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2023 General Election: CCD solicits inclusion, equal participation of PWDs in electoral processes

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By MILLICENT IFEANYICHUKWU

LAGOS- The Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) has solicited for inclusion and equal participation of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in the electoral processes, ahead of the 2023 General Election.

Mr David Anyaele, Executive Director of CCD, made the call at a dialogue with Frontline Political Actors and PWDs which held on Wednesday at Agidingbi, Ikeja, Lagos.

Anyaele spoke on findings of an assessment of the Local Government elections held in July 2021 in Lagos State, within the context of the special provision made by the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) in collaboration the Lagos State Office of Disability Affairs (LASODA).

Mr David Anyaele,Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD)

According to him, the purpose of involving political actors is for them to hear from the members, their challenges, barriers encountered and preparations put in place as part of inclusion of the PWDs in the 2023 general elections.

“Many among the few PWDs who voted during the July 2021 Local Government election in Lagos faced multiple barriers.

“Chief among these are, lack of sign language interpreter for the deaf cluster and discrimination against the blind.

“Some electoral materials used where not available in an accessible and understandable format for the virtually impaired (blind) cluster, persons with albinism, persons with auditory impairment and placing of polling units across the gutters,.

” These finding shows that there are barriers and these barriers we must find a way to break and conquer so that the PWDs enjoy equal voting access and political participation in Nigeria’s electoral process,” he added.

Anyaele declared that the CCD was ready and willing to work with any political party, at all levels and all parts of the country, particularly when opportunities and invitations are thrown to the body.

He said that CCD would be prepared to provide summary of any required information on any issues that actors could look into for research, while deepens knowledge around it and use it for engagement.

According to him, if government says we are budgeting one million naira for poverty alleviation, we should be able to say PWDs are benefitting without necessarily doing advocacy, campaign or meeting before being included.

“We will like to engage at the state level, candidates of different political parties, contestants for Senate, House of Representatives and State Assemblies, so that they can appreciate emerging issues and integrate it in their agenda.

“We want you to speak on issues of inclusion, participation, how people with disabilities will access basic facilities and justice in such a way that PWD will benefit, we will like to engage Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

“The issues that have to do with education, healthcare system and other basic facility.

“This is so that when you say you’re going to do free healthcare services, we will have an understanding of how you’re going to approach it so that PWD can have access.

“That is the main thing that we are soliciting for, because by the time we cover these areas with, we know them, we have them as party members, we did something for them, those will not translate to access or inclusion.

“That 2023 moving forward, Lagos State Electoral laws will be implemented to the letter, that PWDs will have share of infrastructure without knowing anybody or knocking any anyone’s door on equal basis,” Anyaele added.

In same vein, Mr Buba Luka, the Disability Desk Officer of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said that ensuring the PWDs’ right to vote and be voted for, was one of the primary and visible gains in any thriving democracy.

Luka explained that promoting the right and freedom to equally participate in elections was provided in both local and national declarations , protocols and instruments as endorsed by the United Nations, African Union, ECOWAS and ratified by  Nigeria states.

He said: “We are in where the PWDs are facing several obstacles around key processes within electoral political process which tend to substrate their contribution towards the development of electoral and political landscape.

“The electoral bill that was recently passed few months ago into law and became an Act has made a provision for PWDs and People with Special Needs; so, it is in the law of Nigeria now.

“A truly representative of electoral outcome is one that is totally inclusive. It  therefore becomes critical to put in place measures that will minimise or eliminate electoral discriminatory practices,” he added.

The INEC Desk Officer declared that measures have been put in place, a disability political framework toward providing a level playing field for the PWDs Community.

He added that other stakeholders including  the authorities, parties, security agencies amongst others also have important contributions to make toward the actualisation of a truly inclusive society.

On the sideline, Luka said there were no plans by INEC to extend the ongoing Voters Registration exercise, adding that the deadline remained June 30, 2022.

Also Mrs Olukanni-Abochai Eniola, Director of Medical Rehabilitation Mobility Appliances & Aids, LASODA,  in her remark, said that the body was passionate about the inclusiveness of PWDs, especially in the area of exercising their nationality mandate.

“This is to say it is fundamental for the PWDs to have mouth and input in every decision if they want to go along with the majority or not, as related to electoral process in the country,

“LASODA appreciates the fact that INEC is showing that they are  recognising the PWDs and they must not be left behind in fundamental issues  in the political arena,” Eniola said. (NAN)

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