The Centre for Citizens With Disability (CCD) has demanded inclusion of Persons living with Disabilities (PWDS) in Electoral processes in Lagos and the country.
The Executive Director of CCD, Mr David Anyaele, made the call at a two-day programme on Capacity Building On Equal Voting For People With Disabilities (PWDs) in Lagos on Thursday.
It had the theme: “ Building an All-Inclusive electioneering Process in Lagos State’’.
Anyaele, in his welcome address, said that since 2019, CCD had been making efforts for election management and stakeholders to see the need for PWDs to participate in the electoral process.
He reviewed CCD’s pre-2023 national elections courtesy visit to INEC at its Yaba office in October 2021, in which CCD demanded PWDs inclusion in the electoral process.
It had also demanded that INEC provides PWDs with all the necessary assistive materials to enhance their access to voting in the 2023 elections.
Anyaele said that contrary to INEC’s claims of having provided the necessary materials for PWDs, it failed to deliver on its promises.
According to him, INEC did not provide adequate braille ballot papers and magnifying glasses for both the visually impaired and the albinos.
“Also, some of INEC’s adhoc staff were not conversant with the devices and even unsympathetic to PWDs; and that as a result, made them to be disenfranchised.
“We are concerned about the struggles PWDs go through in their efforts to participate in the electoral process.
“Our individual accessibility to social infrastructures and the awareness of our rights as PWDs remain very low.
“During the last local government elections that was held in Lagos State, PDWs struggled much more.
“Therefore, in order to minimise the challenges we had, with support from Voice Oxfam Nigeria, we are engaging the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) to ensure equal voting access to PWDs and that nobody is left behind in the electoral process for reasons of disability,’’ he said.
Anyaele said that Lagos State had no fewer than two million PWDs living in more than 20 Local Government Areas and 37 LCDAs.
However, he decried PWDs’ low active participation and inclusion in the political and electoral activities of the State.
“We have Lagos State Disability Laws which provide PWDs the right to participate in political activities.
“But, we cannot participate in political activities if the election management agencies and stakeholders do not understand their role and responsibility in operationalising their services to ensure all inclusivity for PWDs.
“Therefore, what we are doing today is to build their capacity on equal voting access; to know their role and responsibility in enhancing access to polling units for PWDs,” he said.
The two-day capacity building program exposed participants to: ‘The Issues Around Elections and Disability’, ‘The Models of Disability’, ‘The terminologies Of Disability’, ‘The Constituents of Inclusive Electoral Process’ and ‘Group Work’.
He expressed hope that at the end of the training, participants would have acquired the skills to withstand and make sure that PWDs achieved equal and active participation in the Lagos State electoral process.
He re-emphasised CCD’s commitment in supporting INEC to ensure equal voting access for all and to provide support for PWDs to interface and interact with the election body, not just at the state level, but also at the local government level.
He called on the government to make allocations for PWDs in the 2024 national budget.
Luca, the Head of Unit for Civil Society Organisation and Disability Desk Officer for INEC, Lagos State, represented the Head of Department, Mrs Tabiese.
He said that INEC was happy with the training initiative by the CCD and described it as a welcome development, an eye opener and sensitisation for participants.
“INEC is particularly interested in partnering with stakeholders so that we can create access and inclusion for all persons in the electoral process.
“The CCD works in regards to creating access for PWDs, which is one of the key areas that INEC focuses on.
“Therefore, with LASIEC’s involvement in this training, inclusive participation by PWDs will be broadened so that it gets to the grassroots as it is expected,’’ he said.
He also commented on the safety of PWDs in the last elections, and INEC’s effort to provide and make the necessary assistive electoral materials available and accessible for them.
Luca said that the issue of insecurity during the elections was a general problem, which affected not only the PWDs, but also non-PWDs as well.
Contrary to Anyaele’s views that INEC failed to provide assistive materials for PWDs during the elections, Luca claimed that INEC actually did make adequate provisions for assistive materials for PWDs to ease their access to voting.
He said some PWDs might have been disenfranchised for some reasons.
“Concerning security, it was a general thing. All over the federation, there were pockets of violence taking place. This did not affect only the PWDs, but also the election as a whole.
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“And concerning provisions for the PWDs, we have disaggregated data for PWDs, and it was that data that we used to provide the assistive devices for all the polling units that the PWDs were going to use to cast their votes.
“So by that, it’s not every polling unit that had those assistive devices; it is only those polling units where we had PWDs voting that we provided those devices,’’ Luca said.
He, however, admitted that some of the assistive devices were not adequately deployed as expected because of the logistics problems experienced by INEC during the elections.
He also expressed optimism that INEC would improve on providing assistive devices in subsequent elections in order to capture more PWDs in its database.
He said that it was currently conducting an external review of the just concluded 2023 elections.
In a goodwill message, the General Manager of Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA), Mr Oluwadamilare Ogundairo, through a representative, assured CCD of full support in its quest for inclusion and active participation in the electoral process of Lagos State.
Emphasising on ‘Social Inclusion’, Ogundairo said the essence was to bring everyone together on the same page for effective collaborations and inclusive participation without any form of discrimination.