By Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA – Some Persons With Disabilities PWDs in Nigeria have lamented that they would not be able to vote in the 2019 general elections due to their inability to partake in the recently concluded nationwide Continuous Voter Registration CVR.
They spoke at a one day High Level Public-Private Sector Forum in Abuja organized by the International Republican Institute IRI, National Democratic Institute NDI, the United States Agency for Interntional Development -USAID, the Centre for International Private Enterprise CIPE, the Solidarity Centre and the National Endowment for Democracy NED.
While they praised the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC for evolving newer measures to ensure their inclusion in the electoral process, the PWDs however lamented the inaccessibility of many of the registration points and calls for converted efforts by various stakeholders to reverse the trend.
Executive Director, Inclusive Friends Association and Convener, Access Nigeria Campaign, Grace Jerry recalled how an open drainage was the only barrier between her and her dream of voting in the next elections.
“I went for voter registration and the first thing I encountered was an open drainage. I was on one side and the officials were on the other and that was the end of the story. The situation is the same with our 29.7 million persons living with disabilities”, said Jerry who was on a wheelchair.
Vice Chairman of the National Association of the Blind, Joseph Oguniran also lamented how polling units are located in public places that are not easily accessible to them.
“INEC is not responsible for building such public structures but we plead for a reassignment of the Polling units as opposed to having them in elevated corridors in public schools”.
The forum with the theme, Democracy that Delivers, had other speakers including Profs. Pat Utomi and Shops Omotola, Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council, Chief Peter Ameh and Jake Spelled of The Albino Foundation.
On her part, Executive Director, Haly Hope Foundation, Apolmida Haryana said the crowd she met at the registration point discouraged her as she could not stand for long or push others due to her disability.
“I hope that one day, I will be able to get my PVC. I went there severally and there were many people. I could not stand for long because of my challenge. I couldn’t also push back when others were pushing.
“When I was in the NYSC Orientation camp, I went to the Parade Ground and because I could not stand for long, I had to go by the side and lean on a rail. One soldier came and tried to chase me back to the Parade Ground. After I explained to him, he made a comment as to why a person like me should be in the NYSC scheme. That has a way of discouraging others”, she added.