The Inclusive Friends Association (IFA) focusing on Persons with Disability (PWDs) has said that despite several challenges, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) deserve commendation on the improved participation of the PWDs in electoral activities as experienced in the recent Edo and Ondo states governorship elections.
This is contained in the post-election report of the organisation signed by its Executive Director, Miss Grace Jerry in Abuja.
She, however, listed some challenges, that must be addressed in future elections, including negation of COVID-19 protocols, insufficient form EC 30E PWD at most polling units (PUs), insufficient magnifying glasses at most PUs, and most PUs in Akure South and across the state still have gutters and high corridors which made it very difficult for PWDs to access the PUs.
According to her, against all odds IFA observed a high level of priority voting for PWDs during the recent off cycle elections and commended INEC for that achievement.
She said that the high number of the PUs visited by her organisation shows the impact of various voter education conducted by IFA and other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).
While commending the availability of the form EC40H which is used to capture data of PWDs to assist INEC’s deployment for PWDs in future elections and enhance its database, she also stressed that as there was high turnout of voters who were PWDs with young men and women, the aged, nursing mothers expressing their eagerness to cast votes for the candidate of their choice.
While saying that all cannot be perfect despite the considerable improvement in the provision of Braille Ballot Guide (BBG) as compared with the Edo elections, earlier conducted on the 19th September, 2020 and having 38 percent deployment of BBG while Ondo elections conducted on the 10th of October, 2020 improved to 59 percent, also lamented that the absence of flat surface ground voting, Form EC30E PWD (Election Day written instruction for the deaf) as well as insufficient or outright absence of magnifying glasses has being a major set-back for PWDs in performing their electoral rights.
“INEC deserve commendation for the improvements recorded thus far in areas such as, the provision of braille for voters with visual impairment, training of polling officials in managing the electoral process especially engaging PWDs as part of the ad-hoc staff. PU28/06/04/011 Oke-Ijebo had PWDs as part of their ad-hoc staff this is a good initiative of inclusion in the area of employment”.
“However, the commission should make efforts to address the challenges identified above and especially, make efforts to engage relevant government agencies in providing concrete slabs to ensure accessibility for PUs located in front of residential buildings due to the existing gutter challenges or better still change PUs to more accessible ones,” she said.
She also said that the IFA election observers witnessed vote buying and canvassing at some PUs which are against the voting provisions in Edo and Ondo with so many PUs not complying with COVID-19 Protocol, urging INEC to address the identified challenges.