Peter Lumati is a physically-challenged person and a staff of INTELS Nigeria Limited. In this interview, he encourages persons with physical disabilities to move beyond self-pity and develop themselves so as to live full lives, and commended INTELS for providing a conducive atmosphere for persons like him to work and thrive. Excerpts:
Please tell us your name and a bit about yourself
My name is Peter Lumati. I hail from Ogbum-Nu-Abali Community in Port-Harcourt Local Government Area of Rivers State of Nigeria. I am a graduate of Economics, Abia State University. I was employed in Intels Nigeria Limited on 1st of April 2004. I started as an Assistant Supervisor and rose to the Principal Supervisory Position and presently I am the Principal Learning and Development Supervisor in Human Resources Department of the company. I am happily married to Darlingtina and I have a handsome son by name Timothy.
How long have you worked in INTELS?
By April 1st 2018 I will be 14 years in Intels Nigeria Limited.
How did you become a staff of INTELS?
It was never easy in life as a physically challenged man in Nigeria. After a University Degree Programme in 2002, I approached the Religious Sisters of Charity in charge of Compassion Centre for the physically-challenged in Rivers State should there be an opportunity for job placement. Indeed, that was how I became fortunate to have a job placement in Intels Nigeria Limited through them, up till date. I think I am very fortunate.
How has it been working in INTELS with your physical challenge, considering that Nigeria as a country and many businesses in the country have little or no regard for the physically-challenged?
There has been equal treatment of staff in the company. Intels has continued to show sensitivity to the plights of the physically-challenged persons through the provision of welfare, easy accessibility to any offices within Intels working environment etc. It is also true that this segment of the society does not only suffer discrimination/stigmatisation from privileged members of the society but Intels Nigeria Limited is in a different world, the best place to be.
What specific provisions has INTELS made to make work easy for you in the organisation?
As earlier mentioned, they provided ramps for easy accessibility. Secondly, as you know, to climb into a bus is mostly an exhausting and time-consuming task for physically challenged persons, which is not appreciated by commercial operators. Keeping safe balance on a motorcycle is almost impossible because of the physical deformities, therefore, physically-challenged persons may have to take commercial taxi transport (‘drop’) to and from certain pick-up points on their way to work or home.
However, the Management of Intels Nigeria Limited is ‘seriously’ considering a proposal on special transportation scheme to lighten the physical burden because such sponsorship would result in easy movement to and from work and would greatly assist in improving productivity of the physically-challenged employee. Let me also add, the company has made a provision for car park for few of us who are driving to work, this is in line with international standard and you can hardly find such in other workplaces in Nigeria.
How really has INTELS changed your life?
It has been a tremendous change! Firstly, Intels equipped me with lot of skills to make a good professional, specifically in Human Resources. Today, I am a happily married man with a son, living in a personally built apartment. I also own a self-driven car and at least attain a minimum standard of living etc. Thanks to Intels.
Are there discriminations in the workplace?
There are no discriminations towards any physically-challenged persons working in Intels Nigeria. Honestly, the workplace attitude or put differently, the general attitude of employees working in Intels Nigeria Limited, are exemplary and indeed professional. The supports we have in Intels working environment cannot be found anywhere else. I have personally encountered bitter experiences in life but letâ€™s leave it at that. I appreciate the staff and the management of the company.
Do you feel totally integrated with other colleagues?
Yes very well. My relationship with colleagues has been wonderful and beyond expectation. At this juncture, it will be unfair if I fail to mention by superior, Mr. Michael Ndon. We are like a family. I will always appreciate him for his care on the job and off the job.
How many physically challenged people work in INTELS at present and what is the company’s policy towards them?
Currently, 13 physically challenged persons work with Intels and one person is on Graduate Trainee programme. As a policy, Intels strongly believes that physically-challenged persons can make productive, reliable employees, despite their being handicapped, as long as the physically challenged persons are given the opportunities. Intels is capable of adjusting access facilities and job descriptions to suit the physically challenged persons proposed for training and employment. Also Intels will continue to retain the physically challenged persons in employment (and even absorb more when the need arises) and provide them adequate training at all levels for capacity building that will enable them attain any level in the company and society.
Tell us more about the company’s CSR, especially as it regards helping the less privileged and physically challenged children in the society.
In line with the company’s genuine concern on assisting those with disabilities, Intels has in March 2003 implemented a scholarship programme for the three tiers of education which the company will provide scholarships to the less privileged and handicapped namely primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education as well as Industrial Training. On successful completion of their education and training, the sponsored students will be offered training/work placement.
What are your hopes and aspirations as a person who has benefitted tremendously form INTELS’ benevolence?
I encourage other companies especially the multinationals and also the Federal, States and Local Governments to emulate the efforts of Intels Nigeria Limited by initiating meaningful programmes jeered towards enhancing the livelihood of persons living with disabilities.
Apart from work at INTELS, how has it been engaging in other social activities outside the workplace?
By the help of what I have been able to acquire as a result of working in Intels for example my car, it has been easy to attend my family meetings, club meetings as well as church programmes. In addition, having been a salary earner, engaging in social activities becomes easier. Most social activities attract one payment or the other. However, it has been very comfortable to adapt, as a result of meeting up any form of contributions or fees or levies. At times we do assemble for a picnic, in which case individuals are to contribute a specific amount to buy refreshments. Let me ask: if I had not been given opportunity to work in Intels, how possible could I have made it?
What will you consider as your most memorable experience in your adult life?
Becoming a parent has been the most life-changing event of my adult life. It has caused me to grow up and face life. It also helped me realise that I was truly meant to be a dad. I wouldn’t have considered having a wife or not to think of becoming a father if I don’t have a job. I knew exactly what the struggle was as a single physically challenged man without a job. Horrible!!! That is why I will continue to rain praises on Intels for providing me with such a quality memorable adult life.
How will you want to see physically-challenged persons treated in Nigeria, and what amenities do you think should be put in place to enhance their living standards?
Teach a child how to fish and giving fish to a child is never the same thing. Former President of World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz once said that PWDs are people with extra talents. Yet, they are often forgotten. Of course an equal and better treatment, not neglect, discrimination etc. In spite of a law, (the constitution) which recognises all people to be treated equally, how has the law been enforced? Absolutely that part of the law is neglected! The second question on amenities and enhancing standard of living is one of the biggest problems the physically challenged persons face in Nigeria. We need an Act or a Law to cover areas like; access to basic facilities, free education, medical care, employment etc. With these amenities in place, Nigeria will be a better place for the physically challenged. The area of capabilities should be considered on the physically challenged and should be treated equally with the able-bodied because both breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide.
How about legislations? Do we have enough laws in Nigeria to protect the rights of the physically challenged?
There are no laws or legislations specifically on Persons With Disabilities (PWDs). Except the current Disability Bill awaiting the President’s accent, I am using this medium to appeal to His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari to eliminate the challenges or difficulties physically challenged persons are exposed to in this country and sign into law the Disability Bill. He will make history and will never be forgotten by the physically challenged families in Nigeria.
A lot of people see physical disability as a license to be on the streets to solicit alms. What is your message to those who indulge in this?
I had approached some of them while driving along the streets of Port Harcourt. I informed them of the bad images or signals they are sending to the society on physically challenged persons. My message to them is that no matter how many years spent on the streets soliciting alms, one quarter of their financial needs cannot be met. In addition, they should engage in meaningful things like going to school and acquiring skills and a special appeal to the society to also engage them having acquired various skills.