As the June 18 Governorship election draws near in Ekiti State, Persons With Disabilities, (PWDs) have threatened to sue INEC if they are not included in the electoral process.
They are also demanding that INEC and other stakeholders create accessible voting points and necessary facilities that would ensure their improved participation in the electioneering process seamlessly.
This submission is in a report by the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, tagged: “Pre Election Assessment of Independent National Electoral Commission preparedness for Persons with Disabilities Participation for June 18 governorship election.”
The report obtained by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ado-Ekiti on Tuesday, said the request of the group for inclusion was already a matter of law, hence it must be obeyed, so as not to disefranchise the special persons.
According to the Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), Dr. David Anyaele, the research is done to ascertain INEC’s preparedness in carrying along PWDs and ensure their security throughout the electoral process.
He urged INEC to collaborate with the security agents to ensure a credible election devoid of malpractice and hitch free.
He said: “The key reason for the research is to hold INEC accountable, urging them to train PWDs on their rights and make them understand the provision of the law which will better shape their participation in election.
“INEC should collaborate with the security agencies to reassure electorate of their safety, to reduce tension and brace up security challenges, especially in some flashpoints.
He said this would ensure accessible, credible, free, fair and peaceful election.
“They should also provide Disability Desk Officers at each INEC LGA offices and this position should be held by a PWD.
“INEC should also provide Umbrellas and shades for albinos or allow them vote as early as 8 a.m. to avoid them being under the sun and prone to skin cancer.”
Anyaele, however, discouraged PWDs from being involved in vote buying and selling, noting that it’s their civic responsibility to vote a candidate of their choice.
“Poverty is not particular with PWDs alone, but I urge you not to sell your votes because of money. It is our responsibility to discourage any form of vote buying and selling.
“It is everybody’s responsibility, not just PWDs because poverty does not discriminate; as it hits PWDs, it also hits persons without disability.”
Others who contributed to the report included the Chairman, Joint National Association of Persons Living with Disabilities (JONAPWD) Kayode Owolabi, who urged INEC to take bold steps to improve the communication between them and JONAPWD.
He said there was an obvious disconnect and lack of proper engagement between both parties.
He urged INEC to make election materials and facilities accessible for all PWDs, including Form EC40H, polling units and assistive resources such as sign language interpreters, tactile ballot jackets, and magnifying lenses.
Other recommendations include the need to train polling station officials adequately, to understand and respond to PWD needs.
The importance of sensitising the public to the needs and challenges of PWDs to reverse negative public perceptions and attitudes towards them was also recommended. (NAN)