Campaign for Equal Voting Access for Persons with Disabilities (EVA4PWD), an NGO, has lauded the priority accorded physically challenged persons and the elderly during governorship and Houses of Assembly elections on Saturday.
Mr David Anyaele, the Executive Director of the group, said this in a preliminary statement on Sunday in Abuja.
Anyaele said the group was accredited to observe the elections so it deployed, received and reviewed reports from its observers across the six geo-political zones of the country.
According to him, the key objective of the observation was to ensure that provisions of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for PWDs participation were met.
“EVA4PWD observers deployed nationwide reported that majority of the polling units accorded priority voting to persons with disabilities, the aged, nursing mothers and pregnant women.
“The PU 002 Kundulun Yelwa Kamo Ward Kaltungo LGA, Gombe State, were observed providing priority voting for vulnerable groups.
“Same as PU 013, Rimin Auzinawa ward Kano Central, Kano State, PU 60, Ward 10, Sabon Gari, Kano State, and PU 013, Ward 5, Enugu South, Enugu State.
“We appreciate INEC Ad-hoc officials for their efforts in this regard, we also observed that significant PU were accessible to persons with physical disabilities”, he said.
He singled out PU 11, ward 3, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, PU 005, Mafoluku Ward, Oshodi Isolo, Lagos State for making the polling units accessible to physically challenged persons.
He said the same scenario was observed at PU 20, ward 9, Udim LGA, Akwa Ibom State, PU 010, Igbere Ward B, Bende LGA, Abia State.
“INEC placed a significant number of PUs open fields and ballot boxes on the floor for those on wheelchairs and other clusters of disabilities,” he said.
He also commended the availability of the Form EC40H provided to document number of voters with disabilities that voted at a particular Polling Unit cross the federation.
Anyaele, however, said that some physically challenged voters struggled to access a significant number of PU visited.
These PU, he said, included PU 005, Mafoluku Ward, Oshodi Isolo, Lagos State, PU 006,and Ekwulobia Ward 2, Aguata, Anambra State.
He said a similar situation was observed at PU 004, Oye Market Square Ward, Akwa South, Anambra State and PU 003, ward 3, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State.
He added also that PU 003, ward , Ikot Ekpene LGA, Akwa Ibom State, Polling Unit 34, T/Mafara Ward, Kaura Namoda, Zamfara State were examples of PU that they 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”, he said.
`He said the group also observed scanty deployment of Braille guides in PU 017, Ajao Estate Lagos State, Bold Signages and directional guides for the deaf in PU003, Ward 3, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State.
“There were no assistive devices observed in the majority of PU visited, in PU 002 Kundulun Yelwa Kamo Ward, Kaltungo LGA, Gombe State, PU 013, Rimin Auzinawa Ward Kano Central, Kano State and in PU 60, Ward 10, Sabon Gari, Kano State,” he said.
Anyaele said that great improvement had been observed in INECs preparation for an inclusive electoral process.
He said the exercise provided PWDs 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.
He said it was also an opportunity to assess compliance to INEC Framework on Access and Participation of PWDs, and the parts of 1999 constitution as amended with regards to PWDs.
He commended INEC and other election stakeholders for conducting a PWDs-friendly election, for prioritising vulnerable groups and ensuring early arrival of electoral officers and materials.(NAN)