…To deploy 350 observers for Kogi, Bayelsa gov. polls

By Chris Ochayi

Persons with Disabilities, PWDs, have called on the 9th National Assembly to urgently commence the implementation of Disability Act signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari in order to ensure their protection.

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The PWDs lamented that eight months down the lane since the signing into law of Act, they are still waiting to see the Act being implemented.

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Operating under Access Nigeria campaign, Organisations of Persons with Disabilities, OPDs, and Disability allies, they regretted that the absence of such law has exposed them to so many difficulties and challenges.

Meanwhile, the body has announced plans to deploy 350 citizens with Disabilities as observers to monitor the November 16 governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States.

Speaking in Abuja at the fourth quarterly stakeholders’ roundtable on inclusive elections in Nigeria, the Convener of the Access Nigeria campaign, Organisations of Persons with Disabilities, OPDs, and Disability allies, Grace Jerry, noted it has been tortuous journey for her members since independence.

She said, “As Nigeria marking her 59th independent anniversary, this is a moment for reflection as a nation.

“Today also, we celebrate 20 years of Nigeria’s journey as a democracy. Our democratic journey has been riddled with so many challenges especially for citizens with disabilities who have been advocating for passage of a national disability legislation that will guarantee our social protection by law.

“While Nigeria celebrates 59 years, we are yet to be recognized by law as the Disability Act has just been passed this year.”

Jerry however noted that for the group, “The last three years of this democracy have been the most fruitful in our democratic journey. Within the last eight months, we have seen historical landmarks made;

“First was the passage by the National Assembly and signing into law of the Discrimination against Person with Disabilities, prohibition, Act 2018 by President Muhammadu Buhari.

“Second, the bailer ballot guides was deployed in the presidential elections for the first time in Nigeria’s history. We appreciate the President, National Assembly and INEC for all these. We must thank OPDs and our allies on this campaign.”

Jerry, who however, lamented that eight months down the lane since the signing into law of Act, PWDs are still waiting to see the Act being implemented.

She therefore, said the National Assembly must expediently conduct oversights functions in the 12 ministries and agencies to implement the employment quota provisions for qualified PWDs to be employed.

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“The National Assembly should provide direct oversight on the ministry of information to create awareness regarding the rights, respect, dignity and contributions of PWDs to the Nigerian society”, she said.

On the forthcoming Kogi and Bayelsa States governorship elections, she said, the group will deploy 350 of its members as observers to monitor the elections, adding, “We commend INEC for ongoing plans to train blind voters on how to use the Braille ballot guides ahead of the November 16 of-circle governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states, respectively.”

She demanded that the Election Day written instructions, EC30 E PWD, should be properly deployed to all poling units and pasted at good locations to ensure that Deaf Voters understand Election Day procedures and vote without any communication problems.”

In his remarks, the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu reiterated the Commission’s commitment to encourage the participation of the marginalised groups in the electoral process.

Yakubu, who was represented by Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, the National Commissioner and Chairman Outreach and Partnerships Committee, at the INEC, said specifically, the commission has undertaken the institutionalisation of some of its disadvantaged groups’ responsive electoral programmes.

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According to him, “Practical steps had been taken to codify its various programmes to serve as strategic roadmaps for the sustainable implementations of its institutional interventions and support for te mainstreaming of disadvantaged groups’ issues into the electoral process.

“The Commission’s gender policy, PWDs, framework for access and participations, framework for IDPs’ voting and youth engagement strategy are policy tools that were developed to facilitate the seamless participation of the IDPs, women, PWDs and youths in all aspect of electoral process and the 2019 general elections.”

Vanguard

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