February, FIJ detailed the outcry of some angry residents of Niger State and also spotlighted the story of internally displaced people in Sokoto camps, who survived on garri blended with onions.

For many less-privileged Nigerians who are left with no option but street begging, the brouhaha brought several headaches for them. FIJ can establish that the rising cost of living has made life harder for persons living with disabilities (PWDs) amidst low or zero support from authorities.

When this reporter asked how Yakubu was coping with feeding at the height of the economic downturn, she responded that she was just “waiting for a miracle”.

“As I am talking to you right now, I don’t have anything to put in my  mouth. I have not eaten; all that I have is a half mudu of garri, which I just sent someone to get for me,” she said.

“I wish to get a better means of livelihood. Tell the government to include us, beggars and the vulnerable, [in their welfare system] so that we can stop this street begging.”

BEGGING AS LAST RESORT’

After a sudden end of his dry season farming due to inadequate capital and low inputs, Musa Adamu took to begging as a last resort to feed a family of about 13.

Not sure if it was connected to hunger in the land, he noted that some of his children had died. As he tried to break free from grief, the economic crisis took him.

“You can walk round the whole town without getting something that is tangible when you go begging nowadays, but we have wives and children to feed. There are so many things for us,” Adamu told FIJ while narrating that things were no longer at ease for him and others.

“Someone I know divorced his wife because he could no longer carry the financial burden since he had no work. We don’t have a monthly salary here with any dime. It has to be someone that gives it to us.”

The 65-year-old farmer-turned-beggar said that as much as he loved to go back to farming to raise his standard of living, low support from the government discouraged him.

“I have to always beg before having something for the family. Before, I had a farm where I planted everything, including rice and maize, but it stopped five years ago because I had no money to keep it running,” he said.

“Sometimes, we sleep with empty stomachs and I ask my children to bear with the situation. We can have food for the morning but nothing left for noon or dinner.”

Speaking with FIJ, Umar Isah, a 45-year-old resident of Gidan Guragu (House of the Crippled), said he could no longer afford a full cup of rice as his family was surviving by grace.

“I don’t go to the market anymore. I weep seeing how things are for our people. I ran a small provision store before but I had to close it down when the economic hardship hit us harder,” he told FIJ.

“I have four children and we eat by availability of what we have and not what we want.”

Usman Muhammed, chairman, Spinal Cord Injury Association of Nigeria, Niger State Chapter, looked visibly disappointed at how people living with disabilities were being treated by the government of the day.

“Our leaders have forgotten that they will be asked on the day of judgement how they treated those under them,” he muttered in Hausa.

“Everyone feels the hard situation, let alone the disabled, but we don’t have anything worth doing except begging. Even where you used to go and beg, they don’t give anymore now.”

The chairperson said the extension of job opportunities to PWDs would breed self-reliance among the community members.

“Life is extremely difficult now because you return with low commodities despite the huge amount you take to the market. We have our sons and daughters who are educated, but the government hasn’t given them jobs.”

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