Albino Foundation has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission to make voting materials for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) sensitive ones during elections.
The Founder, Albino Foundation, Jake Epelle, made the call at a dialogue session on disability inclusion in Nigeria on Tuesday in Abuja.
The dialogue was organised by Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room and Albino Foundation with support from UK Foreign, Communication and Development Office.
Epelle said that the call became imperative to ensure that necessary attention was given to disability materials to certify their effective deployment and usage during elections.
“The findings from the general and off circle elections are that although INEC had electoral resources that would address the issues surrounding persons with disabilities, those resources were not used.
“This is because one, INEC staff and some of the ad hoc staff are ignorant of that provision; they were also not used because many of them did not know how to use them.
“Thirdly, they were not used because it was deployed probably to the wrong location and that is why we are telling INEC to make disability materials sensitive materials so that more attention can be given to it.
“That brings us to the place of data, once we have reliable accurate and verifiable data, some of these problems can be solved and that is why we are urging INEC to support organisations with PWDs.
“These organisations will help to provide these data so that we can use it accurately and deliver inclusive free, fair and credible elections,’’ he said.
Epelle said that a lot of people were disenfranchised because of their peculiar issues.
“I am 60 years old and I can tell you that I voted for the first time at 59 years just a year ago.
“That was because the environment was not enabled for persons like me to vote and that is why we are pushing for this voting right ,voting priority, disability inclusion,’’ he said.
He said that training the right people to understand the concept of disability and its application not only in electoral space but in all spaces would curb discrimination.
According to him, this will enable people feel that they are part and parcel of the society.
Epelle said that this was necessary because PWDs were always discriminated against, adding that they were denied representation in the COVID-19 presidential task force.
He claimed that there was also no particular intervention geared towards addressing issues that surrounded PWDs.
He said that many PWDs could not access medical intervention, as doctors were not coming to treat them.
Prof. Douglas Anele, University of Lagos, said that there was the need for INEC to prune the number of parties before 2023 to avoid bulky ballot papers difficulty for visually impaired persons to see.
Anele also urged INEC to make polling units accessible to all and also factor in what would bring everybody in to avoid the notion that because people had disability, they could not participate in politics.
According to him, INEC needs to be creative because it is when you envisage the problem that the solution will start coming but when you have not envisaged it as a problem, the solution will not come.
Anele called for the implementation of the disability Act for better inclusion of PWDs in governance at all levels to give them a sense of belonging.
Dr Leonard Nzenwa, National Chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), reiterated the council’s commitment to inclusive electoral system by ensuring that political parties carried everyone along.
Nzenwa said that political parties would work more to enhance participation of all to enable the nation have inclusive representations at all levels.
Esther Uzoma, Convener, Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, said that the coalition of civil society organisations was delighted to provide the platform to promote the agenda of inclusive governance.