Wednesday, 7th June 2023

PWDs laud INEC for getting equal voting rights

By Bertram Nwannekanma, Waliat Musa and Silver Nwokoro
27 February 2023   |   4:10 am
Campaign for Equal Voting Access for Persons with Disabilities (EVAPWD), a programme of the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), yesterday, commended polling officials (POs) of the Independent National Electoral Commission ..

David Anyaele

Campaign for Equal Voting Access for Persons with Disabilities (EVAPWD), a programme of the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), yesterday, commended polling officials (POs) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for offering priority voting to PWDs, the aged and pregnant women.

Chairman of EVAPWD, David Anyaele, in a preliminary statement, noted that the body received and reviewed reports from observers of weekend’s elections across Nigeria’s six geo-political zones. He commended INEC for not postponing the polls despite the myriad of challenges confronting the country.

Anyaele said key objective of the exercise was to observe provisions made by the electoral umpire for PWDs’ participation in the elections and raise awareness on equal voting rights for citizens with disabilities.

His words: “It was an opportunity to assess the election management body’s compliance to provisions of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, Section 54 of the Electoral Act 2022, INEC Framework on Access and Participation of Persons with Disabilities and the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“EVAPWD is impressed to observe that marginalised populations, the aged, nursing mothers and pregnant women and persons with disabilities were offered priority voting in most of the polling units observed.

“In particular, Polling Unit 047, Salvation Road Ward, Opebi, Ikeja Council, Lagos State; Polling 26, Ward 7 – Oloworia Road, Kosefe Council, Lagos State; Polling Unit 43, Ward 2 in AMAC; Polling Unit 44, Ward 3 in AMAC, in Abuja FCT; this was evidenced at PU 001, Ward 1, Ado-Ekiti Council, Ekiti State and PU 005 Amorji Igbere Hall, Ward B Igbere, Bende Council, Abia State.

“Other observed polling units were seen providing priority voting for PWDs, the aged and pregnant women. We commend polling officials for their efforts in this regard.”

He went on: “EVAPWD also observed that a significant number of polling units were accessible to persons with physical disabilities.”

“In particular, Polling Units 6, 7, 8 Ward 5, Awka, Anambra State; PU 004, Not Edino 3 Ward, Obot Akara Council, Akwa Ibom State; PU 004, Angwan Chiroma Ward, Jos North Council, Plateau State; PU 10, Ward 5 Wakilin Kudu, Gombe South Council, Gombe State; PU 005, Ward 7 Naraguta Hausawa, Jos North Council, Plateau State and PU 02, Ward 8 – Mgbalukwu, Izzi Council of Ebonyi State.

“The accessibility of these polling units was made possible due to their location on roadside, open field, playgrounds, even as they dropped the ballot boxes on the floor, while a good number of other PUs were placed in buildings with access for those on wheelchairs.

“Whereas, EVAPWD is disturbed that a significant number of PUs observed were not accessible. These include: PU 01, Ward 2 Asata Township Ward, Enugu South Council, Enugu State; PU 10, Ward 03 Gawuna, Nasarawa Council, Kano State; PU 002, Ward 6 S/Paure/S/Mafarawa, Kaura Namoda Council, Zamfara State; PU 03, Ward 6 Ikoyi, Lagos State; PU 04, Ward 2, Port Harcourt Council, Rivers State and PU 6, Ward 5, Uyo Council, Akwa Ibom State.

“These polling units were not accessible to persons with disabilities, as they were placed across gutters or in schools, public buildings with steps and high pavements. What this means is that voters with physical disabilities would be scared to go to this hard to access environments to cast their votes.”

Anyaele further said: “EVAPWD observers observed that the deployment of Braille guides, shade and magnifying glasses were invisible at the PUs visited, as only two polling units recorded availability of these items. They are PU 05, Ward 3 Naragatu Hausawa, Jos North Council of Plateau State; PU 2, Ward 5, Ado Ekiti Council, Ekiti State and PU 3, Ward 1 Odoak People, Onitsha South Council, Anambra State. Observers saw the availability of canopies, which would support persons with albinism at PU 03, Ward 01 Iweku, Eti Osa Council of Lagos State.

“EVAPWD observers observed that Form EC40H was also scarce at the polling units, as the knowledge of INEC ad hoc staff around the use of this document is poor. This form was observed at PU 10, Ward 7 Wakili Kudu, Gombe Council, Gombe State and PU 07, Ward 5 Gusau Council, Zamfara State, as well as PU 02, Ward 5 Ibadan Council, Oyo State.

“Form EC40H is used by INEC to document the number of voters with disabilities that voted at a particular polling unit, ward, council, state and across the federation.”

The chairman added: “In conclusion, EVAPWD commends INEC and other election stakeholders for conducting the elections as planned, the significant improvement on accessible polling units as INEC ad hoc staff and other voters ensured that PWDs and other vulnerable groups enjoyed priority at the PUs. The pattern of deployment of assistive devices such as Braille guides, shade and magnifying glasses needs to be reviewed to achieve objectives of procuring the materials.

“EVAPWD is pleased with the level of security so far provided by the security agencies, notwithstanding the reports of disruption of voting in some states, including Enugu, Kogi, Delta, Edo, Bayelsa, Imo, Lagos and Rivers states as reported by partner organisation (Situation Room), which are a question mark on the part of security agencies deployed to provide election security in these states.”

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