The Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), in collaboration with Access Nigeria Campaign have urged Nigerians to vote for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) candidates in the 2023 general election.
Ms Grace Jerry, Executive Director, IFA and Convener, Access Nigeria Campaign made the call at a news briefing commemorating the 2022 International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) in Abuja .
The IDPD has as it’s theme: `Transformative solutions for inclusive development: The role of innovation in fueling an accessible and equitable world’.
According to her, equal inclusion and participation of PWDs in political party agenda are integral to the growth and development of democracy.
She said that the organisation was delighted to record significant growth in Nigeria’s political space with an increased candidacy of PWDs running for political offices in the 2023 election in spite of some challenges.
Jerry said that 12 candidates who were PWDs running for the 2023 general elections across eight political parties were included in the final list published by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
“Among the 12 candidates, three persons representing 25 per cent are female and nine represent 75 per cent are male candidates.
“Candidates disaggregation according to political offices includes five candidates contesting for senate positions while seven candidates are for the House of Representatives,” she said.
The convener further said the group was using the IDPD to highlight the implementation of Section 54 (1) and (2) of the Electoral Act 2022, and full implementation of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disability (Prohibition) Act, 2018.
She said that this would bring a better quality of life for PWDs and greater inclusion in the electoral and governance processes.
Jerry said the aim was to ensure the effective inclusion of PWDs by providing adequate systems, structure, materials and processes that accommodated their access and participation in public life on an equal basis with other citizens.
Mr Molly Joshua, the Programme Manager, Access Nigeria Campaign said the group created programmes and innovative ideas to help PWDs attain independent life and leadership.
Joshua urged the federal and state governments that had passed and signed into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disability Act 2018 to accelerate its implementation.
“All other states government that are yet to pass and signed into law should do so before the 2023 general elections.
” All candidates for the 2023 general elections should commit and sign the Governance Agenda for Inclusive Nigeria by January 2023.
“We urge all levels of governments to engage persons with disabilities in the democratic process, to tackle discrimination, abuse, counter prejudices, protect PWDs rights and ensure inclusion in all facets of life on an equal basis with other people,” he said.
The programme manager, however, urged INEC to make necessary arrangements for citizens displaced by flooding to vote during the 2023 general elections.
”INEC should also ensure that all relevant assistive materials get to the designated polling units for use on election day,” he said.
Joshua also called on the National Emergency Management Agency to develop a PWD emergency national action plan to respond to their needs during natural disasters and climate change such as floods.
He said that the Ministry of Works and the Ministry of Education at federal and state levels should collaborate with INEC to provide ramps, rails and to flatten surfaces leading to and surrounding the polling units.
He added that this would enable PWDs cast their votes without barrier.