Dr Samuel Ankeli, the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Disability, says 25 million Nigerians are living with disabilities.
Mr Ankeli made the disclosure on Thursday in Ilorin while addressing physically challenged students of the University of Ilorin during the launch of the maiden edition of a programme titled “Ability in Disability”, organised by the students.
The presidential aide pledged to assist the university in securing hostel accommodation and special centres for its physically challenged students.
In a speech considered by many as “motivational”, Ankeli, who is also physically impaired, said the president was working hard to ensure that the rights of physically challenged persons were protected.
He said the president was keen on the Disability Act which, he said, would ensure justice and equality for those living with disabilities in the country.
According to him, it is the desire of the president that those living with disabilities are represented and are part of the social and political administration.
He said all people were born equal and urged the students to harness their abilities despite the challenges.
Mr Ankeli also urged Nigerians to support those with disabilities rather than sympathising with them.
He tasked them on hard work, saying it will bring the best out of them.
The aide harped on the imperative of having an adviser to the Kwara Government on disability for effective handling of such matters.
Earlier in his welcoming address, Prof. Sulyman Abdulkareem, the Vice-Chancellor of the institution, disclosed that the university was striving to ensure facilities were friendlier to special students.
Mr Abdulkareem, who was represented by Prof. Olayinka Buhari, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation, explained that the university’s management ensured that its Law special students were made comfortable.
He appealed to government at all tiers to ensure job availability for the students after their education.
Dr Patricia Atejere, the Acting Director, Centre for Supportive Services for the Deaf, CSSD, of the university, decried the general lack of adequate understanding of disability.
She regretted that those with disabilities were discriminated against on the basis of stereotypes.
“We must systematically deconstruct the mindset of sympathy towards persons living with disabilities.
“Sympathy isolates persons with disabilities socially; it affects their access to education, employment and hinders their self fulfilment,” she said.
She disclosed that since inception, the centre has graduated 65 hearing impaired students that from different departments of the university.
Mr Wisdom Oluwaseun, the President of Student Union Government, SUG, urged students living with disabilities not to despair but “use the ability in their disability”.