The Campaign for Equal Voting Access for Persons with Disabilities (EVAPWD) has praised INEC for not postponing the 2023 General Elections elections in spite of challenges.
Mr David Anyaele, the Chairman of EVAPWD, made the commendation in the group’s preliminary statement on the Saturday’s Presidential and National Assembly Elections.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that EVAPWD is a programme of the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities engaged in the observation of the general elections.
“We received and reviewed reports from observers across the six geo-political zones of the country.
“The key objective of the 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.
“It was an opportunity to assess the election management body’s compliance with 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.
“EVAPWD is impressed to observe that marginalised populations – the aged, nursing mothers and pregnant women and persons with disabilities – were offered priority voting in most of the polling units observed,” he said.
Anyaele said that the group monitored Polling Units (PUs) in Ikeja and Kosofe areas of Lagos State as well as some in Abuja, Ekiti, Abia and other states.
According to him, INEC staff were observed providing priority voting for PWDs, the aged and pregnant women.
“We commend polling officials for their efforts in this regard,” he added.
He said that EVAPWD also said that a significant number of polling units observed were accessible to persons with physical disabilities in Awka, Anambra, Obot Akara in Akwa Ibom, Jos, Gombe, Ebonyi, among others.
“The accessibility of these polling units were made possible due to the location of the PUs by INEC along the roadside, open fields, play grounds, even as they dropped the ballot boxes on the floor.
“A good number of other PUs were placed in buildings with access for those on wheelchairs,” he said.
Anyaele, however, said that EVAPWD was equally disturbed that a significant number of polling units observed were not accessible in some parts of the country, including Enugu, Nasarawa, Kano, Zamfara, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Akwa Ibom.
“These polling units were not accessible to persons with disabilities as they were placed across gutters or public buildings with steps and high pavements.
“What this means is that voters with physical disabilities would be scared to go to this hard- to-access environments to cast their votes,” he said.
According to him, EVAPWD observers also noticed that deployment of Braille guides, shade and magnifying glasses were invisible at some PUs.
“Only two polling units recorded availability of these items.
“Observers saw availability of canopies which would support persons with albinism at PU 03, Ward 01, Iweku, Eti Osa LGA, Lagos State,” he added.
He praised INEC and other election stakeholders, including security agencies, for efforts, urging, however, that the pattern of deployment of assistive devices such as Braille guides, shade and magnifying glasses would need to be reviewed to achieve the objectives. (NAN)