Ahead of the November 16 governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi states, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) under the aegis of Access Nigeria: Disability Votes Matter campaign met in Abuja at the fourth edition of the “Access Nigeria Quarterly Roundtable on Inclusive Elections in Nigeria” where they called for the immediate amendment of Section 56(2) of the Electoral Act as part of measures for better deals and inclusion in governance. The communiqué of the fourth Quarterly Roundtable on Inclusive Elections in Nigeria called for the immediate amendment of Section 56(2) of the Electoral Act.
According to the communiqué, it is important that Section 56(2) of the Electoral Act be amended by the National Assembly to make it mandatory for INEC to provide PWDs voting materials to ensure relevant PWD voting materials are institutionalized.
It was jointly signed by Grace Jerry, Executive Director, Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) and Convener, Access Nigeria campaign; Isiyaku Adamu, President, National Association of the Blind; Ekaete Umoh, Chair, Disabled Peoples International (DPI) African Region; Barr Melody Omosah, President, Network for the Advancement of People with Visible Disabilities (NAPVID); and Prof. James Apam, Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Kogi State.
Others are Monday Udo Tom, REC, Bayelsa State; Dr. Adekunle Ladipo Ogunmola, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman Outreach and Partnerships Committee (OPC); Hajiya Amina Zakari, INEC National Commissioner and Chair Health and Welfare Committee (Former Chair Operations) and Tijani Kayode Ismail, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters.
The forum organised by IFA, USAID, NDI, UKaid and Access Nigeria is part of campaigns to make Nigeria’s elections more accessible and inclusive for the country’s estimated 30 million PWDs. INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, represented by Dr. Adekunle Ladipo Ogunmola, and Hajiya Amina Zakari, among other INEC officials, pledged commitment to ensuring better deals for the PWDs ahead of the elections. Participants however commended INEC for acting on the resolutions of the third edition of the stakeholder’s round table. In her welcome remarks, the Convener Access Nigeria, Mrs. Grace Jerry, said that for them, the last three years of this democracy have been the most fruitful in their democratic journey.
According to her, within the last eight months, there had been historical landmarks; including the passage by the National Assembly and signing into law of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018, by President Muhammadu Buhari on January 23. “And on February 16, 2019, the braille ballot guides was deployed in the presidential elections for the first time in Nigeria’s history. We appreciate the president, National Assembly and INEC for all these. We also thank OPDs, and our allies in this campaign, as well as our partners for their ongoing technical and financial support, Jerry said. She said, “INEC ad-hoc staff must also be trained on PWD friendly aids and processes like the braille ballot guide, EC30 E PWD, EC40H, priority etc. to ensure reasonable accommodation and better interaction with PWDs in the 2019 Kogi and Bayelsa governorship elections and other upcoming elections.” The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, represented by Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, said the commission is unrelenting in its commitment to promoting the access and participation of the marginalized groups, women, youths, PWDs and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).