Gyang Bere, Jos
It was a long session of lamentations and agony recently, as members of the Amputees Coalition of Nigeria held its one day National Conference in Jos, Plateau State.
The national conference, which had participants mostly from the northern states as well as Anambra and Ekiti States, was designed to bring out amputees from their various enclaves to share experiences on how life has been treating them and how they could get over their personal challenges.
The programme started with a dancing competition between the male and female participants. But it soon became an emotional affair when participants started narrating their personal ordeals.
Sadly, most of the amputees lost their limbs in painful circumstances through ghastly accidents, diabetes, communal crises, Boko Haram and herdsmen attacks that affected some parts of the country.
The story of a 16-year-old girl, Mary Fidelis moved many people into tears. It was heart-touching as she lost one of her lower limbs during an encounter with killer herdsmen in Ajaragu village in Nasarawa State.
Mary said the herdsmen invaded her home in the night she and other residents slept. She said her mum managed to escape but she was left inside the house.
She said: “It was at the age of two that I lost my left leg. I didn’t know what actually happened because I was too small then. My parents told me that it was Fulani herdsmen that invaded our house trying to kill all of us in the night.”
“My mother escaped from the room and left me sleeping but when the killer herdsmen came into the house, they searched and found me sleeping on the bed. They used a cutlass and chopped off one of my legs.
“They left me in the pool of my blood believing that I would die, but God rescued me. I was crying and people came to my rescue. I was taken to the hospital and the leg was amputated.”
Mary, who wept while narrating the story, said she had no regret having one leg. She believed that with little support, she would realise her life’s dream.
The lady, a JSS two student of Iwene International School Ajaraguta, Nasarawa State, expressed optimism that she could do what people with both limbs do.
Mary was also sure that she would get married one day. She expressed strong desire to get marry after her studies, noting that having one limb was no barrier to success in life.
Another participant was 13-year-old Anna Emmanuel, who lost her leg in a motorcycle accident in 2011 while returning from school.
She noted that having one limb was devastating and demoralizing but vowed not to allow her current situation pull her down from the ladder of success.
Anna, who hails from Kaduna State, expressed determination to make a difference, even in the midst of her current challenges. Her challenge never stopped her from going to school, she noted.
She is currently a JSS one student of Marvelous Grace Primary School Kaduna, Kaduna State. Her expectation, she said, is that she would grow and attain the peak of whatever career path she chooses to tread.
“I had the accident in 2011 while I was returning on a motorcycle from school. The bike was crushed by a car, and my leg was damaged. My parents took me to a local treatment centre, but the situation degenerated.
“I was transferred to a hospital where the doctors recommended amputation because the leg was decaying every day, and that was how the leg was cut off. But I don’t have regrets today despite the fact that there are things that I used to do that I can’t do anymore.”
Mamuda Haruna, a seven-year-old boy lost his hand when he fell down from a fence while playing with his friends. His parents took him to a herbal doctor who fixes broken limbs, but after he was said to have been healed, the leg was decaying inside without their knowledge.
When that was discovered, Mamuda was taken to the hospital and the leg was amputated because it was already affecting his entire body. He hails from Bauchi State and goes to school but find it difficult to write.
For Garos Gyang, it was a motor accident that caused her current state. The accident claimed the lives of other women but she survived with a fracture. Garos in 2015 had boarded a car to the farm to help her Pastor but had accident while returning home.
Among those who survived the accident, she was the only one who had her hand amputated. But she insisted that she had no regrets over the incident, because she believed she was working for God.
“We when to help our pastor in his farm and when we were returning, we had an accident that claimed the lives of two women. I had a fracture on my hand that led to the amputation of the hand but I am happy I am alive,” she said.
The story of the National Secretary of Amputees Coalition of Nigeria (ACON), Gorge Dominic Anwayi was also sad. He fell from a tree after school while he was playing with his friends.
He was acting as a NEPA official climbing from one tree to the other, pretending to be fixing electric cables. Suddenly, the tree fell while he was on top, and his hand was broken. He was taken to a traditional doctor but the hand couldn’t heal.
It was decaying until doctors in the hospital recommended that the hand should be amputated. Gorge didn’t allow his situation to depress him. He came out of it and proceeded with his academics. And now, he can offer professional expertise in different fields.
He bemoaned the predicament of amputees in the country and said the Federal Government has not fully implemented the Disability Rights Law that was signed recently by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He acknowledged the appointment of few people with disabilities by President Buhari but said that thousands of people were dying in silence due to lack of mobility, physical accessibility and stigmatisation in their places of unemployment.
Anwayi lamented that most amputees in the country were usually left to suffer. He called on President Buhari to ensure that the disability rights law was fully implemented to provide inclusiveness for all physically challenged persons in the country.
“We are all aware of the Disability Rights Law that was signed by President Muhammadu Buhari. But it is not just the signing of the bill into law that matters but implementing the law to the fullest. Up till now we are having issues and challenges despite the fact that the law has been passed.
“Government needs to really come in strongly and seriously to ensure that the law is fully implemented. Disability is not a charity issue. You are not trying to help people. No, it is the duty of government to take responsibility of the welfare of the citizens, including amputees. They must be included in all government programmes. That is what we call inclusion.”
He said the physically challenged are embedded with special gifts which, if given the opportunity, will generate huge revenues for the country.
Anwayi noted that over 500 people with amputees from most states of the North came for the conference and encouraged them not to limit themselves by their predicament but come out to exercise their rights.
He lamented that most amputees could not afford artificial limbs because of the financial implications. He said some of the artificial limbs were sold for between N300,000 and N500,000, adding that some even cost more than N1 million.