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By Ezra Ukanwa, Abuja

AHEAD of the 2023 general elections, a rights group: Inclusive Friends Association, IFA, has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to consider 5 per cent of People With Disabilities, PWDs, as ad-hoc staff.

This was even as they raised concerns over previous attitude of INEC’s ad-hoc staff towards PWDs, stating that “they lacked adequate training before deployment and low level capturing of the PWD data in the Form EC40H.”

This call was jointly made by the Executive Director, IFA, Grace Jerry, and a board member of the Association, Jide Ojo, at a press conference to launch ‘Vote-Ability’, on Tuesday, in Abuja. 

The conference, with the theme: ‘Increasing the participation of persons with disabilities in elections’, was aimed at ensuring the political rights and to every other rights enjoyed by other Nigerians. 

In her remarks,  the ED, Grace Jerry noted that the advocacy for PWDs inclusivity in the coming general elections is supported by the principles of the United Nations Convention of Rights of Person With Disabilities, UNCRRD. 

She said the Association would be launching a campaign aimed at promoting rights and to increase electoral participation of PWDs as the 2023 elections draw nigh. 

She said: It is on the principle of this convention that the Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) is launching this campaign to promote the rights, increase electoral participation and well-being of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in all spheres of society and development with core emphasis around electoral issues.

“The Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) across all its project on the VOTE-ABILITY Campaign will advocate for PWDs inclusion by engaging all election stakeholders at various level to be accountable on their statutory responsibilities. These stakeholders include but not limited are; the electoral umpire Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Security agencies, Political Parties, Media agencies, citizens and with concentration on the community of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).

“The VOTE-BILITY Campaign will also serve as the key to holding government accountable to delivering on promises and constitutional responsibilities. It is obvious that there have been improvements in electoral process and especially around the achievements of the Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) which includes the introduction of the Braille Ballot Guide (BBG) that enables blind voters vote independently and Form EC 30E PWD poster that provide guidance for deaf voters. 

“However, in spite of the provision of PWD voting assistive materials provided for PWDs, one cannot over emphasize the need for continued engagement as there are still challenges that limits the participation PWDs in the electoral process.

“Amongst the challenges faced during the Pre-Election phase were registration of PWDs during the past Concluded Voter Registration (CVR), inaccessible location for party manifestos, high cost of nomination form in political party excluded PWDs from participation and low rapportage from media agencies who focus of the big names among political candidate. 

“The attitudes of ad hoc staff towards PWDs on election day depicts inadequate training before deployment and the low level capturing of the PWD data in the Form EC40H.”

On his part, board member, IFA, Jide Ojo, among other things called on INEC to: “The recruitment of ad-hoc staff should consider 5% PWDs according to Section 28 (1) and 29 of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities Prohibition Act 2018. 

“That there should be priority collection of the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) during the distribution of PVCs. During the training of ad-hoc staff, INEC should collaborate with Organization of Persons with Disabilities especially on the PWD component.

“To increase the targeted civic and voter education ahead of the general elections 

Capture detailed disability type in a disaggregated format as it is currently on the form EC 40H PWD.

“That there should be deployment of PWD election assistive aide and Polling Units where PWD assistive aides will be deployed should be made public. 

“The VOTE-BILITY Campaign will access the implementation of Section 54 sub section 1 and 2 Nigeria Electoral Act 2022 to ascertain compliance as provided in the Act. such as Braille, large embossed print, electronic devices, sign language interpretation, or off-site voting in appropriate cases.”

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