Barivule Goni is a physically challenged staff of Intels Nigeria Limited. A graduate of Economics from the University of Port Harcourt, Goni shares her experience working with the Nigeria’s oil and gas logistics giant. Excerpts:
Please tell us your name and a bit about yourself.
My name is Barivule Angela Goni. I am a woman with physical disability of the legs caused by polio few months before my first birthday. I am from Rivers State, a graduate of Economics from the University of Port Harcourt and a likeable personality.
How long have you worked with INTELS?
I have worked with INTELS for three years and six months. Although, I did a one year Graduate Trainee with INTELS and after successful completion I was immediately employed.
When did you become a beneficiary of the INTELS scholarship for physically challenged children?
I became a beneficiary of the INTELS scholarship in 2005 – the year I got admission after presenting a proof of my admission.
How long did the scholarship last?
The scholarship lasted for four years – the duration of my course at the university.
What difference did the scholarship make in your life as a person?
The scholarship made a lot of difference in many areas of my life. Most importantly, it enabled me to fulfill my dream of becoming a graduate. I was almost losing hope of going to the university due to lack of finance but the scholarship made this dream a reality. It took care of my tuition and daily needs while in school so that I was able me to meet the day-to-day demands of the school, which as a person with disability would have been difficult; for example, paying my transport fares to attend lectures.
How has it been working in INTELS with the physical challenge that you have considering that Nigeria as a country and many businesses in the country have little or no regard at all for the physically challenged?
INTELS has created an accessible platform that enables me carry out my job/responsibilities daily without hindrances. Though I work on the third floor, I have not had difficulties or been in need of human help getting there despite the fact that I am physically challenged. This is great. Moreover, this is only seen in overseas where the physically challenged do not have to be assisted to work. INTELS has created an inclusive platform, which the government and other businesses (especially multinational companies) in this country have failed to do. For many companies, investing in the lives of those living with disabilities is wasteful. They would rather give working aids (wheelchair, crutches and or walking stick) as the case may be that are of low standards to them or share a few foodstuff during festive periods occasionally but INTELS has shown that people living with disabilities are employable and have done everything to ensure that they are happy in the community.
In the past, physically challenged persons are cheated out of their own share of the resources of the land and are seen as beggars and of no use thus, the universities and other public buildings are inaccessible to them but INTELS is changing all that through their scholarship and employment of the physically challenged.
One thing worthy of mention here is that I am not treated by my colleagues with pity just because I am physically challenged. I am accepted and respected as everyone else and I am allowed to carry out my daily task according to the job description for my level.
To say INTELS has changed my life is an understatement. INTELS has greatly changed my life and it is getting better and better. I rise up daily with a sense of purpose and hope. I know that by the grace of God all my dreams will come true. I own and ride my car thus, mobility problem solved. I pay my house rent – shelter issues taken care of. I feed myself, take care of my personal needs and contribute my quota in any association or social group I belong.
In addition, I have been able to assist my siblings and take care of my parents in my little way. I am not a burden or liability to family but an asset, someone that has prospects. Thus, dependency issue solved and I am treated with respect in my family and among friends. What can I say, “Thank you INTELS”.
How many physically challenged people work in INTELS at present at what is the company’s policy towards them?
At present, there are 13 physically challenged persons working with INTELS and one is still on training. The company gives them all the necessary support and respect deserving of a human being. They are treated with dignity.
Tell us more about the company’s CSR, especially as it regards helping the less privileged and physically challenged children in the society.
The Corporate Social Responsibility of INTELS as regards helping the less privilege and physically challenged children in the society takes care of education, which span from primary to tertiary education and, assistance in the provision of artificial limb for amputee, corrective surgery for polio affected children. Amongst all that, they ensure the employment of the physically challenged. I think INTELS understands that people living with disability are humans and a part of the society; that, they too have something to offer and when given the opportunity can do great things. That is why it has taken its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) beyond what is known and seen in Nigeria. Indisputably, INTELS is the only company that not only has a growing number of physically challenged persons on its staff list but also has been consistent since the commencement of its scholarship in 2003.
They have done what I call “true empowerment”. That is, challenging the person to live out his or her God-given purpose by creating an opportunity and an enabling environment. The company has ensured the education of many persons living with disability from primary to tertiary level without financial hindrance as most of us are from poor backgrounds and can only dream of being educated but could not afford it due to lack of finance.
I must say here that for many companies this is a waste of time and scare resources and would bring in no profit. They would rather sponsor beauty pageants and all kinds of entertainment in order to promote their brands and company rather than carry out true CSR especially one in which the government of the day has no interest; one that would truly change the lives of the less privileged. Even when they do, they are not sustainable as INTELS which has done it for more than fourteen years and even through the economic recession or meltdown, ensures that lives are change through its CSR.
What are your hopes and aspiration as a person who has benefitted tremendously from INTELS’ benevolence?
My hope as someone who has benefitted tremendously from INTELS is that government should appreciate what INTELS has been able to contribute in the community and create laws that will encourage companies and businesses to create accessible platforms for persons living with disabilities so that many can be employed too because they have been neglected for so long.
In addition, government should make public places accessible to the physically challenged so that they can be informed and productive. For me, I aspire to travel and see different places and experience many cultures of the world. I also want to inspire and encourage younger generations of persons living with disabilities to embrace education because it is their right.