On August 11, 2021, the Access Nigeria Campaign commenced observing the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise in Anambra State. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) commenced the CVR exercise on June 28. This is to allow eligible voters who had just turned 18 or those who were previously unable to register as voters to do so ahead of the November 6, 2021 governorship election in Anambra State. For the first time, eligible voters were allowed to start pre-registration online following which they could visit an INEC office to capture their biometric data and complete the process.
The Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) led Access Nigeria Campaign is observing the CVR process to document the experience of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and make recommendations that will assist INEC to make future CVR processes more accessible for PWDs. IFA believes that if CVR processes are accessible to PWDs, it will increase our participation in all phases of the electoral process including voter registration and voting on election day.
IFA is conducting the CVR observation in partnership with the Anambra State chapter of Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD); and with technical and financial support from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID), respectively.
To observe the Anambra State CVR process and determine the accessibility of the process for PWDs, the Access Nigeria Campaign has deployed 21 carefully trained PWD observers to the 21 local government area (LGA) offices of INEC where the exercise is taking place. The Campaign has deployed observers with disabilities because of the determination to observe the process through the lenses of PWDs. The methodology for the exercise is stationary observation with one observer deployed to each of the 21 LGA INEC offices.
Over the course of four weeks, each observer will observe once a week at their pre-assigned INEC registration centre using a specialized checklist. With the guidance of their checklist questions, each observer will respond to questions on the arrival of registration officials at the registration center or LGA office, opening, and setup of the registration center, physical accessibility of registration center and registration materials, the conduct of INEC officials and closing of the process. Being a stationary observation methodology, observers will arrive before the exercise commences at 9 a.m. and will observe until all eligible voters are registered by INEC at the end of the exercise by 3 p.m. or beyond.
The first observation day commenced based on the schedule below:
In line with the information and communication technology (ICT) processes of the observation, observers observed at their preassigned registration centers and sent electronic reports (coded text messages) to the Access Nigeria CVR database system on the first reporting day
Below are the findings from reports sent by 20 out of the 21 observers on August 11, 2021. In Ayamelum LGA, communal clashes prevented the Access Nigeria Campaign observer from observing the process.
Accessibility of Route/road leading to the INEC Registration Centers
In six out of the 20 centers visited, Access Nigeria Campaign observers reported that the route leading to the INEC registration center was inaccessible. The centers where this was reported are Aguata, Anambra West, Dunukofia, Idemili North, Nnewi South, and Oyi. While it is commendable that 14 routes are accessible, there is a lot of room for improvement.
Accessibility of Registration Centers (entrance and internal layout)
In contrast with the finding above, Access Nigeria Campaign observers reported that 16 out of the 20 INEC registration centers (entrance and internal layout) observed were not accessible to PWDs. Registration points were situated in offices or areas with stairs with a notable absence of ramps or handrails for PWDs who use crutches or wheelchairs. The centers with inaccessible registration points are Anaocha, Aguata, Anambra-East, Anambra-West, Awka-North, Dunukofia, Ekwusigo, Idemili-South, Ihiala, Njikoka, Nnewi-South, Nnewi-North, Orumba-South, Orumba-North and Oyi
Priority Registration of PWDs
In 19 out of the 20 registration centers, Access Nigeria Campaign observers reported that PWDs were treated with priority. The campaign is glad that the INEC has taken priority registration of PWDs seriously and urges them to continue on this path during the rest of the process, not just in Anambra state but all over Nigeria.
Collection of PWD Data, Disaggregated by Type of Disability
In all of the centers, Access Nigeria Observers reported that the CVR application form had spaces to capture the disability status and type of disability of registrants. This is a most welcome development as it will enhance the ability of INEC to deploy assistive materials to these new registrants with precision during the November 6 governorship election and subsequent elections. The Access Nigeria Campaign has been advocating for this since 2016.
Use of Sign Language Interpreters and PWD-specific Registration Instructions Poster
None of the 20 centers had a sign language interpreter or PWD-specific posters to provide directions to deaf registrants on the registration procedure. The total absence of both sign language interpreters and PWD-specific instruction posters discourages citizens with hearing impairments from registering as voters.
Presence of Security Personnel at Registration Centers
There was a clear absence of security officials at 14 out of the 20 registration centers visited. With the Anambra election fast approaching and with a heightened fear of violence, the absence of security officials at these centers will deter PWDs from engaging in the registration process.
While the Access Nigeria Campaign commends INEC on the efforts it has made so far to ensure that PWDs can engage in the CVR exercise, the following recommendations will help remove barriers faced by PWDs in the ongoing process.
The provision of mobile ramps at the registration centers to aid the mobility of PWDs who are on wheelchairs. Alternatively, the registration points in the centers should be located in areas that do not have staircases as this will immediately eliminate the difficulty faced by PWDs who use crutches or wheelchairs. Additionally, the internal layout of all registration centers should be made spacious enough for all categories of PWDs to move freely without barriers during the CVR.
The provision of PWD-specific instruction posters will assist hearing-impaired registrants and other PWDs who visit the registration centers.
Access Nigeria Campaign recommends that INEC should collaborate with the deaf association of Nigeria Anambra chapter in ensuring that sign language interpreters are stationed across the 21 LGAs of the state. This will ease the participation of PWDs who have a hearing impairment.
INEC should increase collaboration with security agencies to ensure adequate deployment of their personnel to the registration centers. The presence of the security agencies will enhance the confidence of safety to PWDs which will, in turn, increase their participation.
INEC should send commendation letters or messages to registration officers in Anambra State on the professional treatment of PWDs including priority registration and urge them to surpass this feat in the remainder of the CVR process, Registration officials in other parts of the country should be urged to emulate this,
The Access Nigeria Campaign commends INEC for the efforts it has made to include PWDs in the ongoing CVR process. Noteworthy is PWD priority registration and the new data collection form which will collect data disaggregated by disabilities. There are however still areas for accessibility improvement especially as it concerns where registration points are situated at INEC offices. The campaign hopes that the Commission will immediately seek to address the challenges identified in this statement.
Executive Director, Inclusive Friends Association (IFA).