By Oswald Agwu
People with Disabilities in Ebonyi State have decried the high level of disenfranchisement of their members by the Independent National Electoral Commission in the 2023 general election in Nigeria.
The group spoke Wednesday through its Woman Leader, Ugochinyere Ugwu, in an interaction with Inclusive News Network (INN) correspondent in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital.
Ugwu, who described the 2023 polls as total rejection for people with disabilities, especially women, alleged that INEC skillfully excluded them from the voting process by failing to create the conducive environment for their members to participate.
She noted that apart from widespread violence before and during the polls which constituted a discouragement, its members with hearing, sight and mobility impediments were not provided for in terms of logistics and proper guidance.
Although Ugwu commended INEC, for training their blind members on usage of Braille version of some voting materials prior to the elections, she regretted that the Commission denied them participation by not providing the promised necessary facilities to enable them vote.
Ugwu further explained: “In the local government area where I observed for instance, the polling boots were located on high pedestals (staircases) where Persons with disabilities found it difficult to access.
“The Deaf persons who were supposed to exercise their rights of franchise according to their conscience were denied the chance because there was no interpreter; someone to communicate them on happenings at the boot.
“The fact that they were not carried along was an emotional scare.
“During the process, INEC did some trainings for the blind persons on how to use Braille version of voting materials, but to our greatest surprise, when we got to the polling boots, we did not see anything like that.
“The blind persons who came out to vote were stranded because there were no Braille version as promised.
“That is why I said it was a total rejection for us.”
The disability women’s leader urged Nigeria Government and the INEC to begin early enough to fashion out ways of taking care of specific needs of all social groups in next elections in the country.
“We are asking for inclusion in the whole electoral process and procedure come 2027 and beyond”, Ugwu stressed.