Ahead of the forthcoming 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has set dates for the commencement of the presidential, National Assembly, governorship and state assembly campaigns by political parties.
The commission said campaign for presidential and National Assembly elections will commence on September 28, 2022 while that of governorship and state houses of assembly will commence on October 12, 2022.
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The Resident Electoral Commissioner, INEC Kaduna, Hajiya Asmau Sani Maikudi, who announced the dates at the first quarter press briefing on the ongoing voter registration, yesterday in Kaduna, further stated that the last of campaign by political parties for the presidential and National Assembly is midnight of February 23, 2023 while that of governorship and states assembly is midnight of March 9, 2023.
She however disclosed that the commission has also increased the number of polling units from 5,012 to 8,012, adding that the continuous voter registration exercise has commenced in Birnin Gwari.
She said the conversion of voting points across the federation by the commission led to the state having an additional 2,910 and advised registrants to make enquires as to the new polling units located close to their homes as well as old Personal Voters Card (PVC) holders who may wish to change their location.
She said there has been remarkable improvement in the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, stressing that, “In the last two weeks, the online registration has gone up to 236,855 and the complete registration of 84,335 as at 7th March, 2022 because registration is only completed after physical capture.”
Asked if inmates would be allowed to vote at the 2023 elections, she said, “It is at the discretion of the National Assembly. If it is a law, INEC has no option but to implement the law and once it is passed by the National Assembly, people in correctional centres will be allowed to vote.”
Meanwhile, ahead of the Osun and Ekiti states governorship elections, INEC has assured of implementing the recently signed Electoral Act 2002 by President Muhammadu Buhari, concerning persons with disabilities (PWDs).
The Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Osun State, Prof. Abdulganiyu Raji, gave the assurance on Wednesday in Abuja at the 7th Access Nigeria Campaign Stakeholders’ Roundtable on Inclusive Elections in Nigeria, ahead of the Ekiti and Osun states gubernatorial elections.
The roundtable was organised by Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) under its Access Nigeria Campaign with support from the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and other partners.
Raji said that the provision of the equipment was to ensure that the electoral framework and environmental barriers were taken care of to deepen PWDs participation in the nation’s democratic and electoral matters.
According to him, INEC wanted a more inclusive elections and had taken some steps to ensure that PWDs were included in the electoral processes.
Speaking earlier, Executive Director IFA, Grace Jerry, represented by the Disability Inclusion Officer of IFA, Tracy Omabis, expressed concern that PWDs continue to face significant barriers in participating in the country’s elections.
Jerry said that these barriers faced by PWDs discourage them from participating in elections or other democratic processes.
She said that the roundtable was aimed at securing commitments for the introduction of electoral reforms like the introduction of the braille ballot guide for blind voters and voting instructions for voters with hearing impairments.
She also said that this became imperative because IFA deployed sample-based election observation to the November 6, 2021 Anambra State governorship election and noted the barriers PWDs experienced during that election based.
“IFA observed that 34 percent of sampled polling units, persons with disabilities were not given priority to vote in line with INEC guidelines at the just concluded November 6, 2021 governorship election in Anambra State.
“It was also observed that in 20 percent of PUs, voters with visual impairments or blindness used the Braille Ballot guide. This number showed that if the Braille ballot guide was available at more polling units, more voters with visual impairments and blindness would have been able to use it,” she said.
On his part, the Programme Director, NDI, Mr. Bem Aga, said the roundtable was one of the many platforms created by IFA to advocate for the implementation of the recommendations for PWDs.
He noted that the 2022 Ekiti and Osun states off-cycle governorship elections were now three and four months away, respectively.
“IFA collected data on the barriers faced by PWDs in the electoral process during the November 6, 2021 governorship election in Anambra State. The implementation of IFA’s recommendations, which includes making polling units more physically accessible for PWDs, will go a long way to make the Ekiti and Osun elections more accessible for PWDs,” Aga said.
He expressed hope that INEC and other stakeholders will make and implement commitments on making the Ekiti and Osun state elections more accessible for PWDs.