With the 2023 Electoral Act provision for PWDs (clause 54), Cedar Seed Foundation in collaboration with National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) Gombe State Chapter organized the workshop to educate journalists as well as relevant stakeholders including the Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Political Parties, Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on the implementation of the electoral act and the reporting participation of citizens especially citizens with disabilities during the poll.
Speaking at the occasion, the NSCDC, Desk Officer for PWDs in Gombe State, Mr. Tukur Uthman Dada said that the corp has established a unit for the security of PWDs in the 36 states of Nigeria and the FCT. These Officers are mandated to protect the rights of PWDs, assist in PWDs accessing facilities, in times of emergency.
According to the desk officer, “officers were admonished to give listening ear to PWDs with quality time because of the potentials in the PWDs, he cites an example of a person with visual impairment who is currently writing a book about the Corp. Therefore, the state commandant has authorized him to declare to the general public that they will as a Corp protect the rights of PWDs especially in the upcoming 2023 general election.”
Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Gombe State Chapter, Chairman, Mr. Saidu Bappah Malala said the chapter is hundred percent (100%) in support of the workshop as well as the advocacy for the rights of PWDs especially in the forthcoming 2023 general election. He reiterated that the union’s doors are open to Cedar Seed Foundation and CSOs whose interest are in the area of PWDs in ensuring the inclusion of the rights for PWDs in the electoral process.
Represented by Assistant Secretary General NUJ Gombe State Chapter, Mr. Alama Kalbore, the NUJ chairman, said the marginalization of PWDs extends beyond elections into other facets of life in Nigeria like complains on inadequate health care, lack of access to public buildings and the effect of economic instability especially in Nigeria where almost half of the population lives in poverty.
Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD), represented by Alheri Nuhu appreciates the fact that Cedar Seed Foundation have broken the barrier for PWDs in years, adding that no organization in Gombe State have considered working with them inclusively and especially with INEC, because for a long time, PWDs have not being carried along.
Mr. Mohoreth Bigun INEC P.R.O Gombe State Office, during his presentation, reiterated that the INEC takes the issue of inclusion seriously because there can never be democracy without participation, which is one of the core principle of democracy and every citizen must be given the opportunity to participate in the decision-making processes and election is a decision-making process where people decides who becomes their leaders.
“When a section of the population (PWDs) is been left out, there can never be true democracy.” He said.
The INEC PRO also assured of security during election, adding that INEC holds quarterly meetings involving security personnel.
He said “everyone should be assured of security during the election for its personnel, materials and voters but most importantly, all stakeholders must play their role very well”.
“Police command have accessed the redeployment of its staff to INEC in the forthcoming election in Gombe State.”
At the end of the event, all the stakeholders pledged to participate fully in creating awareness on the citizens with disabilities engagements during and after the elections. They also agreed to be partners in progress with Cedar Seed Foundation and be available anytime they are called upon.