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PWDs Applaud INEC For Prioritising Vulnerable Electorate At Polls

Campaign for Equal Voting Access for Persons with Disabilities (EVAPWD), has applauded the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for prioritising vulnerable electorates at Governorship and States House of Assembly polls.

Gatekeepers News reports that EVAPWD, a program of the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) deployed, received, and reviewed reports from observers across the six geo-political zones of the country.

According to EVAPWD, the key objective of the observation exercise was to observe provisions made by INEC for persons with disabilities’ participation in the election; and raise awareness on equal voting rights for citizens with disabilities.

The Chairman of EVAPWD, David Anyaele in a statement said, “It was an opportunity to assess the election management body’s compliance to the provisions of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, section 54 of the Electoral Act 2022, INEC Framework on Access and Participation of Persons with Disabilities, and the Nigeria Constitution 1999 as amended.

“This is observations EV4PWD observed early commencement of Polls in the majority of Polling Units visited. We commend the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for endeavoring to ensure that Polls opened up as early as 8am in the morning.

“EVAPWD observed that the majority of the Polling Units accorded priority voting to persons with disabilities, the aged, nursing mothers and pregnant women. In particular, Polling Unit 002 Kundulun Yelwa Kamo Ward, Kaltungo LGA, Gombe State, Polling unit 013, Rimin Auzinawa ward Kano Central, Kano State, Polling Unit 60, Ward 10, Sabon Gari, Kano State, and Polling Unit 013, Ward 5, Enugu South, Enugu State were observed providing priority voting for vulnerable groups. We appreciate INEC Ad-hoc Officials for their efforts in this regard.

“EVAPWD observed that significant Polling Units observed were accessible to persons with physical disabilities. In particular, Polling Unit 11, ward 3, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Polling Unit 005, Mafoluku Ward, Oshodi Isolo, Lagos State, Polling 20, ward 9, Udim LGA, Akwa Ibom State, Polling Unit 010, Igbere Ward B, Bende LGA, Abia State were accessible to physically challenged voters. Observation shows that INEC placed a significant number of PUs open fields and ballot boxes on the floor for those on wheelchairs and other clusters of disabilities.”

Anyaele, however, noted that “EVA4PWD unsurprisingly observed that physically challenged voters struggled to access a significant number of Polling Units visited. These Polling Units include: Polling Unit 005, Mafoluku Ward, Oshodi Isolo, Lagos State, Polling Unit 006, Ekwulobia Ward 2, Aguata, Anambra State, Polling Unit 004, Oye Market Square Ward, Akwa South, Anambra State, Polling Unit 003, ward 3, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State. Polling unit 003, ward , Ikot Ekpene LGA, Akwa Ibom State, Polling Unit 34, S/Mafara Ward, Kaura Namoda, Zamfara State were examples of Polling Units that were not accessible to persons with disabilities. The Polling Units were sited on high pavements, the cubicles were not accessible to PWDs and the ballot boxes were placed on high tables and platforms. What this means is that voters with physical disability would be discouraged to go to this hard to access environment to cast their votes.

“EVA4PWD observed scanty deployment of Braille guides. This was observed in Polling Unit 017, Ajao Estate Lagos State, Bold Signages and directional guides for the deaf in polling unit 003, Ward 3, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State. There were no assistive devices observed in the majority of Polling Units visited. This was evidenced in Polling Unit 002 Kundulun Yelwa Kamo Ward, Kaltungo LGA, Gombe State, Polling unit 013, Rimin Auzinawa Ward Kano Central, Kano State, Polling Unit 60, Ward 10, Sabon Gari, Kano State.

“Obviously, Form EC40H were available in visited Polling Units. But the form was observed at Polling Unit 15, Sulemian Model Primary School, Kankia, Katsina State. Form EC40H is used by INEC to document number of voters with disabilities that voted at a particular Polling Unit, Ward, LGA, State and a cross the Federation.”

The PWDs, lamented their disappointment with the level of security provided by the security agencies.

The statement read further, “There were no security operatives available in some polling units particularly; polling unit 13, Sabo Ward, Ojo LGA, Lagos State, polling unit 15, Mashi Gwari Ward, Igabi, Kaduna State. Furthermore, our observers found that there were high level of threats and suppression of voters in Polling 68, ward 12, Nkpolu, Rivers State, Polling units 12, 17, 18 and 19 Phalga, Port Harcourt, Rivers State and across Amawo Odofin Areas of Lagos State.

“In summary, EVPWD Campaign commend INEC and other election stakeholders for conducting the elections after earlier postponement. It was observed that a good number of Polling Units were accessible, even as most of the Polling Units observed were not accessible. INEC ad-hoc Staff ensured that PWDs and other vulnerable groups enjoyed priority at most of the Polling Units visited. Regrettably, there was poor deployment of assistive devices such as Braille guides, shade and magnifying glasses to various Polling Units.”

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