Nigeria is a country of unequal opportunities for its citizens.
At least, that’s the story of Ayodele Awobona, a 40-something years old native of Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State. Ayo, as he is fondly called, has been injured on his spinal cord for 17years due to a ghastly motor accident thereby limiting his ability to do certain things.
Ayo isn’t an illiterate. He studied Computer Science at the Federal Polytechnic, Offa before the accident. In order not to beg for his livelihood, Ayo wrote books for pupils in Nursery schools.
His books were currently approved by the governments of Lagos, Oyo and Ogun state for use in private and public schools.
Sometime in early March this year, Ayo wheeled into the premises of LAPO Microfinance Bank, Ijebu Ode to seek a loan. As fate will have it, the bank is housed in a one-storey building.
Ayo decided to first send his friends upstairs to set the grounds for the loan discussion because of the stress of being carried up the stairs.
If only Ayo had stayed at home that fateful day. He would have been spared the humiliation he suffered at the hands of fellow human beings. Ayo’s friends got upstairs and asked to see the manager of the bank. The manager wasn’t in, so another highly placed staff of the bank attended to Ayo’s friends. After they stated their business, the following conversation occurred:
Staff: So, who exactly wants the loan?
Ayo’s Friend: He is downstairs
Staff: Then why didn’t he come upstairs himself?
Ayo’s Friend: He is on a wheelchair.
Staff: I’m sorry. We don’t grant loans to disabled people. It’s against the bank’s policy.
That was how the conversation ended and the loan request was rudely rejected. The request wasn’t rejected because he lacked collateral or because he had no purpose for it. It was rejected just because he was disabled.
To further clarify the rude response from the Ijebu Ode office of the bank, Ayo further approached a senior marketer of the bank in Ago Iwoye who also corroborated what they earlier heard. “I’m sorry sir, if you get to our office they won’t grant your request seeing you in this chair, I’m sorry we don’t grant loan to disabled” was also his response.
The Nigerian Disability Bill, which previous governments refused to sign into law, would have appropriately catered for this injustice meted unto Ayo. Part 1 of the Nigerian Disability Bill clearly states that the corporate organization (which is LAPO Microfinance Bank) would have been liable to a fine of 1,000,000Naira and would have given Ayodele the chance to sue LAPO MFB to high heavens.
Either way, shouldn’t LAPO MFB who says they are committed to alleviating poverty grant loans to deserving ones or should Ayo’s disability make him any less deserving? LAPO MFB describes itself as a pro-poor financial institution committed to the social and economic empowerment of low-income households through provision of access to responsive financial services on a sustainable basis”. This cruel policy of theirs totally negates what they seem to stand for. Ayo isn’t looking for cheap charity but a way to publish en-masse books that have been duly approved in three major states of Nigeria.
Government patronage in states that have approved the books will go a long way to save Ayo of such embarrassing situation in future. Also, it won’t be a bad idea if any individual or organization will partner Ayo in his book venture, at least it would be a win-win situation for both Ayo and any investor in his project and they would have collectively put to shame those who look down on people living with disability.
I end this article with a call on the Nigerian Government to swiftly accent to the Nigerian Disability Bill and protect the dignity of over 22million Nigerian People with Disabilities (PWD).
Contact Ayodele Awobona on Facebook : https://web.facebook.com/AyoAwobona