…Calls for Violence Free Poll to Encourage Peaceful Voting The Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) wants the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to make prioritisation of persons with disabilities (PWDs) access to voting mandatory and not advisory, demanding that the word “shall,” should replace “may” in Section 56(2) of the Electoral Act. It also
…Calls for Violence Free Poll to Encourage Peaceful Voting
The Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) wants the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to make prioritisation of persons with disabilities (PWDs) access to voting mandatory and not advisory, demanding that the word “shall,” should replace “may” in Section 56(2) of the Electoral Act. It also calls for a violent free Edo governorship election, holding this weekend, to encourage PDWs to vote massively in a peaceful atmosphere.
Section 56(2) of the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 2010 states that “The Commission may take reasonable steps to ensure that voters with disabilities are assisted at the polling place by the provision of suitable means of communication, such as Braille, Large embossed print or electronic devices or sign language interpretation, or off site voting in appropriate cases”.
This represents part of its key findings of the Assessment of Provisions by the INEC) for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the 2019 General Elections, as well as the documentation of INEC provisions in their preparation for the September 19th, 2020 Governorship Election in Edo State, which is holding within the context of COVID-19 protocol.
The Centre also calls on INEC to ensure that in compliance with health protocols, including the re-design of the polling unit layout, adequate measure is taken to ensure polling accessibility for physically challenged voters.
It pleads with the Commission to make election materials and facilities accessible for all PWDs. This includes Form EC40H, polling units, and assistive resources such as sign language interpreters, tactile ballot jackets, and magnifying lenses,
The organisation wants adequate training of polling stations officials to properly appreciate, understand and respond to PWD needs, demanding that the public should also be sensitized on the needs and challenges of PWDs to reverse negative perceptions and attitudes towards them,
It also calls for collaboration between the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), security agencies, and other stakeholders to fully implement health and safety protocols during voting and result collation.
It wants INEC to encourage deaf voters to come with personal sign language interpreters to the polling unit to minimize communication gap, advising the Commission to recruit sign language interpreter volunteers to support their engagement with deaf voters on Election Day.
Positing that a violent atmosphere is not conducive for voting of the PWDs, it counsel that INEC should collaborate with the security agencies to reassure the electorate of their safety and security, to diffuse tension and brace up security challenges especially in some flashpoints to ensure accessible, credible, free, fair, and peaceful election.
The Centre lauded INEC for developing a framework on access and participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral process, which is committed to removal of barriers that hinders PWDs’ access to electoral process. However, it notes that the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018 also known as the National Disability Act, which was signed by President Mohmmadu Buhari on the 17th of January, 2019 is yet to be domesticated by the Edo State Government.
Sections 1, 3, 26 and 30 of the Act made provisions that support PWDs participation in the electoral process. These provisions are in line with the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which Nigeria has signed and ratified. In particular, the Convention provides in article 29a: I – ii as follows.
- Ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, directly or through freely chosen representatives, including the right and opportunity for persons with disabilities to vote and be elected, inter alia, by:
- Ensuring that voting procedures, facilities and materials are appropriate, accessible and easy to understand and use; Protecting the right of persons with disabilities to vote by secret ballot in elections and public referendums without intimidation, and to stand for elections, to effectively hold office and perform all public functions at all levels of government, facilitating the use of assistive and new technologies where appropriate;
In pursuit of its Campaign for Equal Voting Access for Persons with Disabilities, using evidence based approach to advocate and promote access and participation of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Nigeria in the electoral process, the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities commissioned a Rapid Assessment to review the experiences and challenges faced by PWDs in the 2019 General Elections and also documents PWDs expectations as well as INEC provisions to conduct election during COVID-19 in Edo State, Nigeria.
The purpose of fns assessment therefore is to provide an evidence-based anticipation of issues that might affect PWDs in the forth-coming Edo State election. It is also to engage with policy-level election stakeholders and persons with disabilities towards addressing these issues. Its specific objectives are to:
- Document the experiences of PWDs during the 2019 general elections, particular to voting process,
- Document and evaluate INEC provisions and preparations for PWD participation in the September 2020 Edo State governorship election during the Covid-19 pandemic,
- Assess PWDs needs and expectations from INEC in the election,
- Make recommendations to enhance PWD participation in it, and
- Enhance confidence of PWDs in INEC programmes and efforts to meet their needs during the election.
Field work for the assessment took place in August and September 2020 and included six local government areas in Edo State: They include Akoko Edo, Esan South East, Esan West, Oredo, Ovia North East, and Owan East.
Its method combined:
- A sixty-respondent survey employing snowballing and purposive sampling,
- Four key informant interviews, and
- Three focus group discussions.
The survey’s sixty respondents comprised three clusters of persons with disabilities: those with physical, visual, or hearing disabilities. They included males and females across age categories and educational levels, and the majority were unemployed.
The key informant interviewees included:
* An INEC official,
* Chair of the Joint National Association of Persons with
* An advisor in the Edo State Ministry of Justice,
* President of the Conference of Non-Governmental Organisations (CONGOS).
Finally, eighteen persons participated in the focus group discussion across six LGAs selected from the state’s three senatorial districts.