Ondo: INEC encourages PWDs on active participation in electoral processes

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has encouraged Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) on active participation in the electoral processes in the  forthcoming governorship election in Ondo State.

Prof. Kunle Ajayi, INEC National Commissioner supervising Osun, Ogun and Ondo States, gave the call at a one-day technical workshop on Wednesday in Akure.

The theme of the session was “Implementation of INEC’s Inclusivity Tool With Persons With Disabilities Cluster Heads Ahead of 2024 Ondo State Governorship Election.

The workshop was organised by INEC and the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) in collaboration with Macarthur Foundation.

Ajayi, who was represented by Mrs Oluwatoyin Babalola, INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Ondo State, said one of the progressive provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 was the specific provision on participation of PWDs in the electoral process.

According to him, it has become imperative for the persons with disabilities to participate fully and exercise their right as we are preparing for the governorship election in Ondo State.

“I must state categorically that PWDs have equal rights to participate in exercising their civic duties without any form of fear, intimidation, discrimination, and trepidation, especially in the political and leadership roles at all levels in Nigeria.

“So, there is need to address the persistent vacuum in political participation and inclusion of people with disabilities, especially in the party leadership and nomination of candidate for elections.

“Therefore, all barriers to the PWDs inclusion must be dismantled,” Ajayi said.

The commissioner further said that the objective of the workshop was to promote active participation of PWDs in the electoral process and to also reduce voter apathy among them.

He said that the introduction of assistive devices such as the braille ballot guide, magnifying glasses and posters for the deaf were all products of the commission’s engagement with the disability community.

Ajayi said that the commission would continue to facilitate the full participation of the 2,288 registered PWDs in the 1,017 polling units in the 18 Local Government Areas of the state in the electoral process

“So, we will continue to partner with the disability community by promoting inclusivity, not just in their participation as candidates, but also in practical ways in the electoral process in general.

“The commission will always prioritise it’s politics, plans, strategies and guidelines for active participation and inclusion of PWDs in the electoral process.

“We also promise to foster respect for the rights and dignity of PWDs, discourage stereotypes, prejudices and harmful practices in relating to PWDs in the forthcoming and subsequent election in the state,” he said.

Speaking, Mr Abiodun Olusegun, the State Chairman, Joint National Association of Persons With Disabilities (JONAPWD) commended INEC for the workshop.

“I want to appeal to the commission to consider engagement of our members as adhoc staff during elections.
“Some of our members are educated and intelligent,” Olusegun said.

Also, Mr Surajudeen Adams, State Chairman, National Association of Persons With Disabilities, said that the introduction of the braille ballot guide, and magnifying glasses would help persons with visual impairments to exercise their franchise.

“We have been hearing braille ballot guide and magnifying glasses and we have not seen it before now .

“Thank God, we have seen it today and know how to use it during the elections,” Adams said.