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Preliminary Statement From EVAPWD on access to voting by PWDs across States

Preliminary Statement by the Campaign for Equal Voting Access for Persons with Disabilities (EVAPWD) on Feb. 25, 2023 General Elections.

The Campaign for Equal Voting Access for Persons with Disabilities (EVAPWD), a program of the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) engaged in the observation of the Feb. 25, 2023, General Elections organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

We received and reviewed reports from observers across the six geo-political zones of the country.

The key objective of the observation exercise was to observe provisions made by INEC for persons with disabilities’ participation in the election; and raise awareness on equal voting rights for citizens with disabilities. It was an opportunity to assess the election management body’s compliance to the provisions of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, section 54 of the Electoral Act 2022, INEC Framework on Access and Participation of Persons with Disabilities, and the Nigeria Constitution 1999 as amended.

EVAPWD commends the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for not postponing the elections despite the overwhelming challenges confronting the country ranging from scarcity of naira notes and fuel across the country few days to the elections.

EVAPWD is impressed to observe that marginalized populations – the aged, nursing mothers and pregnant women and persons with disabilities were offered priority voting in most of the polling units observed. In particular, Polling Unit 047, Salvation Road Ward, Opebi, Ikeja LGA, Lagos State, Polling 26, Ward 7 – Oloworia Road, Kosefe LGA, Lagos State Polling Unit 43, Ward 2 in AMAC, Polling Unit 44, Ward 3 in AMAC, in Abuja FCT; this was evidenced at PU 001, Ward 1, Ado-Ekiti LGA, Ekiti State, and PU 005 Amorji Igbere Hall, Ward B Igbere, Bende LGA, Abia State. Other observed Polling Units were seen providing priority voting for PWDs, the aged and pregnant women. We commend Polling Officials for their efforts in this regard.

EVAPWD also observed that a significant number of Polling Units observed were accessible to persons with physical disabilities. In particular, polling unit 6, 7, 8 Ward 5, Awka, Anambra State, PU 004, Not Edino 3 Ward, Obot Akara LGA Akwa Ibom State; PU 004, Angwan Chiroma Ward, Jos North LGA, Plateau State; PU 10, Ward 5 Wakilin Kudu, Gombe South LGA, Gombe State; PU 005, Ward 7 Naraguta Hausawa, Jos North, Plateau State; and PU 02, Ward 8 – Mgbalukwu, Izzi LGA, Ebonyi State.

The accessibility of these Polling Units were made possible due to the location of the PU by INEC along the Roadside, open field, Play grounds, even as they dropped the ballot boxes on the floor, whilst a good number of other PUs were placed in buildings with access for those on wheelchairs.

Whereas, EVAPWD is disturbed that a significant number of Polling Units observed were not accessible. These include: PU 01, Ward 2 Asata Township Ward, Enugu South, LGA, Enugu State; PU 10, Ward 03 Gawuna, Nasarawa LGA, Kano State; PU 002, Ward 6 S/Paure/S/Mafarawa, Kaura Namoda LGA, Zamfara State; PU 03, Ward 6 Ikoyi, Lagos State; PU 04, Ward 2, Port Harcourt LGA, Rivers State; and PU 6, Ward 5, Uyo LGA Akwa Ibom State.

These Polling Units were not accessible to persons with disabilities as they were placed across gutters or in schools, public buildings with steps and high pavements. What this means is that voters with physical disabilities would be scared to go to this hard to access environments to cast their votes.

EVAPWD observers observed that the deployment of Braille guides, shade and magnifying glasses were invisible at the PUs visited, as only two Polling Units recorded availability of these items. These PU are PU 05, Ward 3 Naragatu Hausawa, Jos North LGA of Plateau State; and PU 2, Ward 5, Ado Ekiti LGA, Ekiti State; and PU 3, Ward 1 Odoak People, Onitsha South, Anambra State.

Observers saw the availability of Canopies which would support persons with albinism at PU 03, Ward 01 Iweku, Eti Osa LGA Lagos State EVAPWD observers observed that form EC40H were also scarce at the Polling Units, as the knowledge of INEC ad-hoc staff around the use of this document is poor. This form was observed at PU 10, Ward 7 Wakili Kudu, Gombe LGA, Gombe State, and PU 07, Ward 5 Gusau LGA, Zamfara State; as well as PU 02, Ward 5 Ibadan LGA, Oyo State.

Form EC40H is used by INEC to document the number of voters with disabilities that voted at a particular Polling Unit, Ward, LGA, State and across the Federation.

However, our observers found that the visibility of Voting Guides for the Deaf voters in a significant number of the Polling Units visited in Lagos State.

In conclusion, EVAPWD commends INEC and other election stakeholders for conducting the elections as planned, the significant improvement on accessible polling units as INEC ad-hoc Staff and other voters ensured that PWDs and other vulnerable groups enjoyed priority at the PUs.

The pattern of deployment of assistive devices such as Braille guides, shade and magnifying glasses need to be reviewed so as to achieve the objectives of procuring the materials.

EVAPWD is pleased with the level of security so far provided by the security agencies, notwithstanding the reports of disruption of voting in some states, including Enugu, Kogi, Delta, Edo, Bayelsa, Imo, Lagos, and Rivers states as reported by partner organisation (Situation Room) is a question mark on the part of security agencies deployed to provide election security in these States.

David O. Anyaele,Chairman, Campaign for Equal Voting Access for Persons with Disabilities

Feb. 26, 2023



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