It was not a pity party, but a gathering of great minds with fantastic ideas on how to make the electoral process leading to the 2023 general elections stress-free for Persons with Disabilities (PWD) in Nigeria as The Albino Foundation (TAF) on Wednesday in Abuja, launched #ABLE2VOTE campaign. #ABLE2VOTE campaign. -is a voter education campaign
It was not a pity party, but a gathering of great minds with fantastic ideas on how to make the electoral process leading to the 2023 general elections stress-free for Persons with Disabilities (PWD) in Nigeria as The Albino Foundation (TAF) on Wednesday in Abuja, launched #ABLE2VOTE campaign.
#ABLE2VOTE campaign. -is a voter education campaign for the participation of Persons with Disabilities in the electoral process. The Albino Foundation is one of the implementing partners in the phase two of the European Union Support for Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EUSDGN 11).
Dr. Jake Ekpelle,CEO/Founder ,The Albino Foundation and Convener, Disability Inclusion Nigeria in his welcome remarks went down memory lane on the agitations and eventual victory of PWD in electoral process in the country with a basket of thanks to Prof Mahmood Yakubu, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman for the reforms which were made to take care of the interest of PWD in Nigeria.
Ekpelle,who declined to prepare a written remarks but elected to “come to speak from the heart”, predicted that with the reforms in the electoral process, conscious mobilisation of PWD in the country and the zeal of members to see a better Nigeria, very soon a person with disability will become the president of the country.
He hinted that an internship programme would soon begin with the National Assembly whereby PWD would be attached to a lawmaker to understudy them with the intention of providing a springboard for future electoral engagements.
Sign language experts, he said, would be attached to the INEC Chairman and the Chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC) adding that each of the chambers of the National Assembly would also be given sign language experts.
For the 2023 general elections, Ekpelle said 700 members of the PWD group would be deployed to voting centres across the country.
Executive Secretary, National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, Mr James Lalu who said he is a proud beneficiary of sign language expert announced that the agency would be attaching sign language experts to the INEC and NPC Chairmen immediately.
Lalu commended Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC boss for the reforms in the electoral process some of which would make the electoral process less cumbersome and stressful for PWD. He pleaded with the INEC Chairman to give PWD priority on election day.
Lalu said PWD are tired of estimate of members thus, he appealed to the NPC chairman to ensure that the country gets the actual figure of PWD in the country.
“We should use our number to negotiate for political offices. Now, we have Executive Secretary, next time we want a cabinet minister.
Chairman, National Population Commission, Alhaji Nasir Isa Kwarra confirmed that in all the surveys conducted by the Commission, PWD are well captured. He said PWD are not just going to be captured in the surveys but are going to be involved in counting people during the next census.
Already, he said state offices of the Commission have been directed to ensure that PWD are recruited as enumerators or supervisors.
INEC Chairman,Prof Yakubu thanked The Albino Foundation for organising the #ABLE2VOTE – voter education campaign stressing that all barriers must be dismantled.
He said the Commission accredited PWD as election observers in 2016 in the Edo and Ondo elections stressing that their reports helped the Commission in formulating policies for future electoral process.
Prof Yakubu who assured PWD that they would be active participants in the forthcoming elections said 10 PWD drawn from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) were trained and deployed in the last Osun state Governorship election adding that they discharged their responsibilities like others.
Barr. Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner for voter Education at the panel discussion on security issues around Disability and prevalent gaps in electoral rights of persons with disability: Priority voting access to polling units,voting requirements,voter apathy and individual cluster needs disclosed that the Commission would meet on Thursday to consider guidelines for PVC collection.
He said the Commission would send SMS (text messages) and E-mail messages to people when their PVC are ready for collection. He said INEC had written states and local government councils to improve facilities in schools designated as voting centers with special request on the needs of PWD at the voting centres.
Other speakers; Mr. James Lalu; Ms Grace Jerry, Executive Director, Inclusive Friends Association and Mr. Emmanuel Ayogu, Chief Operating Officer, Cedar Seed Foundation (CSF) all harped on the need to give PWD priority voting access at polling units.
Dr. Sam Amadi, Executive Director, School of Social and Political Thoughts who moderated the panel discussion noted three takeaways from the day’s activities and discussions.
One; “we have made progress. Moved from nothing to something – legal visibility, authorisation for PWD in voting and prioritising their voting.
Two; “Increased resources in training PWD and three ;” laws on paper amount to nothing except we use them”.
Amadi while rounding up the panel discussion said ;”we have done well but our task is not over yet”.