By RAJI ADE OBA,
Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), in the company of members of Coalition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), have banded together in Abuja calling on the passage of the controversial Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021.
Coalition of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), including the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) regrouped in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to demand expeditious passage of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021.
Members of the CSOs have been some of the greatest forces of good in the bettering and transformation of vulnerable lives and in challenging the status quo in Nigeria.
As the nation’s parliament, the National Assembly (NASS) resumed plenary on 27th January 2022, after the Yuletide break, CCD calls on the lawmakers and the President to finalise the process of the Electoral Act Amendment Bill by the end of January, earliest by retransmitting the bill to the President for assent, and latest by Friday, January 28.
The electoral bill has potential to address national security challenges, the persistent state of anxiety in the country, prevalent and incessant stream of Nigerians’ blood, including members of the disability community who are often the most affected daily in many parts of the country. As well, the Electoral Act Amendment Bill 2021, passed and assented to by the President will address the accessibility problems that voters with disabilities have been experiencing for several years in past elections.
“People with disabilities would be able to access polls and cast their votes effectively. People with disabilities have the fundamental right to vote and be voted for during the forthcoming general elections in the country”, and it’s so important to pass this Act.”, a member of the Coalition stated.
According to them, the opportunity to test the feasibility of the new legislation and the operability of the new improvements would be misplaced if the amendment process was not determined expeditiously.
Further procrastination on the decision of the Electoral Act amendment process, the CSOs sounded a warning bell, would badly affect the preparations of South West States off-cycle governorship elections, including Ekiti and Osun, as well as the 2023 general elections and subsequent elections in the country.
Membership of the CSOs composed of Yiaga Africa, International Press Centre (IPC), Centre for Citizens with Disability (CCD), The Albino Foundation, CLEEN Foundation, Institute for Media and Society (IMS), and Nigerian Women Trust Fund (NWTF).
The Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) is a leading non-governmental advocacy organization that protects and promotes the rights and dignity of people with disabilities in Nigeria.
Other constituents of the CSOs included Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ), Partners for Electoral Reform (PER), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Nigeria Network of Non-Governmental Organisations (NNNGO) and Inclusive Friends Association.
The Electoral Bill and its provisions for voters with disabilities
The Bill is important to persons with disabilities as it provides in clause (54) as follows:
A blind voter, for example, who is otherwise unable to distinguish symbol or who suffers from any other physical disability may be accompanied into the polling unit by a person chosen by him or her and that person shall, after informing the Presiding Officer of the disability, be permitted to accompany the voter into the voting compartment and assist the voter to make his or her mark per the procedure prescribed by the National Commission of People with Disabilities (NCPWD).
The electoral bill made strong provisions that are widely believed would enhance access, participation of PWDs in the electoral process, and election integrity in Nigeria. It is important to state that comes 2023, more than 61% of the 31 million voting population of PWDs are willing to take advantage of this improved electoral bill when signed into law to increase PWDs’ participation in democratic governance.
While they wait for a comprehensive electoral bill might just about to be over, it is important for Nigerians with disabilities who are 18 years and above to participate in politics. Tremendous opportunities abound in political participation. There are opportunities to alter the course of human history. There are opportunities to provide leadership and direction for national development.