The Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities has accused the Independent National Electoral Commission of putting into cognisance the challenge faced by its members in terms of accessing polling units.
This it said was in spite of the provision of Section 54(1) of the Electoral Act, 2022 which provided that electoral barriers against persons with disabilities and other vulnerable persons should be addressed. It noted that its members faced diverse challenges which in some cases led to unintended disenfranchisement.
In an interview with our correspondent, the national president of the organisation, Abdullahi Usman, said other voters, security officials and electoral officers had limited understanding of the priority that should be accorded persons with disabilities.
He stated, “From JONAPWD’s citizens’ observers’ deployed across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory during the February 25 election.
“It was discovered that the use of INEC form EC40H to capture data of persons with disabilities before accreditation commenced was not mentioned. Another is the unmentioned and hidden publication of the INEC EC.30E poster to guide voters with hearing impairment on how to vote at a polling unit.
“There was also limited understanding by voters, security officials and electoral officers over priority voting for persons with disabilities, the aged, visibly pregnant women, and nursing mothers to vote before others. Mental health triggers were caused by the elongated period of polling officers, especially at polling units where the voting process was elongated without sessional breaks.”
He lamented that many of the voting areas were not accessible to PwDs.
He noted, “Pockets of violence and other concerns that are potential triggers of psychosocial disability relapses, inaccessible pathways to the pasted register of registered voters at polling units, inaccessible voting areas due to elevated placement of voting cubicles, inconsistency in procedures, particularly in the positioning of some voting cubicles which compromised the secrecy of the ballot and misinformation around polling unit re-distribution and locations, which led to unintended disenfranchisement among others were observed during the elections.”
He urged the commission to put in place measures to address the constraint PwDs faced at the last exercise ahead of the governorship and state assembly elections scheduled for March 11.
He said,” We enjoin the INEC to live up to its promises by ensuring it fixes the gaps to guarantee that the voting process is entirely accessible to all eligible persons with disabilities across the disability clusters. In particular, we urge the electoral umpire to be more deliberate about addressing the observed constraints, amongst other issues which have strong potential to infringe on the voting rights of eligible persons with disabilities.”