By Segun Bambo Ojomo
An epoch was made recently as the Demand Charter for Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Election Processes in Nigeria was presented to stakeholders at an event organized by the International Press Centre, Lagos.
The Demand Charter which was a product of the first truly national response to the systematic disenfranchisement and de-participation of PWDs from elections contained recommendations obtained from workshops organized with the support of ACTIONAID, Nigeria and the UKAID Department of International Development (DFID) under a project on Strengthening Citizens Engagement in Electoral Process (SCEEP) by her implementing partners (League for Democratic Women -Kaduna, International Press Centre -Lagos, Development Dynamics -Imo, Centre for Information and Technology Development- Kanto, Community Action for Popular Participation -Plateau and Women United for Economic Empowerment -Aka Ibom.
The following were recommendations offered by the charter for the conscientious inclusion of PWDs in the electoral process:
•INEC should employ qualified PWDs and saddle them with the responsibility of ensuring the participation of the constituency in the political processes, in electoral processes, as election observers and mobilisation of PWDs to participate in elections.
•INEC and the political parties should develop clear and simplified voting guidelines via disability communication tools for PWDs, as well as make polling stations visible and accessible to them.
•INEC should ensure that the names of all registered PWDs are verified on the voters registers and printed boldly for easy identification during elections.
•INEC should endeavor to make the voting process easier by sorting out their logistics issues to ensure prompt arrival to the polling stations with voting materials on election dates and also sensitise its staff on the importance of specific handling of PWDs.
•Political parties should ensure that PWDs are included in their administration and make sure they are given optimum opportunities to contest in elections.
•INEC should ensure the amendment of section 56 of the Electoral Act 2015 to include individuals with other forms of disability, as a matter of urgency and
•INEC should provide for the nature of disability on the registration cards of PWDs, among others.
There is no gain saying in the statistics delivering that about 25million Nigerians living with disabilities have over the years been disenfranchised from Nigeria’s electoral process due to the negligence associated with the inclusion of PWDs while out of the 25million, not less than 3.5million are totally incapacitated to pertake even in elections. It is hoped that INEC and all other stakeholders in Nigeria’s electoral process would ensure that the charter on PWDs is effectively implemented so as to align with the UN Charter on Human Rights.