The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Mohamoud Yakubu has said that the Commission is ready to partner with the disability community for proper inclusion in the electoral process.
The Chairman made this known at a campaign to promote the mainstreaming of persons with disability in the Electoral process organized by the Albino Foundation in Abuja.
The Prof. Yakubu in his remarks stated that, the campaign to reduce voter apathy and promote the mainstreaming of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the electoral process is a laudable initiative noting that the people with disabilities are citizens and have the right to participate in all areas of human activity without stigma or discrimination.
“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. This is unacceptable”.
“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”.
Prof. Yakubu also said that 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 Chairman also pointed out that, Nigeria is the first country in Africa where PWDs in their own right observed elections beginning with the Edo and Ondo Governorship elections in 2016 with a maiden report of their observation entitled “Disability Votes Matter” launched in October 2017 and the feedback received has been significant of tremendous help to the Commission.
The Chairman equally said that the Commission has launched the INEC Framework on Access and Participation of Persons with Disabilities in the Electoral Process with the establishment of the new Department of Gender and Inclusivity headed by a Director in 2019 general elections.
Another milestone is the Electoral Act 2022 that made specific provision on the participation of PWDs in the electoral process. Section 54 provides for assistive and inclusive devices which in a sense has codified some of the initiatives already undertaken by the Commission.
“The introduction of assistive devices such as the Braille ballot guide, magnifying glasses and posters for the deaf were all products of our engagement with the disability community. In implementing the provisions of Sec. 54 of the Electoral Act 2022, we will continue to engage with the disability community without which the Commission cannot provide the appropriate interventions needed to facilitate their full participation in the electoral process”.
“As we continue to prepare for the 2023 General Election, for us to serve you better, we need more and reliable data on disability, particularly the locations with the largest concentration of PWDs”.
I am glad that working together, a lot has been generated. On our part, we have also gathered data on disability from the last voter registration exercise disaggregated by type of disability. For instance, we now know the percentages of new registrants with albinism, blindness, hearing challenges, spinal cord injuries, downs syndrome, little stature etc.
He also assured the community that, the Commission will continue to do all within its power to make the voting process easier for them. “On accessibility to voting and collation locations for PWDs, we will continue to engage with proprietors of schools and owners of facilities used during elections to provide facilities such as ramps for citizens in wheelchairs. Most of the facilities are public schools”.