Inclusive Friends Association (IFA), has called on the Federal Government to ensure that all suspected electoral offenders at the 2023 general election are prosecuted to serve as deterrent to other citizens.
Executive Director IFA,Grace Jerry, said this at the public presentation of IFA’s 2023 General Election Observation Report on Thursday in Abuja.
Jerry also called on federal and state governments to work with various agencies and the private sector to ensure that public buildings were renovated for future elections to accommodate Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).
This ,she said should be in accordance with the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act of 2018.
“The executive, at all levels, should strengthen existing building codes and enforce them to guarantee accessibility for PWDs during and beyond elections.”
Jerry also called on the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC) to restrategise its deployment of assistive voting materials for PWDs in future elections.
She said that IFA, through the vote-Ability Campaign deployed 250 PWDs election observers across 21 states to measure the deployment and usage of PWD assistive materials and accessibility to polling units amongst others.
She said that the 2023 general election was the first election of the country since the signing of the 2022 Electoral Act, with Section 54 mandating INEC to provide PWDs with aids or assistive electoral materials to eliminate any form of barriers to voting.
She said that those barriers still raised their heads in the election just like other elections as the asistive materials although provided were either not enough or were not deployed strategically and access to some polling units were a challenge.
“Based on the findings of the polling unit accessibility audit, the IFA Vote-Ability Campaign makes the following recommendations to ensure voters with disabilities can continue to participate in Nigeria’s political and electoral processes.
“The IFA-led Vote-Ability campaign calls on INEC to ensure that overpopulated PUs are decongested for ease of implementing priority voting for PWDs in subsequent elections.
“INEC should collaborate with other government agencies to ensure the provision of ramps and handrails outside and inside the polling units so that PWDs can cast their vote without any barriers.
“INEC should work closely with IFA and other organisation of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) to develop a strategy document for decimating assistive materials in all elections,” she said.
Jerry urged INEC to ensure timely and effective deployment of PWDs assistive materials such as; the Braille ballot guide, Form EC30 EPWD , and magnifying glass for all national and state elections.
She called on INEC to strengthen the training of regular and ad hoc staff to effectively administer assistive election day materials and accommodations for voters with disabilities.
She said INEC should ensure that voting cubicles were designed to enable voters with disabilities to cast their ballots confidentially, as well as to ensure ballot boxes were placed in areas that allowed voters with disabilities to vote independently.
She urged INEC, the police and other security agencies on the platform of the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) to develop and implement a clear plan for the protection of PWDs during elections.
Jerry tasked INEC on improving its data on PWDs in a disaggregated format to improve deployment of assistive materials during elections.
She also called on the National Assembly to ensure that the executive implement specific sections of the Discrimination Against Persons with Disability Act 2018 through effective legislative oversight.
She said the National Assembly should also perform its oversight functions of INEC to ensure that all measures for accessibility were implemented in line with the Discrimination Against Persons with Disability Act 2018.
Jerry called on the police and other security agencies to develop a special protocol to protect voters and observers with disabilities during elections.
She also call on the police and other security agencies to ensure that whenever these protocols were developed, their personnel were well trained to implement these provisions.
She urged the media to make deliberate efforts to conduct voter education to complement the efforts of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities in promoting the participation of PWDs in Nigeria’s electoral and political processes.
“Media executives should consider disability inclusion in their broadcast and news production to promote inclusive practices in Nigeria, including the consistent utilization of sign language interpretation, ” she said