By Emmanuel Oloniruha
Abuja, April 1, 2021 The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has urged political parties and other stakeholders to provide unhindered access for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) to participate actively and effectively in political activities.
Dr Adekunle Ogunmola, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Outreach and Partnership Committee (OPC), said this on Wednesday, at a “Virtual validation meeting on the Disability Inclusion Guide.”
The commissioner said it was only when PWDs were given unhindered access that we could say equality was guaranteed in tenderness, backed by relevant national and international laws.
These, according to him, include the National Disabilities Act, the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Nigerian Constitution 2010, as amended.
He reiterated the commission’s commitment to equal access and participation of all eligible citizens in the electoral process.
He said that INEC had within decades reviewed its processes and structures to align with global best practices in stakeholder engagement in the electoral process.
“These reforms include, but not limited to, broadening the access and inclusion of PWDs in the electoral and political processes,” he said.
Ogunmola said that the conduct of free, fair and credible elections depended, to a large extent, on voters’ trust and confidence in the process, including their ability to exercise their franchise without hindrance.
“In line with this, the Commission is not resting on its oars as we are committed to effective collaboration with stakeholders’ for inclusion of PWDs and other disadvantaged groups,” he said.
The guide document, he added, marked a milestone in the commission’s commitment to inclusion of PWDs in the electoral process.
“This document is an inclusion guide for PWDs, political parties, election management bodies and security agencies.
It will not only assist political parties and other stakeholders to plan adequately for the inclusion of their activities, it will also enable security agencies to understand disability issues in elections.
“The document will as well equip the PWDs themselves to better understand the political spheres and contest elective positions within their parties,” Ogunmola said.
Ekaete Umoh, President, joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, commended INEC efforts at ensuring PWDs were included in the electoral process.
He said it was in line with article 29 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Umoh described the validation of the document as another step to build on efforts already in place as well contribute to body of knowledge for PWDs inclusion in Nigeria.
She said that the association looked forward to the collective impact the document would have on 2023 general elections.