The Inclusive Friends Association in her Access Nigeria campaign had on Thursday 26 August 2021 held a Stakeholders Roundtable on Inclusive Elections in Nigeria. The meeting which was held in Abuja was attended by representatives from various organizations, media, and agencies such as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs), PWDs leaders, Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).
In a keynote address, the INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of the Commission’s Outreach and Partnerships Dr. Adekunle Ladipo Ogunmola represented by Mrs. Lakunya Dorothy Bello stated the commitment the commission is having towards ensuring that Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) are carried along. Lakunya further admonished PWDs especially in Anambra State to use the opportunity to register at the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) ahead of the off-cycle gubernatorial election coming November 6, 2021.
“We reassure Nigerians and indeed PWDs that preparations are on top gear towards the conduct of Anambra State governorship elections and all citizens will be free to cast an informed vote. As a commission, we are fully committed to the conduct of free, credible, fair, and inclusive elections. CVR Registration is a prerequisite for voting during elections. All eligible PWDs are to please avail themselves of this opportunity to register or update their record in the registration so that their disability status will be captured”.
Lakunya established that the registration process is a public service and is free of charge.
“We determined to see Nigeria do better during this CVR which will last for one year and this is in response to repeated calls from stakeholders. I must reiterate that online registration is a public service and therefore it is free of charge. There is no INEC approved cybercafé, no online registration centres and no scratch cards to be purchase for the exercise”.
The Executive Director and convener of the Access Nigeria Campaign Grace Jerry made a call ahead of the Anambra Governorship elections coming November 6, 2021. Among many other demands, she commends INEC for the ongoing plans to train blind voters on how to use the braille ballot guides and to ensure they commit to deploy the same to all polling units in Anambra State. Also, she admonished INEC to collaborate with NOA to broadcast voter education messages in the media on the use of the braille ballot guide, form EC30 E PWD, magnifying glasses to assist voters to vote appropriately.
In a goodwill message, the Deputy Country Director, National Democratic Institute (NDI) Francis Madugu on behalf of the partner organizations, recognizes and expresses gratitude to stakeholders who honor to attain the meeting. He commends particularly INEC for their commitments and supports to IFA’s calls while in the quest to improve the participation of PWDs in the political space.
While stating the level of preparedness of INEC, the Anambra Residential Electoral Commissioner Dr. Nkwachukwu Orji represented by Mr. Samuel Nimem T. (HOD Voter Education and Publicity (VEP)) Anambra state, stated that the commission has approved on increase registration centres to Registration Area (RA) levels ahead of the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in Anambra; and also, PWDs will be given special consideration when they come to register.
“The CVR exercise is still ongoing, and because of the elections in Anambra State, the commission has approved that Anambra registration centres be deployed to Registration Area (RA) level to increase the opportunity for everyone to register in the CVR. There is also a general provision for priority voting and let me add that PWDs don’t deserve pity, they just want you to make things easy and accessible for them during these elections, and that is what we are prepared to do”.
The Stakeholders Roundtable on Inclusive Elections in Nigeria is an activity under the Access Nigeria Campaign with support from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was organized to ascertain INEC and other election stakeholders’ preparedness for the 2021 off-cycle governorship election in Anambra State and also to secure commitments from electoral stakeholders on increased accessibility for PWDs during the elections.