Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), an NGO, has lauded the participation of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the Kogi Governorship election, particularly in Kogi West Senatorial District election.
Mr David Anyaele, Executive Director of the group, said this in a statement released in Abuja, on Monday.
Anyaele also commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over the successful conduct of the elections in spite of the security challenges.
He said INEC ad-hoc staff and accredited election observers took a lot of risks by participating in the election in spite of the security challenges in the state.
“We deployed our observers and we have counted them; we thank God no one suffered any injury, and no one is missing.
“We commend INEC staff and PWDs for their resilience in the face of security uncertainty, we observed that many INEC staff and our observers had a share of more than they bargained for in the elections,’’ he said.
He lauded INEC for ensuring that voters with disabilities had minimal struggle to Polling Units (PUs), which according to him is in line with provisions of the National Disability Act.
According to him, in more than 120 PUs, only two used magnifying glasses, and that boldly printed instructional materials in Braille and Braille ballot guides were limited on the field.
“More than 80 per cent of PUs visited had none of these materials. This is to the disadvantage of the blind, deaf and persons with albinism.
“This puts a question mark on the much talked about provisions for voters with disabilities.
“Our observers observed that majority of the PUs had no instruction materials that will help the deaf, no sign language interpreter was sighted in all the Pus,’’ he said.
According to him, significant numbers of the PUs were not accessible for PWDs.
“This situation continued to put to question INEC’s understanding of accessible PUs and its commitment to the implementation of other relevant sections of the National Disability Act and its policy on PWDs participation in elections.
The executive director expressed serious concerns over the security challenges in most of the local government areas (LGAs) the group observed during the governorship election.
He claimed that there was pandemonium in Iyara town, at Ward 8, PU 004, where the voters were attacked and forced to vote for a particular political party.
He said voters had to scamper for safety as gun taunting thugs made it difficult for them to excise their franchise, and PWDs were mostly affected during the chaos.
He also alleged that vote selling and buying was observed and that the security agents were compromised as they aided in electioneering trading.
“It was so bad in Ward 15, PU 15, Investra ASCO, Ajaokuta LGA that the vote-buying even came with threats.
“The manipulation and threats were so bad that the agents buying votes will collect ballot papers from the electorate to be sure that their vote was cast for their candidates,’’ he said.
Anayele called for sensitisation of Nigeria’s entire electoral process, saying the happenings during elections were quite worrisome.
According to him, the 2019 Kogi Governorship Election and the Kogi West Senatorial Election, was a war; and could not be said to be free, fair, credible, nor inclusive for PWDs.
He tasked the people of the state to demand accountability on the role of the Nigeria Police on the insecurity that characterised their state’s election.
Anayele, however, expressed satisfaction with the way members of the group were treated, saying the majority of the Pus visited provided priority voting for voters with disabilities.