PRESS RELEASE

Post February 25, 2023 General Elections in Nigeria: The Disability Federation Perspectives

Background:

Sequel to the events surrounding the 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections which took place on the 25th of February, 2023, it has become imperative to release statements from the disability lens, and as the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) -The Federation of Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria.

To begin with, we are pleased that Nigeria’s 2023 general elections were predominantly peaceful despite administrative and logistical hurdles at many polling units. We are similarly satisfied with the turnout of all persons with disabilities across the states, whose determination, patience and resilience ensured that their representation, as voters, polling officers, election supports are registered throughout the 2023 electoral process. In this same vein, we appreciate all disability inclusion enablers who have contributed immensely in ensuring that the rights of persons with disabilities are aligned with inclusion principles, irrespective of the hurdles across the value chain of the elections. We are particularly appreciating all Local, Regional and International Development Partners’ whose technical and financial supports to all Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) and Organizations for Persons with Disabilities (OfPDs) have certainly raised the bar of disability inclusion in the discourse of the Nigerian electoral system.

The Issues:

  • Election Day: Certainly, Section 54 (1) of the Electoral Act, 2022, as amended premised renewed confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commissions’ (INEC) determination to ensure electoral barriers against persons with disabilities and other vulnerable persons are addressed, and their rights as citizens are guaranteed under accessible and inclusive electoral environments. This include but not limited to provision of suitable assistive devices, such as braille ballots, electronic devices, and magnifying glasses to ensure they are able to vote, cum polling officers who are skilled enough to administer the usage; Yet, these participation barriers remained on a large scale, coupled with very limited provisions for reasonable accommodations like Sign Language Interpreters (SLI).

From JONAPWD’s citizens observers’ point of view, deployed across the 36 States and the FCT, the following were some of the predominant observations streaming from the disability perspective, during the conduct of the February 25, 2023 elections:

  1.  Unmentioned use of INEC form EC.40H to capture data on persons with disabilities before accreditation commenced
  2.  Unmentioned and hidden publication of the INEC EC.30E poster to provide guidance for deaf voters on how to vote at a polling unit.
  3.  Limited understanding (by co-voters, security officials and polling officers) of priority voting for persons with disabilities, the aged, visibly pregnant women, and nursing mothers to vote before others
  4. Mental health triggers caused by elongated service period of polling officers, especially at polling units where voting process were elongated without sessional breaks
  5.  Pockets of violences and other safeguarding concerns that are potential triggers of psychosocial disability relapses
  6. Inaccessible pathways to pasted register of registered voters at polling units
  7. Inaccessible voting areas due to elevated placement of voting cubicles
  8. Inconsistencies in procedures, particularly in the positioning of some voting cubicles which compromised the secrecy of the ballot
  9. Misinformation around polling unit re-distribution and locations, which led to unintended disenfranchisements

The above observations are some of the critical intervention agenda.

  • Eligible Voters with Disabilities: We appreciate the Gender and Inclusivity Department of INEC in its concerted efforts to facilitate and broadly enable the mass registration of persons with disabilities across the 36 and the FCT; Notwithstanding, the number remain unrealistically low due to broad accessibility constraints, skewed sensitization methodologies that fall short of universal designs and ill-enhanced consciousness of civic responsibilities.

At the moment, INEC currently has 85,362 registered eligible voters with disabilities (data from the 2021–22 registration exercise only) on its data. For the record, this number does not in any way capture the population of eligible voters with disabilities who were formerly registered prior to preparations into the 2023 general elections. With these realities, we have begun preliminary preparations and mobilizations across the 774 local government councils to activate deliberate actions, when the CVR is reopened, for eligible person with disabilities to update their disability data, as well as onboard new registrants.

  • March 11 Elections: Knowing that the governorship elections, scheduled for March 11 is around the corner, JONAPWD enjoins the INEC to live up to its promises by ensuring it fixes the gaps to guarantee that the voting process is entirely accessible to all eligible persons with disabilities across the disability clusters. In particular, we urge the electoral umpire to be more deliberate about addressing aforementioned observed constraints, amongst other safeguarding issues which have strong potency to infringe on the voting rights of eligible persons with disabilities at the 176,846 polling units across the country.

On a conclusive note, a President Elect has been announced, and other divergent opinions on the election results have ensued. JONAPWD would like to passionately call on all Nigerians, persons with disabilities across our demographics in particular to embrace the process of legalities. We are aware of the adverse and long-lasting effects civic unrest would have on persons with disabilities, especially our women, youth and children with disabilities; Hence our profound appeal for all political actors to peacefully channel all forms of grievances through unifying legal channels. In this same vein, we respectfully urge President Muhammadu Buhari (GCFR) to at these times of uncertainty activate all peaceful means in ensuing all electoral actors continue to uphold the tenet of democracy, cum the protection of human rights, especially of persons with disabilities across the 36 states of the country and the FCT.

Long live Nigeria!

Signed:

Abdullahi Aliyu Usman (Mr.)

National President,

Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD)

1/03/2023

5 Comments

  1. The report captured the needed place INEC and the community should work. I hereby urged the them to act fast on it for the betterment of PWDs and the entire citizens. Thanks

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