As Nigeria prepares for the presidential election scheduled for February 25, concerns have been raised about the safety and accessibility of physically-challenged persons (PWDs) during the accreditation and voting process.
The National Leader of People with Disabilities of All Progressives Congress, Tolu Bankole, recently appealed to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to make provisions for the safety of PWDs in the upcoming election.
Bankole’s plea follows a similar request made by the Senior Special Assistant to the Lagos State Governor on Political Intelligence, Abiodun Abu, four months ago. Abu had urged INEC to provide braille ballot papers, interpreters, and other measures to assist PWDs in casting their votes during the general elections.
In a statement issued in Abuja, Bankole expressed concerns that the absence of special arrangements could expose PWDs to assault and harassment during the accreditation and voting process. He called on INEC and security agencies to take effective measures to better protect PWDs on election day, as enshrined in the Electoral Act 2022.
Bankole also reminded PWDs that their safety must be a top priority on election day and urged them not to engage in any activity that could put them in danger, News About Nigeria reports.
Inclusivity and accessibility are essential components of a fair and democratic election. It is therefore imperative that INEC takes the necessary steps to ensure that PWDs are not disenfranchised or subjected to violence or discrimination during the election.
Providing braille ballot papers and interpreters, as suggested by Abu, would go a long way in ensuring that PWDs are able to exercise their right to vote independently and without discrimination. In addition, polling stations should be made physically accessible to PWDs and security personnel should be trained to handle situations involving PWDs in a sensitive and non-discriminatory manner.
As Nigerians go to the polls to elect their next president, it is important to remember that every citizen, regardless of their physical ability, has a right to participate in the democratic process. It is therefore the responsibility of all stakeholders to work together to ensure that the 2023 presidential election is safe, inclusive, and accessible to all.