by Chris Agbo
The Executive Director, Centre for Citizen with disabilities (CCD) David Anyaele in a statement released on Monday on the Nov. 16, 2019 Kogi State Governorship and Senatorial Elections commended the good people of Kogi State and Kogi West Senatorial Elections for coming out to vote despite the volatile electoral environment in the state.
He also commended INEC ad-hoc Staff for their resilience in the face of security uncertainty in 2019 Kogi State elections, as many of these ad-staff saw more than they bargained in their efforts to serve their father’s land.
Specially applauded the courage of PWDs election observers who took risk in observing the election even at obvious security challenges. Thank God, after the exercise, all PWDs observers were save and sound.
CCD deployed PWD observers in all the Senatorial Districts of Kogi State with the mandate to observe polling unit access to citizens with disabilities, priority voting for persons with disabilities in line with the provisions of the National Disability Act.
Recalling that CCD’s participation in the Kogi State 2019 Governorship and Kogi West Senatorial District Elections is part of our campaign for Equal Voting Access for Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria. The primary objective of the campaign is that eligible citizens with disabilities are able to participate in the electoral process on equal bases with other. These are CCD findings going by what their observers reported from majority of the Polling Units they visited:
Our observers observed that majority of the Polling Units visited provided priority voting for voters with disabilities. We commend INEC ad-hoc staff for ensuring that voters with disabilities had minimal struggle to the Polling Units through granting them priority voting which is in line with the provisions of the National Disability Act.
In over 120 Polling Units visited, only 2 pulling units were sighted with Magnifying glasses, even within Lokoja, the State capital. Materials printed in bold, instructional material in Braille or Braille Ballot guide were limited in the field as more than 80% of Polling units visited had none of these materials. This is at the disadvantage of the blind, deaf and persons with albinism. This put a question mark on the much talked about provisions for voters with disabilities
Our observers observed that majority of the polling units had no instruction materials that will help the Deaf were not pasted in pulling units visited. No sign language interpreter was sighted in all the Polling Units observed.
- Access to Polling Units
Significant number of the Polling Units visited were not accessible for PWDs. This is evidenced In Polling Unit20 in LEA School Emi-Woro/G/Bassa with 5 Polling Units within the school premises, all the Polling Units were set up on the corridor with steps that makes it difficult for PWDs to exercise their franchise. In Ward A Polling Unit 003, Workers village, all the 5 Polling units located were positioned across the gutter which makes it difficult for PWD on crutches or Wheelchair to access the Polling Unit. This situation continued to put to question INEC’s understanding of accessible Polling Units and commitment to the implementation of other relevant sections of the National Disability Act and INEC’s Policy on PWDs participation in Election.
There was serious security challenge in most of the Local Government Areas observed during the governorship election in Kogi State. For instance, there was pandemonium in Iyara town at Ward 8 PU 004, where the voters were attacked and forced to vote for a particular political party, electorates had to scamper for safety. Gun taunting thugs made it difficult for the electorates to excise their franchise. PWDs could not exercise their franchise in these Polling units.
In Ajaokuta LGA in Ganaja/Township Polling Units 009 Ward 014, election was peaceful at the centre with about 20 Polling Until about noon when thugs begin to threaten the electorates. Also Ward 14 PU 013 FFN Junior Worker 1 and Ward 13 PU 005 LGA Dispensary, a threat to life of electorates started as early as 9.45 am by the thugs representing a political party. You either vote for the party or you leave the venue. There was incident of an electorate who was attacked by machetes when he resists any attempt to make him vote for a particular political party.
- Vote buying
Money in politics particularly on Election Day has become a serious issue in Nigeria. Unfortunately, in vote selling and buying, the security agents have compromised as they aid in electioneering trading. It was so bad in Ward 15 PU 15 Investra ASCO, Ajaokuta LGA that the vote selling came with a threat. The manipulation and threat were so bad that the agents buying votes will collect the ballot papers from the electorates, to be sure that the vote was cast for their candidates will thumb print on it and return it to the electorate to go drop in the ballot box.
What happened on the 16th of Nov. 2019 governorship and Kogi West Senatorial elections were not an election but a warfare to capture Kogi State, as the elections cannot be said to be free, fare, credible nor inclusive.
Based on the level violence experienced by voters In Kogi State in the presence of over 31, 000 men and women of the Nigeria Police, we called on Nigerians to demand for accountability on the role of the Nigeria Police on the insecurity that characterized the election.