2023 Election Headline News Special Report

2023 elections: advocating more inclusion for PWDs

Some Persons With Disabilities

Many stakeholders who have relentlessly fought for the rights of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) have argued that their precise number in the country is far from accurate.

As a matter of fact, many and varied figures are being bandied about.

For instance, as at 2020, estimates ranged between 25 and 27 million Nigerians living with one form of disability or another.

However, according to the 2011 World Report on Disability, approximately 25 million Nigerians have at least one form of disability, with 3.6 million of these having significant functional difficulties.

The most common types of disabilities in Nigeria include: visual, hearing, physical, intellectual, and communication impairments.

It of course goes without saying that these forms of impairment are generally met with stigma, discrimination, as well as barriers that militate against their accessing basic social services, political participation, and economic opportunities.

PWDs and the 2023 Election

According to Nigeria’s electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), about 85,362 PWDs were registered to vote in the 2023 elections.

The cumulative figure of the recent Continuous Voter Register (CRV) from June 2021 – July 2022 shows that there are 21,150 persons with Albinism; 13,387 with physical impairment, and 8,103 with blindness.

Those with learning or cognitive disabilities are: 1,719, deafness; 6,159, physical impediment; 13,387, downs syndrome; 660, little stature; 2,288, spinal cord injury; with others at 27,636.

A total of 93,469,008 Nigerians were duly registered for the elections, with 49,054, 162 being males and 44,414, 846 females.

Source : INEC

Section 54 of the Electoral Act, 2022

Consequently, to provide a legal framework, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the long-awaited Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill into law in February, 2022, with consideration for Persons with Disabilities in Section 54, which says:

 (1) A Voter with visual impairment or other forms of disability who is otherwise unable to distinguish symbols 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.

(2) 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.

Chairperson, the Network of Disabled Women, Lious Auta, said that prior to 2022, there was no provision in the Electoral Act for PWDs, until the review was completed and the clause added.

She describes the number of registered PWDs as “unimpressive”, saying the disability community “want visibility” because they have the right to vote under Article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as Section 29 of Discrimination Against Person’s with With Disabilities (Prohibition), Act, 2018.

Mrs Auta also believes that PWDs aspire to be decision-makers even in a society where they are not just in the minority but suffer stigma and are hampered by systemic barriers.

Mrs Lois Auta, CEO Network of Disabled Women 

For Chris Agbo, Chairman of the National Association of Persons with Disabilities in the FCT, the good thing happening is that INEC has gone a step further to accredit PWDs as observers and implement Section 29 of the Disabilities Act by ensuring that 5% of ad-hoc staff for the 2023 elections are PWDs.

Mr Agbo, however, raised concern that data has remained an issue as the Electoral Umpire and other Stakeholders were still working on disaggregated data of PWDs.

Chris Agbo, Chairman of the National Association of Persons with Disabilities

Matters Arising

During a recent visit to Nigeria, the US Special Advisor on International Disability Rights, Sara Minkara, emphasised the importance of full participation of PWDs in the electoral processes, stressing that when given the necessary support, “they will add value to society“.

Sara Minkara made the call in a chat with journalists on the significance of ensuring accessibility and inclusivity ahead of Nigeria’s 2023 elections.

“We are aware of the recently established Electoral Act, which has some provisions for inclusivity and accessibility for Persons With Disabilities,” the Advisor said. “We want to bring their issues to the table, to be heard, they are a source of value and not charity.”

Listen to Sara Minkara by clicking on the link below.

US Special Advisor on International Disability Rights, Sara Minkara

SDG and PWDs

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a powerful framework for guiding local communities, countries, and the international community toward disability-inclusive development.

It pledges to leave no one behind, including people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, and has identified disability as a cross-cutting issue that must be addressed in the implementation of all of its goals.

Writing by Hadiza Abdulrahman; Editing by Tony Okerafor and Tina Oyinsan