March 1, 2023

2023 Elections: PWDs excluded, disenfranchised, TAF Africa tells INEC


INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu


…says assistive tools are grossly inadequate

By Gabriel Ewepu, ABUJA

AN election observer representing Persons With Disabilities, PWDs, TAF Africa, Wednesday, expressed anger over the alleged exclusion and disenfranchisement of PWD during the February 25 presidential and National Assembly elections conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

Founder/Chief Executive Officer, CEO, TAF Africa, Jake Epelle, while addressing the media PWD Election Hub funded by the European Union, EU, post-election report on presidential and National Assembly elections conducted by INEC, said PWDs were disappointed by INEC after all assurances on giving preference to PWDs and also provision of assistive tools to enable inclusivity in the electoral process, demanded INEC to provide details on provision of assistive tools for PWDs as promised.

TAF Africa deployed 700 election observers across the 774 Local Government Areas, 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.

Epelle said: “TAF Africa’s observation of the 2023 presidential and national assembly elections has the objective of ascertaining the active and increased participation of persons with disabilities (PWDs), as well as establishing if the election is inclusive, free, fair, credible, and reflects the supremacy of the electorates’ vote.

“Asides from expectations for The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to provide 21,165 magnifying glasses at 16,071 polling units for persons with albinism and minor visual impairment, 6,167 posters at 5,085 polling units for persons with hearing impairment, and 8,117 braille ballot guide at 5,957 polling unit for the visually impaired across the country, persons with disabilities are supposed to enjoy priority voting, which is their legal right as contained in section 54, sub section 1 & 2 of the electoral act.

“Unfortunately, these expectations were not totally met, and it successfully frustrated the participation of persons with disabilities in the elections.

“The process was flawed by violence, the lateness of polling officials, and the communication gap by INEC. For instance, in the FCT, Gwarinpa ward, KARON-MAJIGI disabled community polling unit, persons with disabilities were not allowed priority voting which discouraged their participation despite having a good number of persons with disabilities registered. Kubwa Village/Kofar Sarki and Deidei primary school front of primary two block both in Kubwa Ward, Bwari area council are expected to have at least six and 13 registered visually impaired persons respectively. As such at least one braille ballot guide should be provided at these polling units. On the contrary, large font posters for the deaf were the only assistive devices made available.

“To this, TAF Africa calls on INEC to provide details on how assistive tools were deployed to various polling units, bearing in mind the various clusters of disabilities and their peculiar needs.

“We also appeal to the Independent National Electoral Commission to fulfill its promise to the community of persons with disabilities by adequately deploying the assistive tools in the march 11 gubernatorial and state assembly elections and address the issues presented from the just concluded elections.

“This will help build the confidence of the disability community in the electoral process, which was marred by the unsatisfactory delivery of the presidential and national assembly elections.”