FCT election: INEC assures PWDs unhindered access to ballot

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday assured Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) of unhindered access in exercising their franchise in the Feb. 12 Federal Capital Territory (FCT) area councils’ election.

The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) FCT, Alhaji Yahaya Bello gave the assurance in his remarks iN Abuja at a day sensitization meeting with Persons with Disabilities (PWD) towards an Inclusive Area Council Election in FCT, organised by INEC.

Yahaya represented by Deputy Director, ServiCom INEC FCT, Mr Dennis Ogu, said that INEC taken into consideration the electoral rights of every citizen had continued to strive to remove barriers which prohibit full participation of PWDs as voters and candidates.

“The Commission has therefore put in place several measures to ensure that persons with disabilities are included in the electoral process in the country.

“Therefore, in the forth coming area council election the Commission will be providing Braille Ballot Guide and/or magnifying glasses for visually impaired persons.

“Special queues will also be maintained on the Election Day to give priority to the persons with disabilities to cast their ballots with dignity and privacy.

“Other measures will be explained to you by relevant departments in the course of this meeting,” Bello said.

The REC said that the sensitization meeting was organised toward ensuring that every registered voter in FCT including PWDs exercise his or her civic rights in the election without any hindrance or inhibition.

The INEC Director, Gender And Inclusivity Department, Mrs Blessing Obidegwu, presenting the objective of the workshop, said that the meeting sought to educate the marginalised groups especially the PWDS on voting procedures.

Obidegwu, represented by by Mrs Lakunuya Bello said the sensitisation was to enable PWDs serve as voter educators themselves, join the Commission in preaching and educating people within their community to ensure that no eligible voter is left behind during the forthcoming FCT Area Councils.

“The role of Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) like INEC in a democracy is to conduct free, fait, credible, and inclusive elections as well as provide an enabling environment for all eligible citizens irrespective of gender, tribe, and disability to exercise their constitutional rights and privileges to vote and be voted for during elections.

“Persons with disabilities have fundamental human rights which include the right to vote and be voted for and the commission remains a strong advocate in ensuring that PWDs are mainstreamed into the electoral process.

“Hence, this meeting seeks to provide us with information on the elections as well as what is expected of PWDS in the electoral process to enhance their participation.

“Without the active participation of PWDs in the electoral process, the goals of equality and development cannot be fulfilled, and their voices must be heard like other citizens,” Obidegwu said.

She stated that PWDS who present themselves to the Polling officers on election day will be given priority to vote.

“By so doing, all PWDS on the queue will be allowed to vote, thereby enhancing their full and active) participation in the electoral process.

“ The Commission will also be deploying assistive materials to all polling units in FCT: magnifying glasses for voters with Albinism, Braille Ballot Guide for the visually impaired voters and Poster EC30PWD (Election Day Written Instructions) for the hearing impaired.

“All these materials will be made available by the Commission to ensure inclusion of PWDS n the election process,” the director said.

The Chairman, Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) FCT, Suleiman Ujah, appreciated the efforts of INEC in ensuring inclusivity in the Nigeria electoral process.

Ujah said that the issue of inclusivity which INEC started had come to stay.

“We will always appreciate their effort in ensuring that there is full inclusion of persons with disabilities in their plans and policies on election matters.”

He said that the sensitisation would increase the partnership between INEC and the association in enlighten member of the PWDs on electoral process.