The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Lagos State has taken its voter education and sensitisation to the visually impaired segment of People With Disability (PWDs) in the state.
INEC’s Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr Olusegun Agbaje, on Saturday said that the commission’s engagement with visually impaired voters’ participation ahead of the forthcoming 2023 General Election signaled the much desired all-inclusive election and the deepening of democracy.
Speaking at the interactive session with the Visually Impaired Voters on the Use of Braille Ballot Voter Guide, Agbaje said that INEC had embarked on intervention programmes to promote the electoral rights of PWDs.
Agbaje, who was represented by Mr Gabriel Akanbi, INEC’s Head of Department, Election and Party Monitoring, said that this had been clearly spelt out under the Constitution and the recently approved Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018.
According to him, certain privileges/ exceptions the PWDs’ right are safeguarded to promote inclusive electoral process, societal integration and protection due to disabilities that has been codified into the commission’s manuals.
He said that the Section 54 (2) the Electoral Act 2022 stated that visually impaired and incapacitated voter may be accompanied into the polling unit by a person chosen by him or her.
“A voter who is blind or 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.
“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 mark in accordance with the procedure prescribed by the Commission.
“The Commission may take reasonable steps to ensure that voters with disabilities are assisted at the polling place by the provision of suitable means of communication, such as Braille, large embossed print or electronic devices or sign language interpretation, or off-site voting in appropriate cases,” Agbaje read the section in part.
According to him, the visually impaired are a special class of PWDs and the Commission has consequently brought forward the engagement and interaction to sensitise, demonstrate and educate this category of voters with necessary information, communication and assistive materials.
The INEC boss said that facilitators would provide samples of Braille Ballot guide, assistive materials, brief on basics of voter education and steps to polling procedures and the use of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System to educate the voters.
He said that the engagement was to pave way for seamless participation and voting on the Election Day.
“It is therefore imperative that our visually impaired must take cognizance of their electoral rights and responsibilities and the special interventions already introduced to support them.
“They must take ownership of the electoral process and participate massively in the forthcoming elections,” the INEC boss said.
He reassured voters that INEC was fully prepared, and would leave no stone unturned to ensure successful conduct of free, fair, transparent, credible and all inclusive election come 2023.
In her remarks, Mrs Adenike Tadese, INEC’s Head of Department, Voter Education and Publicity, said, “The Electoral right of PWDs/ visually impaired are in no way different from electoral rights of ordinary Nigerians.”
Reeling out voter responsibility, voting procedures and key things votes should know, Tadese stressed the importance of Permanent Voter Cards, use of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, peaceful atmosphere and the need to shun illegal practices.
“I, therefore, implore you all to exercise your civic duties and responsibilities by coming out to vote on the day of elections, eschew violence but remain vigilant, and ensure peaceful conducts before, during and after the election,” she said.
The Lagos state Disability Desk Officer of INEC, Mr Buba Luka, demonstrated the correct way to mark a ballot by visually impaired person as well as other assistive aids.
The event was attended by members of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disability (JONAPWD), an umbrella organisation of persons with disability established in Nigeria to promote the rights and development of Nigerians with disabilities.