Kogi Governorship Election: IFA-led Access Nigeria Campaign to Deploy 200 Observers with Disabilities to measure accessibility of polling units for PWDs.
Lokoja, Kogi State – The Access Nigeria: Disability Votes Matter Campaign is a disability rights movement led by and for Nigeria’s 28.5 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 physical barriers and stigma that make it difficult or impossible for PWDs to participate in elections.
To better understand the challenges PWDs face, the Access Nigeria Campaign collected data through Nigeria’s first ever-polling unit accessibility audits. These historical audits, during the 2016 governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, exposed the widespread barriers experienced by PWD1s on Election Day. Topping the list of challenges included lack of available election materials in usable formats for PWDs and polling units without ramps or with physical barriers to entry with reports showing that 65 percent of the polling units in Edo and 77 percent in Ondo were located in places that were inaccessible for PWDs. Findings from the 2016 Edo and Ondo audits provided crucial data for advocacy to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), resulting in changes to the way elections are run that is already impacting the lives of PWDs across the nation.
Three years later, it is time to once again deploy Access Nigeria’s election observation approach to measure progress made on making elections more inclusive for PWDs. This will include sending out 200 observers to observe the November 16, 2019 governorship election in Kogi State to ensure PWDs are able to practice their fundamental right of voting independently and confidentially.
Electoral Barriers for PWDs
Despite making up 15% of the population, Nigerians with disabilities continue to face challenges when participating in elections. Polling units are not always accessible to those with physical impairments, ballot boxes placed on high tables make it difficult for wheelchair users to drop their ballot, and the absence and/or inconsistent use of sign language interpreters during voter education and political campaigns make it impossible for voters who are deaf or hard of hearing to be properly informed. These challenges conflict with provisions within the National Disability Act 2018 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to which Nigeria is a signatory. .
Access Nigeria Advocacy Success
Over the last three years Access Nigeria, coordinated by Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), utilized data from the audits to advocate to INEC for more inclusive elections. Success to date include the piloting of a Braille ballot guide to assist voters with visual impairments to vote independently during the 2018 governorship election in Osun State and the 2019 general elections, Election Day written instructions (Form EC30 E (PWD) for voters with hearing impairments, and magnifying glasses at all polling units. The Access Nigeria campaign played a leading role in the development of these tools, of which INEC has committed to using during the Kogi governorship election.
Polling Unit Accessibility Audit Methodology
For the November 16 governorship election in Kogi State, the Access Nigeria Campaign is set to conduct accessibility audits of polling units and election materials. During the audit, 200 carefully selected, trained and accredited PWD observers will observe physical accessibility of polling units for PWD voters, access to Election Day information and the participation of PWDs in Election Day processes.
Access Nigeria observers will observe throughout the day at their pre-assigned polling unit and answer 31 questions on their Election Day checklist before each sending a total of five (5) coded text messages to the Access Nigeria audit database system. The audit will measure INEC’s compliance to section 56 (1) and (2) of the Electoral Act 2010 (As Amended) and Articles 9 and 27 of the CRPD which legally guarantees the rights of PWDs to participate in political and public life.
IFA makes the following recommendations to ensure the participation of PWDs in Saturday’s election:
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
● IFA calls on INEC to stand by their commitment of providing the Braille ballot guide during the Kogi governorship election.
● INEC should also guarantee the provision of other PWD-friendly election materials including the Election Day written instructions (EC 30 E PWD), and magnifying glasses.
● INEC should ensure effective and consistent use of Form EC40H to capture data of PWDs voting on Election Day.
● INEC should fully enforce its policy of priority voting for PWDs so that PWDs with physical difficulties are not required to stand in line for long hours as witnessed in previous elections.
● IFA calls on the Police and other security agencies to protect PWD voters and election observers who are the most vulnerable to incidents of electoral violence. The IGP and Commissioner of Police in Kogi State must give clear directive to deployed personnel on this issue.
Persons with Disabilities
● IFA calls on all persons with disabilities that are registered to vote and have their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) to go out en masse and vote for the candidates of their choice. Nigeria’s PWD population is large and growing – it is time to influence the policies that affect your lives.
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 the full participation in Nigeria’s electoral and political processes. This cannot be possible without inclusive electoral processes for all.