The Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) has called on the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) to ensure inclusive electoral participation for all People With Disabilities (PWDs) in the forthcoming LG elections.
The Executive Director of CCD, Mr David Anyaele, made the call on Friday during the presentation of findings on the pre-election assessment of LASIEC provisions for PWDs for the July 24, 2021, Local Government elections in Lagos.
Anyaele said findings showed that LASIEC failed to respond to the request from the organisations of persons with disabilities in Lagos while preparing the electoral materials, voters’ education, recruitment of ad-hoc staff, and electoral observers among others.
According to him, LASIEC excluded persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups in their electoral guidelines for the forthcoming election because no reference was made to PWDs in the extant LASIEC electoral guideline.
“By implication, many PWDs will continue to struggle in accessing electoral materials and participating on an equal basis with others.
“Findings showed a majority of PWDs interviewed shared limited knowledge about the LASIEC preparations for the forthcoming Local Councils elections because no deliberate effort has been made so far to include various disability clusters in LASIEC guidelines for the forthcoming election in Lagos State.
According to the Lagos State 2019 estimated population report, the population of the state was estimated to 17,552,940, with over 2 million persons as persons with disabilities (NGEX, Nigeria 2019d).
“This implied that, by excluding the people with disabilities in the electoral process, not less than 2 million persons will be denied of their voting rights,” he said.
Mr Victor Owoyomi, Research Officer, CCD said despite series of petitions, LASIEC had not complied with the provision of the law on the inclusiveness of PWDs in the exercise.
Owoyomi said that majority of the PWDs interviewed who plan to vote in the July 2021 election have serious concerns for their security and public safety. Many of them are worried about electoral violence and the Delta Variant of COVID-19- pandemic.”
He stated that CCD, therefore, recommended the following: LASIEC as a matter of urgency should collaborate with Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA), Joint National Association of People With Disabilities (JONAPWDS) and other relevant stakeholders to include in their electoral guideline the disability component.
“In order to address the needs and concerns of persons with disabilities in the forthcoming July 2021 Local Government Election, LASIEC should include PWDs as ad-hoc staff, election observer and create a column for PWDs in their voters’ registration.
“LASIEC should ensure that all polling units are accessible for PWD on wheelchairs/crutches.
“Provisions should be made for signage posters, sign language interpreters for the hearing and auditory impaired (deaf), and Braille ballot paper for the visually impaired as well as magnifying glasses for the albinos in order to ensure inclusive electoral participation for all PWDs in Lagos State.
“LASIEC should give voting priority to all persons with disabilities and another vulnerable group in the forthcoming elections.
“Bearing in mind that PWDs and in particular, a person with albinism may not be able to stay long under the scorching of the sun while on a queue to avoid another health challenge such as skin cancer.’’ (NAN)