The Center for People with Disabilities, CCD, has expressed satisfaction with the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for taking broader steps to ensure people with disabilities and other marginalised groups were given fair chance to participate during the governorship election in Ekiti state.
In a report released by the Center in Lagos, it said that reports from its observers indicates that the significant number of the polling units monitored showed that polling units were opened as early as 8am and good turnout of voters with peaceful atmosphere. The report also said that marginalised populations, like the aged, nursing mothers and pregnant women and persons with disabilities were offered priority voting, and commended Polling Officials for their efforts in this regard.
The report stated that the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and JONAPwD deployed carefully selected but well trained 44 Observers, 98 per cent who are persons with disabilities covering the three Senatorial Districts (including the 16 local government areas) of the state using statistical principles and information and communication technologies (ICTs), to observe the election.
To cover all the local government area, a minimum of 2 Observers were deployed to each local government. The selected PWDs are non partisan and have no political affiliation and each of the observers were provided an Assistant who assisted them in moving around during the election observation, said the report.
The methodology adopted for the exercise was random sampling of polling units in all the 16 Local Government Areas of Ekiti State. The choice of this technique was informed by the nature of the exercise which gave every polling unit to stand an equal chance of being selected for observation, CCD said.
The report however noted that findings across the 280 sampled polling units in Ekiti State indicate that there is a need for consistent improvement on preparedness by INEC for PWDs in future elections, particularly for the Visually impaired (the Blind), Hearing Impaired and the Physically challenged.
The Center therefore called on the National Assembly to urgently strengthen section 56 (2) of the 2010 Electoral Act by making the provision of Braille and sign language interpreters mandatory as opposed to leaving it to the desecration of INEC as the case is today.
It also urged the National Assembly to transmit the Nigeria Disability Bill to President for assent.
The CCD further asked INEC to go beyond standardising its collection of PWD data in pre-election and Election Day processes but make adequate provisions to enable the participation of voters with different forms of disabilities, and recruit sign interpreter across thirty six States and Abuja as staff as permanent staff, including training and retraining of Staff on disability issues.
“It is imperative that INEC create enough awareness on disability issues amongst its ad-hoc staff including the electoral presiding officers. It was unfortunate that some of the Dons appointed as returning officers in the just concluded election were using demeaning words to describe PWDs hence the need to sensitize them on disability issues. CCD is appreciative of the opportunity to participate in this exercise”, the report concluded.