By Chuks Okocha
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, said many of the 19 million Nigerians living with disability were registered voters and would do everything to dismantle barriers that excludes them from the electoral process.
Speaking at a seminar to mainstream Nigerians with disabilities, the INEC chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said the National Population Commission (NPC) estimated that at least nineteen (19) million Nigerians were living with disabilities.
“From our records, many of them are registered voters. We owe it a duty to our democratic and electoral processes as well as national growth and development to encourage their active participation as citizens with equal rights.
“They constitute the category of marginalised groups along with women and youths. Therefore, all barriers to their inclusion must be dismantled. In partnership with the disability community, INEC will continue to promote inclusivity, not in a symbolic but practical way.
“Our emphasis is not just on their participation as candidates during elections in particular but involvement in the electoral process in general. Already, we have taken several practical steps in this direction,” the INEC chairman stated.
He explained that their systematic exclusion on account of disability, has affected a significant part of the Nigerian population from effective participation in many areas of human endeavour, especially, political and leadership roles at all levels, saying it was unacceptable.
According to him, “I recall that a few years ago, the Commission accredited PWDs as election observers. By this decision, Nigeria became the first country in Africa, where PWDs in their own right observed elections beginning with the Edo and Ondo governorship elections in 2016.
“The maiden report of their observation entitled: “Disability Votes Matter” was launched in October 2017. I am glad to note that PWDs have remained active election observers since then. This is significant because the feedback received from their observation reports helped the commission to engage more with the disability community at consultative meetings and to respond to their needs during elections”, he explained..
Prof. Yakubu said that the Commission has launched the INEC Framework on Access and Participation of Persons with Disabilities in the Electoral Process. Beyond that, a new Department of Gender and Inclusivity headed by a Director was established after the 2019 General Election.