By ANGELA ATABO
ABUJA- The Albino Foundation on Wednesday called on politicians not to neglect Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) as campaign begins because their number can make or mare election victory.
The Chief Executive Officer and Founder of the foundation, Mr Jake Epelle said this at a news conference to call for the inclusion of PWD as campaigns commence by political parties in Abuja.
Epelle said that the conference was necessary to alert the nation on the issues bordering on PWDs.
According to him, the exclusion of any group or persons in democratic process is an infringement on democracy, thus the need to call on political parties to toe the line of inclusiveness.
“We are emphasising on the need for political parties to practice true inclusion by making sure that their campaign promises and manifesto have a place for PWDs.
“Our number can make or mare your election, we are way over 25 million, so do not take our numbers for granted, factor us in your programmes if you want to win.
“We commend the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) effort in engendering an all-inclusive political process through the development of a framework on Access for PWDs.
“We urge political parties to adopt and improve on it.
“This is for a broader participation targeted at persons with disabilities, to have a meaningful voice in the political and electoral processes,’’ he said.
Epelle said in the interest of inclusiveness for persons with disabilities, the foundation therefore demanded that PWDs should be involved in campaign committee set up.
He said that campaign materials should be produced in accessible formats to reach different clusters of PWDs; the visually impaired and persons with albinism among others.
Epelle said that as enshrined in the 2018 Disability Act, political parties should ensure that locations and settings for meetings and campaigns activities were accessible to all PWDs, including party offices.
He also called for the provision of sign language interpreters for the hearing-impaired community during campaigns as well as audio for the visually impaired persons.
Epelle said there should also be provision of adequate security network for persons with disabilities during campaign activities.
He called for the need to strengthen internal democracy, whereby political parties allow PWD members to fully participate in the activities, including running for elective positions.
He said political parties should subsidise election costs for PWDs, taking into account the socio-economic inequalities.
“We reiterate our demand for a non-discriminatory and inclusive appointment of INEC RECs. We are watching to ensure that 15 per cent of Nigeria’s population are not left out of the process.
“The war against discrimination of PWDs can only be won when political parties, institutions, government and the people collectively collaborate to say no to nuances of discrimination and campaign for the rights of PWDs.
“They should also actively become champions for PWD inclusion in political processes thereby building an equitable society for all,” he said.
Ms Ndifreke Ferdinand, the Programme Manager, Albino Foundation said on Sept. 28, public campaigns by political parties would officially start as provided by Section 94(1) of the Electoral Act 2022.
Ferdinand said the foundation therefore appealed to all political parties and candidates to strategise for a PWD inclusive campaign.
She said this was the best way to balance the efforts of civil society groups working to ensure an all-inclusive election.
Ferdinand said as gatekeepers to political decision-making, political parties have a role to play in supporting disability inclusion in politics.
“To become more competitive, it is important for parties to adopt practices that increase inclusiveness of underrepresented communities.
“These actions will help build and maintain a broader base of constituent support and earn citizens’ trust,’’ she said.
Mr George Anwayi, the Assistant Programme Manager of the foundation said to ensure that disability issues were mainstreamed throughout the electoral phases; INEC took steps to remove barriers that restricted full participation of PWDs as voters.
Anwayi said several measures had been put in place to ensure that persons with disabilities were included in the country’s electoral processes, it now behoved on political parties to ensure inclusiveness. (NAN)