Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been urged to create an enabling environment for persons living with disabilities (PWDs) to be able to participate in the Ekiti and Osun governorship polls as well as the 2019 general election.
Making the advocacy in Ado Ekiti on Wednesday, the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) said the measure became imperative as part of the ways to protect their rights and make them relevant in the electoral process.
They charged the Senator Bukola Saraki-led Senate to transmit the Nigeria Disabilities Bill that had been passed by the two chambers of the National Assembly to President Muhammadu Buhari for assent.
Speaking during the flag-off campaign for equal voting access in Ado-Ekiti, the CCD Executive Director, Mr David Anyaele, said INEC must fashion out ways to remove all barriers that could prevent their members from participating in the elections.
Anyaele called on the National Assembly to amend Section 56 of the Electoral Act to make INEC fulfill its statutory duty of facilitating an enabling environment for members during elections, failing which “we can hold INEC accountable for the implementation of the provision”.
He added: “About 25 million Nigerians are living with disabilities and they must not be prevented or marginalised or neglected to ensure that everybody participates in the electoral process.
“Eligibility right is a unique component of election, and amending section 56 of the Electoral Act by replacing the word ‘may’ there with ‘shall’ will make it imperative for INEC to be alive to its responsibilities to PWDs rather than charity-based provision.
“To prevent apathy among PWDs during elections, INEC must locate polling units on flat surface areas, provide brailed ballot papers and magnified glasses at polling units, so those with visual impairment, those on wheel chairs and other disability forms can have access to vote.”
On the Nigeria Disabilities Bill, Anyaele appealed to the National Assembly to fast-track action in transmitting the passed bill to President Buhari for assent, adding that: “This bill makes holistic provisions for us in terms of employments, healthcare needs, education and so on. It will stop all forms of discrimination against us.
“Governor Segun Oni assented to the bill as the governor of Ekiti State that certain percentage must be given to PWDs in all areas of opportunities, but it was later repealed even without any effort to provide another legal framework to help our people.
“The passage of disability bill will take care of all these needs holistically,” he said.
The General Secretary of the Joint National Association of Persons Living with Disabilities in Ekiti, Mr. Funso Olajide, regretted that only the aged and children were being captured when governments were making provisions for vulnerable groups.
Olajide appealed to security agencies to always accord members priority at polling units anytime there is crisis.