Press Conference to Launch of VOTE-ABILITY Campaign ahead of the 2023 General Elections: “Increasing the Participation of Persons with Disabilities in Elections”.
Abuja, Nigeria – It’s exactly one Hundred and Fifty (150) Days to the Nigerian General Elections of 2023.[i] According to “C” part in the preamble of the United Nations Convention of Rights of Person With Disabilities (UNCRPD), it Reaffirming the universality, indivisibility, interdependence , and interrelatedness of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and the need for persons with disabilities to be guaranteed their full enjoyment without discrimination.[ii]
The convention in Article 29 Participation in political and public life States Parties shall guarantee to persons with disabilities political rights and the opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others, and shall undertake: (a) To 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: (i) Ensuring that voting procedures, facilities and materials are appropriate, accessible and easy to understand and use; (ii) 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.[iii] It is on the principle of this convention that the Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) is launching this campaign to promote the rights, increase electoral participation and well-being of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in all spheres of society and development with core emphasis around electoral issues.
The Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) across all its project on the VOTE-ABILITY Campaign will advocate for PWDs inclusion by engaging all election stakeholders at various levels to be accountable for their statutory responsibilities. These stakeholders include but not limited are; to the electoral umpire Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Security agencies, Political Parties, Media agencies, citizens, and a concentration on the community of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).
The VOTE-ABILITY Campaign will also serve as the key to holding the government accountable to deliver on promises and constitutional responsibilities. It is obvious that there have been improvements in the electoral process and especially around the achievements of the Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) which includes the introduction of the Braille Ballot Guide (BBG) that enables blind voters to vote independently and Form EC 30E PWD poster that provides guidance for deaf voters. However, in spite of the provision of PWD voting assistive materials provided for PWDs, one cannot over-emphasize the need for continued engagement as there are still challenges that limit the participation PWDs in the electoral process.
Amongst the challenges faced during the Pre-Election phase were the registration of PWDs during the past Concluded Voter Registration (CVR), inaccessible location for party manifestoes, high cost of nomination form in political parties excluded PWDs from participation, and low rapportage from media agencies who focus of the big names among political candidate. The attitudes of ad-hoc staff towards PWDs on election day depict inadequate training before deployment and the low-level capturing of the PWD data in Form EC40H.
The VOTE-ABILITY Campaign will engage the three phases of election which are the Pre. Election Day and Post-Election phase. The VOTE-ABILITY Campaign call on INEC to:
The recruitment of ad-hoc staff should consider 5% PWDs according to Sections 28 (1) and 29 of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities Prohibition Act 2018. [iv]
That there should be priority collection of the Permanent Voters Card (PVC) during the distribution of PVCs
During the training of ad-hoc staff, INEC should collaborate with the Organization of Persons with Disabilities, especially on the PWD component.
To increase the targeted civic and voter education ahead of the general elections
Capture detailed disability type in a disaggregated format as it is currently on the form EC 40H PWD
That there should be the deployment of PWD election assistive aides and
Polling Units where PWD assistive aides will be deployed should be made public.
The VOTE-ABILITY Campaign will access the implementation of Section 54 subsections 1 and 2 Nigeria Electoral Act 2022 to ascertain compliance as provided in the Act. [v] such as Braille, large embossed print, electronic devices, sign language interpretation, or off-site voting in appropriate cases.
For the media, the VOTE-ABILITY campaign will consistently engage and provide relevant information on PWDs at all times.
IFA will engage security agencies in training their staff on the proper ways of engaging PWDs during election processes.
Political parties are encouraged to make their campaign venues accessible for PWDs and to provide sign language interpreters. Most importantly, candidates of political parties should ensure to fulfill all their campaign promises.
The VOTE-ABILITY Campaign will engage with civil society organizations and other OPDs on Voter and Civic Education so as to reduce Voter-Apathy, especially within the disability community.
IFA acknowledges the efforts that have been made by the different stakeholders in ensuring the electoral accessibility of PWDs.
Thank you for your extremely helpful attention to this matter.