As part of the preparation for Persons With Disabilites active participation in the 2023 general election, The Albino Foundation now known as TAF-AFRICA has organized a one day workshop for Top personnels of Security Agencies in Nigeria on how security services can be extended to PWDs during elections in order to ensure peaceful and inclusive elections.
The Founder of TAF Africa, Mr Jake Epelle speaking at the event in Abuja on Thursday described the role of security agencies as critical to having a peaceful and successful elections. He urged them to focus more on PWDs and also prevent all forms of violence because insecurity leads to voter apathy on the part of PWDs.
“Many citizens, particularly PWDs often loose interest to go to the polling units when they feel unsecured, necessary security measures and alertness be deployed to ensure that no one is left behind due to fear of insecurity”.
The INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmud Yakubu represented by Prof. Kunle Ajayi in his keynote address said that INEC had made adequate provisions for assistive tools for PWDs to ensure that no one out of the millions of PWDs are disenfranchised.
Speaking further, he said that INEC is committed towards ensuring that PWDs will vote in the 2023 elections in line with Section 54 of the Electoral Act.
He pointed out that where there is incidences of violence, PWDs are most vulnerable and it is not only resulting to the voter apathy but it has also denied PWDs the right to freely exercise their franchise hence the importance of electoral security.
He noted the importance of the Security agencies prioritizing the safety of PWDs on election day in order to build the confidence and trust for them to come out en masse and exercise their franchise.
Ambassador Jake Epelle during his presentation on ”Disability Inclusion Guidelines On Electoral Processes For Inter-Security Agencies,” drew the attention of the participants to relevant sections of the Electoral Act provided some privileges and rights to PWDs such as priority voting, assistive voting provision etc.
He reminded the Security officials, that PWDs are depending on them to be guided, protected and enjoy these rights and privileges.
TAF Africa showcased that electoral observation Disability dashboard and Jake Epelle informed that participants that the dashboard would be deploy to INEC for Eye witnesses and Observers to give reports of the election processes and for collation of Data; adding that arrangements had also been concluded to deploy 700 observers across the country to monitor the election, while plans are on top gear to host situation room in Abuja.
He also said that eye witness aspect of the dashboard will be useful to the security agencies on the election as they can rely on it to get some on the spot information about violence.
Epelle stressed the need for everyone, including PWDs to be given equal opportunity, pointing out that no Democratic system is trully Democratic where there is no equal opportunity.
The TAF Africa Boss identified key areas security agencies must give priority for the success of the polls to include: creating a level playing field for all political parties and their candidates, maintaining neutrality and non – interference in counting of the ballots, complying with all lawful directive from INEC, prevent violence, adequately secure Polling Units and Collation Centers, Arrest on the instruction of Presiding Officer or INEC official anyone causing disturbance, ensure safety and security of all election materials, as well as accompanying Collation Officers to deliver election results to the Returning Officer among others.
Speaking On the level of Preparedness, the IGP, represented by Commissioner of Police in charge of Elections, Basil Idegwu and the representative of NSCDC Commandant, Dr Seidu Yunusa unanimously pledged their readiness to deploy officers and men across the length and breathe of the country towards the delivery of free, fair, inclusive and peaceful elections.
Some of the participants however expressed worry that thousands of security officers do not always have opportunity to vote, due to deployment to other areas to maintain orderliness, advocated that security personnel should be given opportunity to cast their own votes 48 hours before deploying them for election coverage.