TAF Africa has raised concerns bothering on inclusion for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the March 18 gubernatorial and state assembly election.
TAF Africa raised the salient issues during a press briefing on TAF Africa’s pre-election activities and interventions in Transcorp Hiton Abuja.
The presentations were done by Amb. Jake Epelle, CEO/Founder, TAF Africa, Prof. Vincent Anigbogu, Chairman, Boarf of Trustee, TAF, Africa and Zainab Usman, Board of Trustee member, TAF Africa.
Prof. Vincent Anigbogu explained that TAF Africa has assessed the operational practicability of specific provisions of the Electoral Act as it affects the participation of persons with disabilities, and the commitment of key election stakeholders towards ensuring that the right conditions and enablers are present and operational.
Issues raise include lateness to polling units by INEC officials which has become a permanent feature in Nigeria’s elections and is capable of disenfranchising PWDs in the elections, as some clusters of persons with disabilities are not expected to experience a long wait under the sun.
Prof. Anigbogu said “non deployment of assistive tools to promote PWDs participation: Though the INEC promised to deploy assistive tools in polling units with registered PWDs according to disability type, we are worried about the poor implementation during the presidential and National Assembly elections.
” Many polling units with registered persons with disabilities did not have assistive tools deployed. TAF Africa hopes that these gaps and challenges highlighted have been addressed to ensure that eligible PWD voters can vote for their preferred candidate on March 18th.
“Just like in the 2023 presidential and national assembly elections, TAF AFRICA will establish a Persons with disability Election Hub as a response to inadequate PWD focused platforms on election observation. The PWD Election Hub will serve as a data depot for Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) and the Election Management Bodies (EMBs) to find useful and real-time data on PWDs’ access to voting locations, participation, provision of assistive devices, priority voting, among others.
In its recommendations, TAF Africa through Zainab Usman, Board of Trustee member, TAF Africa advice the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to proper synergy with the security agencies to ensure the safety of voters, especially PWDs and poll officials on election day.
Zainab Usman said “The 2022 Electoral Act stipulates that every person with a disability is entitled to priority voting. lNEC should ensure that this right is duly respected by its polling officials and that PWDs are allowed priority voting at their respective polling units.
“INEC should ensure proper and adequate deployment of assistive tools for persons with disabilities in the gubernatorial and state assembly elections, such as magnifying glasses, Election Day written instruction (FORM 30E PWD), and braille ballot guide.
“We call on security agencies deployed for the election to respect the rights of persons with disabilities, media, and observers, including the right to freedom of movement on Election Day for duly accredited observers and media practitioners.
“Security agencies should work with polling officials to ensure the protection of persons with disabilities, and that they are allowed to enjoy their priority voting as contained i n the electoral act”