As the 2023 general elections approaches, the Chief Executive Officer of The Albino Foundation, (TAF) Africa, Mr Jake Epelle, says insecurity before and during elections remains a major concern hindering full participation of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in the nation’s electoral system.
Mr Epelle stated this during his presentation in Abuja, on the ‘Review of Guidelines on Inter-security Agency’s Role in Ensuring an Inclusive Election’ in Nigeria.
He noted that various challenges experienced by PWDs, had negatively affected their participation in the electoral process, Epelle called on security agencies to ensure that the PWDs received the desired protection in the coming elections.
The TAF Boss explained that PWD data Dashboard and the Inclusive Election Security Training for Inter-Security Agencies in Abuja was to build the capacity of security agencies in responding to security issues related to persons with disabilities ahead of the general elections and subsequent off-cycle elections. Jake Epelle stated.
“Conscious effort should be undertaken and policies implemented to safeguarding the right of PWDs at ensuring free and full participation in an election. Targeted strategies designed to address specific risk associated with PWDs should be implemented”
He noted that It is illegal for security officials to guide persons with disability to vote or choose a candidate because they have magnifying glasses and the posters are there to guide them.
“Equal treatment and non-discrimination are very key as a guiding principle, and before the election, the security personnel needs to identify persons with disability and protect them, If we must move forward make sure no one is left behind.” Epelle added.
Responding, the Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, represented by Commissioner of Police in charge of Elections, CP Basil Idegwu, said the evaluation plan was ongoing while threat analysis has been carried out.
“The threats vary according to geopolitical zones, the political situation are looked into in the zones with a view to ensure that red flag areas are addressed before, during and after the election, this is the Operation Order that guides the officers”.
IGP however, assured that the police had done extensive training and a series of retreats, to ensure a hitch-free and credible 2023 elections.
“Apart from the training we have gone into the logistics preparation by acquiring some equipment which the President will commission, we have acquired helicopters and gunboats for patrols in air and waterways, and the IOD is also prepared”.
The Senior Instructor, NSCDC Academy, Dr Saidu Yunusa, disclosed that ” the armed squad is undergoing training along with the NSCDC desk officers to give optimal attention to PWDs.
Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, said the Commission was committed to improving the inclusion and mainstreaming of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Nigeria’s electoral process.
Prof Yakubu, who was represented by INEC National Commissioner and Chairman of the Outreach and Partnership Committee, Professor Kunle Ajayi, emphasized that PWDs remain an integral part of society and have the right to participate in all areas of human endeavors without stigmatization, discrimination, and exclusion.
Prof Yakubu, added that the commission has put in place plans and framework towards providing a level playing ground for the PWD community.
Reporting by Julian Osamoto; Editing by Chinasa Ossai & Adeniyi Bakare