From Tunde Omolehin
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised to enhance greater participation of persons living with leprosy and others living with disabilities in the forthcoming general elections.
The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Sokoto State, Dr. Nuar Ali gave the assurance at a sensitisation meeting with Persons affected with Leprosy in Amanawa colony of Sokoto state.
Ali said the election empire under the leadership of Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu has taken into consideration the electoral rights of every citizen and taken steps to remove barriers that restrict full participation, especially those of the disadvantaged.
“The Commission has, therefore, put in place several measures to ensure that persons with disabilities are included in the electoral process in the country,” he explained.
Also speaking, Mr. Samuel Johnson Bassey, a representative from INEC Headquarters, Abuja, said the commission remains a strong advocate in ensuring that PWDs are mainstreamed into the electoral process,” she said.
He revealed that INEC has provided various assistive technology tools such as Braille Ballot Guide, magnifying glasses among others for visually impaired persons and persons with any form of disabilities.
He assured that special queues will also be maintained on the election day to give priority to persons with disabilities to cast their ballots with dignity and privacy.
The Head, Voters Education and Publicity, Muhammad Abbani Takai, said the sensitisation meeting was organised towards ensuring that every registered voter including PWDs, exercise his or her civic rights in the election without any hindrance.
The INEC Head of Gender And Inclusivity, Hajia Aisha Abdullahi while presenting the objective of the workshop, said the meeting sought to educate the marginalised groups, especially the PWDS, on voting procedures.
Representative of The Leprosy Mission, Nigeria, Mr. Damsi Audu said the sensitisation was supported by the Australian Aid after an extensive engagement with members of the community in the state.
“In one of our engagements, we received complaints from people affected with leprosy of non participation in the electoral registration process because of their deformities.
“As a result of this, we engaged with our partners and other organizations like INEC to come and sensitise the community on how to take advantage of supportive technology provided by INEC for persons living with disabilities.
“We also orgainsed training for INEC officials to educate them about the leprosy disease and how it’s been transmitted to person.” The Leprosy Mission.
Damsi however reiterated that The Leprosy Mission would continue to engage INEC on the need for voting education among the leprosy community in the state, to enable them serve as voter educators themselves.