Ekiti Governorship Election: The Inclusive Friends (IFA)-led Access Nigeria Campaign to Deployed Observers with Disabilities to observe the accessibility of polling units and general election conduct across 16 LGAs
Ado, Ekiti State – The Access Nigeria: Disability Votes Matter Campaign is a disability rights movement led by the Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) for Nigeria’s 30 million persons with disabilities (PWDs). The goal of the Campaign is to increase the participation of PWDs in Nigeria’s political and electoral processes by reducing the physical, attitudinal and institutional barriers that make it difficult or impossible for them to participate.
The Access Nigeria Campaign pursues its goal through evidence-based advocacy to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other stakeholders to make election venues, materials, and processes more accessible to PWDs. The campaign also conducts Get Out The Vote (GOTV) campaigns to increase PWD voting.
On Saturday, June 18, 2022, The Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) on the Access Nigeria Campaign deployed mobile observers to all the 16 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Ekiti State. The observers observed the deployment of poll officials, accreditation & voting process, the deployment of election assistive material to aide voting for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and shared reports on the general conduct of the election at the polling units’ level.
The IFA-led Access Nigeria Campaign considers this election very strategic as it is the first state-wide election to be conducted by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under the new Electoral Act 2022. It, therefore, presents an opportunity to assess the provision of Section 54 of the Electoral Act, 2022 provides that voters with visual impairment and other forms of disability or incapacitation should be assisted at the polling unit by a person chosen by him or her and the commission shall take reasonable steps to ensure these persons are assisted and provided by suitable means of communication such as braille, large embossed print, electronic devices, sign language interpretation, or off-site voting in appropriate cases. The election as well provides the opportunity to assess INEC’s operations and the new issues of guidelines provided by the Electoral Act 2022.
IFA-led Access Nigeria Campaign observers reported that the early arrival and commencement of Polling Unit Officials across all the locations observed were against the experience during the Anambra 2021 November election.
Functionality of Technology
The Access Nigeria Campaign observers reported that the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) functioned efficiently in all Polling Units observed. This was a clear improvement from what was observed during the Anambra governorship Election observed in November 2021.
Polling Units Accessibility
IFA-led Access Nigeria Campaign observers reported that most of the routes (roads) leading to the areas of the polling units observed were accessible for PWDs.
Observer reports also showed that there were neither ramps nor handrails for use by PWDs outside most of the polling units observed
Access Nigeria observer reports showed that most polling units in Ekiti State were located in public buildings, (schools), town halls, open spaces, front popular junctions, or private houses.
Internal Polling Unit Layout
Access Nigeria observers reported that it was difficult for voters with disabilities to enter the polling units to participate in accreditation and voting. This was largely due to barriers like corridors and steps. Similarly, the location of the ballot boxes made it difficult for voters with disabilities to participate independently.
Polling Unit Materials
The height of the ballot box was not suitable for voters with disabilities, particularly for those who use wheelchairs, at most polling units observed.
Form EC 40H was available at allpolling units observed by the Access Nigeria Observers to collect data on voters with disabilities who voted on Election Day. However, the usability of the form by Polling Officials was not effective.
However, according to the YIAGA Africa Watching The Vote (WTV) Observers reported that; “the Braille ballot guides were observed in 61% of polling units, the EC30E PWD poster was seen in 66% of polling units and form 40H (PWD voter information and statistics) was seen in 76% of polling units.”
The Access Nigeria Campaign observers reported that priority voting was announced and implemented at all polling units observed for PWDs, the aged, and other vulnerable groups.
The non-availability of magnifying glasses as an assistive aide for persons with Albinism was reported at all Polling Unit Observed by the Access Nigeria Campaign observers.
Secrecy of the Ballots
The Access Nigeria Campaign observers reported that, in some polling units, the secrecy of the ballot was compromised as voters and party agents could see who a voter cast his or her votes for. This was reported at, Iworoko, Polling Unit 006, Ward 09 2, Irepodun/Ifelodun, PA Jegede House, PU001 Dalimore RA 09 Ado Ekiti, Front of Omolayo/Omoleyo PU002 Dallimore ward 09 Ado Ekiti.
The Access Nigeria Campaign observers reported the presence of Police and other security agencies at the Polling Unit observed and also around the state. Observers also reported that the security agencies were professional in the discharge of their responsibilities. This to a large extent guaranteed confidence for PWDs.
The Access Nigeria Campaign observers reported issues of voting buying in some polling units observed. These activities were observed at Iworoko, Polling Unit 006, Ward 09 2, Irepodun/Ifelodun, PA Jegede House, PU001 Dalimore RA 09 Ado Ekiti, Front of Omolayo/Omoleyo PU002 Dallimore ward 09 Ado Ekiti, Olaoluwas GRA School, PU 013, Irona Ward 011 Ado Ekiti, CAC PU 014 Irona Ward 011 and Iworoko/Idogun 1 – Idogun Area, PU 007 Ward 09.
Based on the findings of the Access Nigeria Campaign observers, the IFA-led Access Nigeria: Disability Votes Matter Campaign makes the following recommendations to ensure voters with disabilities can continue to participate in Nigeria’s political and electoral processes:
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
The Access Nigeria campaign calls on INEC to ensure that newly created polling units are accessible to PWDs and to relocate previously created polling units that are inaccessible. This process can be achieved simultaneously with the allocation of voters to the newly created polling units that were previously not assigned any voters.
INEC should strengthen the training of regular and ad hoc staff to effectively administer accessible Election Day materials and accommodations for voters with disabilities.
INEC should continue to engage and consult with the disability community, including IFA, to identify areas to be improved for more inclusive electoral processes.
The Executive at the Federal and State Levels
The Access Nigeria Campaign calls on the federal and state governments to work with various agencies and the private sector to ensure that public buildings are built and renovated by the 2023 deadline to accommodate PWDs in their daily life following the provisions of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act of 2018.
The executive, at all levels, should strengthen existing building codes and enforce them to guarantee accessibility for PWDs during and beyond elections.
National and State Assemblies
The National Assembly should ensure that the executive implements specific sections of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disability Act 2018 through effective legislative oversight.
The National Assembly should also perform its oversight functions of INEC to ensure that all measures for accessibility are implemented in line with the Discrimination Against Persons with Disability Act 2018.
The Access Nigeria Campaign calls on the police and other security agencies to develop a special protocol to protect voters and observers with disabilities during elections. We also call on the police and other security agencies to ensure that whenever these protocols are developed, their personnel are well trained to implement these provisions.
The Security agencies should consider collaborating on a mobile court system for on-the-spot trial and prosecution of all those caught for vote-buying and other electoral-related offenses to serve as a deterrent for other citizens.
The Nigerian Media
The media should make deliberate efforts to conduct voter education that compliments the efforts of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities in promoting the participation of PWDs in Nigeria’s electoral and political processes
Media executives should consider disability inclusion in their broadcast and news production to promote inclusive practices in Nigeria including the consistent utilization of sign language interpretation.
Elections Focused Civil Society
The Access Nigeria Campaign commends all organizations working toward safer, more inclusive free, and fair elections in Nigeria. The campaign calls on these organizations to increase sensitization on the danger of vote-buying and the implication for their future.
Continue to engage with the disability community to ensure their efforts are inclusive and provide opportunities for PWDs to contribute to their work either as advisors to ensure a disability lens on their work or by including PWDs as participants in activities.
The Access Nigeria Campaign promotes social and human rights approaches to disability, which see barriers within society as the impairment, and not a person’s disability. We believe the rights of PWDs are human rights and protected under our constitution and international conventions. PWDs do not want pity, but to enjoy full participation in Nigeria’s electoral and political processes. This cannot be possible without inclusive electoral processes for all.
Executive Director, Inclusive Friends Association and Convener, of the Access Nigeria Campaign
The Access Nigeria Campaign is implemented with technical support by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and funded by United State Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)