By Emmanuel Oloniruha
Abuja, April 28, 2021 The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) says it is poised to create more access, participation and inclusion for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the electoral process.
Mr Adekunle Ogunmola, the INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Outreach and Partnership Committee (OPC), stated this at a one-day awareness and sensitisation workshop for key officers of INEC on disability inclusion guide in Abuja on Wednesday.
The workshop, organised by INEC in collaboration with The Albino Foundation (TAF), was to sensitised INEC staff members to the commission’s Disability Inclusion Guide.
Ogunmola, who was represented by the Director-General of the Electoral Institute, Dr Sa’ad Idris, said that the commission would achieve that by collaborating with partners who shared its passion and vision on electoral inclusive matters.
This according to him was especially the disabilities issues which birthed impactful PWDs’ responsive actions and interventions in the system of our elections.
“There is more awareness on disabilities matters and more commitment to promote their visibility and informed participation in the electoral process on the basis of equality with others.
Ogunmola, speaking on the disability inclusion guide, said it is a four-part series document developed by the Commission in collaboration with TAF.
He said that the document was to serve as a source of basic information and frame of reference for inclusive programme and activity designed for relevant stakeholders involved in promoting inclusion of PWDs in the political process.
He said that the content of the guide was expected to improve the working capacity and knowledge of the targeted stakeholders on inclusion of PWDs in their respective activities.
He expressed hope that the first phase of staff training would culminate in having a larger number of staff members of the commission that were well equipped and knowledgeable on inclusion issues.
He said that it would be facilitated through the use of the disability inclusion guide in future.
Idris in his remarks said that for one year, INEC was collaborating with relevant departments and CSOs to develop the disability guide.
“I have confidence that its implementation in the electoral process will tremendously give confidence to voters facing one challenge or the other that the electoral process is indeed all inclusive.”
Idris assured stakeholders that the Electoral Institute would continue to collaborate with stakeholders through training and knowledge sharing workshops toward the achievement of robust electoral process in Nigeria.
INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for FCT, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, described the sensitisation workshop as timely as it was proceeding important electoral activities such as the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) and FCT Area Councils election in 2022.
Bello, also represented by Mrs Ndidi Okafor, Head of Voters Education, FCT INEC, said that the workshop would go a long way in raise staff members’ consciousness on existing policies on inclusion of PWDs.
“As you know, the Commission has existing policies on inclusion of persons with disabilities, granting them access and preferences in any electoral activity across the country.
“Consequently, this sensitisation workshop will go a long way in arousing the consciousness of key staff to these existing policies and the need for their strict implementation during electoral activities,” Bello said.
Mr Jake Epelle, the founder of Abino Foundation and the convener, Disability Inclusion, Nigeria, said no election is free, fair, and credible if there is no inclusion.
Epelle answering questions on the experience of PWDs at the last Ondo state governorship election, expressed hope that the forthcoming off-cycle elections, including the Anambra governorship election would be more inclusive.
He noted that the foundation did all that was necessary to ensure that Ondo governorship election was more inclusive, but the necessary resources to achieve that were not deployed.
Ekaete Umoh, National President, Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities-Nigeria, said that PWDs were not yet represented in the electoral process and governance due to different barriers.
Umoh said that the workshop was part of the measures to address those barriers and open up the space for PWDs to effectively participate in the political space.(