#TrackNigeria:The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it is set to formulate policies that would guarantee Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) 100 per cent inclusion in future elections.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said this at a Post 2019 General Elections Experience Sharing on Thursday in Abuja.
Yakubu was represented by Mrs Dorothy Bello, INEC Director of Civil Society Organisation and Voter Education at the event.
The forum was organised by Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), with the support of the Netherlands’ government.
Yakubu lauded the innovative step by the group to gather and share experience from PWDs during the elections to enhance better formulation of polices for the improvement of areas where lapses were recorded.
“I must congratulate PWDs in Nigeria, CCD and other stakeholders for how well they have fought for inclusiveness and for their participation in the 2019 electoral process.
“Today, INEC is committing to ensure that polices are strengthened and better formulated to enhance better inclusiveness of PWDs in future elections.
“We have strongly improved on our efforts compared to previous elections, and we would improve more,’’ he said.
He posited that the issue of inclusion could not be over emphasised, adding that without the inclusion of PWDs in governance, democracy would not be complete.
Mrs Aisha Abubakar, Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, said it is no longer news that over 25 million Nigerians live with one form of disabilities or the other.
Abubakar represented by Mrs Nkechi Onwukwe, Director of Rehabilitation noted that it is disheartening that most PWDs are 18 years and above, which means they can vote and be voted for, but have long been denied such rights.
“In all the plights of PWDs, we are now pleased that the narratives have been changed due to efforts made by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), NGOs, and stakeholders.
“We appreciate INEC for the innovation to provide the necessary assistance like Braille materials and for making polling units accessible to PWDs in the 2019 general elections”, she said.
According to her the 2019 general election gave PWDs a sense of belonging as a result of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities Prohibition Act assented by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Abubakar reiterated commitment of the ministry to collaborate with MDAs, NGOs and disability stakeholders to formulate policies to build capacity for PWDs.
Mr David Anyaele, the executive director of CCD, commended INEC for its improved efforts that ensured PWDs cast their votes with ease and the implementation of section 26 of the Disability Act providing priority for PWDs on queues.
He however raised concern that minimal efforts were made by INEC to demonstrate commitment to the implementation of INEC’s frame work on PWDs access and participation in the electoral process.
“Many of the polling units observed were not accessible to PWDs’’.
He urged the 9th National Assembly to strengthen section 52 (2) of the 2010 Electoral Act by making the provision of Braille materials and sign language interpreters mandatory. (NAN)