The International Press Centre (IPC) Lagos has presented the demand charter for inclusion of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in election processes in Nigeria.
The public presentation attracted PWDs from the Lagos metropolis to the All Seasons Plaza venue at Ikeja.
The Lagos Director of the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr. Waheed Ishola, Assistant Director (Publicity/Protocol) of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mr. Akinbiyi Olufemi and also representatives of Actionaid Nigeria facilitated sessions at the event.
The presentation was done as an output activity under the Strengthening Citizens Engagement in Electoral Process (SCEEP) project by Actionaid Nigeria with the support of UKAID for the PWDs community in Nigeria.
The charter is based on the consensus arrived at by the broad spectrum of stakeholders from the workshops in the six geo-political zones in the country.
This is in response to the systematic disenfranchisement and de-participation of PWDs from local, senatorial, state and national elections.
Dr. Dele Seteolu, a Lecturer from the Lagos State University department of Political Science, while making the presentation, expressed the apparent lack of active participation of PWDs in election processes in Nigeria as a rationale for the charter.
Seteolu, in his presentation, said “It has been estimated that between 19 and 22 million PWDs were in Nigeria, according to the 2006 National Population and Housing Census. However, due to discrimination this huge population remain untapped and majority of PWDs who are of voting age are barely knowledgeable about the roles of the electoral body and political parties in the election process.
Further during the presentation, the specific challenges of PWDs during elections were highlighted. These were categorised according to the experiences of women with disability, people with physical challenges, albinism, leprosy, hearing impairment and the visually impaired.
It was emphasised that albinos have challenges with differentiating certain colours on the ballot paper and cannot withstand long hours under the sun.
Physically challenged persons face discrimination during elections that emanate both from poor supervision of the electoral process and fellow voters.
Based on the highlighted challenges, the charter made recommendations to the INEC, some being general to PWDs and others specific to PWDs clusters.
It was recommended that INEC and the political parties should develop clear and simplified voting guidelines for PWDs; made into braille for the visually impaired, audios for the blind and televised sign language for the deaf.
INEC was encouraged to employ qualified PWDs and saddle them with the tasks of ensuring the participation of this constituency in the electoral preparatory processes, as election observers and mobilisation of PWDs to participate in elections.
Political parties were also enjoined to appoint PWDs into their administrative structures and offered opportunities to contest and be voted for in their platforms.
Akinbiyi, representing INEC, said in his response that “some of these recommendations have already been effected by INEC since the last Local Government polls. However, other areas will be effectively dealt with.”
In his remark, Ishola urged the PWDs present to take charge of their destiny and come together as a single voice rather than a fragmented body.
Representatives of PWDs clusters express their gratitude and expectation of the implementation of the proffered recommendations.