In the past, persons with disabilities in Nigeria faced marginalization because of how they were treated in the electoral process.
According to a World Bank report in 2018, one in six Nigerians lives with a disability and in 2020, it was reported that over 27 million Nigerians live with some form of disability ranging from visual impairment, hearing impairment, physical impairment, intellectual and communication impairment.
Many people with disabilities have faced a number of human rights abuses including stigma, discrimination, violence, and lack of access to healthcare, housing and education.
However, to promote inclusion, it is important to understand that their rights are fundamental in any election.
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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) set up a framework for access for persons with disabilities in 2018 to ensure all-inclusion in the electoral process.
Just like every human, persons with disabilities have the right to vote and be voted for as stated in the Nigerian constitution electoral act and article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
In this article, Daily Trust on Sunday highlights some of the rights of Persons with Disabilities during any election
Right to vote and be voted for
Ensures that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, directly or through freely chosen representatives, including the right and opportunity for persons with disabilities to vote and be elected.
Right to appropriate, accessible and easy-to-understand election materials
Ensures the right to appropriate, accessible, and easy-to-understand election materials. The article further instructs that election facilities should be easily accessible to persons with disabilities at the polls.
Part four, section 54(2) of the electoral act states that “the Commission shall take reasonable steps to ensure that persons with disabilities, special needs and vulnerable persons are assisted at the polling place by the provision of suitable means of communication such as Braille, large embossed print, electronic devices, sign language interpretation, or off-site voting in appropriate cases.”
Right to be assisted to vote
The electoral act also states that the commission shall take reasonable steps to ensure that persons with disabilities, special needs, and vulnerable persons are assisted at the polling place.
Part four, section 54(1)of the electoral act states, “A Voter with visual impairment or other forms of disability who is otherwise unable to distinguish symbol or who suffers from any other physical disability may be accompanied into the polling unit by a person chosen by him or her, and that person shall, after informing the Presiding officer of the disability, be permitted to accompany the voter into the voting compartment and assist the voter to make his or her mark in accordance with the procedure prescribed by the Commission.”
Right to secrecy of the ballot
The right to secrecy of voting applies to everyone including persons with disabilities. The act shall protect the right of persons with disabilities to vote by secret ballot in elections and public referendum without intimidation and to stand for elections, to effectively hold office and perform all public functions at all levels of government, facilitating the use of assistive and new technologies where appropriate.
The act guarantees the free expression of the will of persons with disabilities as electors and to this end, where necessary, at their request, allows assistance in voting by a person of their own choice.
Protection of persons with disabilities during emergencies while voting
According to Section 25 of the Discrimination against People with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018, “In all situations of risk, violence, emergencies, and the occurrences of natural disasters, the government should take all necessary steps to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities, taking cognisance of their peculiar vulnerability.”
So, it is important for the government and commission to take necessary measures to ensure the protection and security of Persons with Disabilities.