Nigerian Elections: Electoral commission promotes inclusive participation of people with disabilities

On Monday, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) spoke on its commitment to ensuring that the 25 million people living with disabilities (PwDs) would participate in the upcoming 2019 elections.

Previously, INEC procedures allow persons with disabilities be in the front lines in polling units when voting or registering to vote. Also, people with disabilities were accompanied into the polling unit by a person of their choice, other than a polling agent if necessary.

In Nigeria’s 2015 general elections, tactile ballot guides were not available for voters. But after two years of deliberations, Adekunle Ogunmola, a National Commissioner in the electoral commission said that the validation of the framework showed that INEC was determined to bring in PwDs for full and effective participation in the next electoral process.

“Today’s event marks yet another milestone in the commitment of the commission to expanding the electoral space to ensure that the right of all eligible Nigerians to vote and be voted for is guaranteed. As a commission, we are committed now than ever to meaningfully uphold and incrementally improve the gains made in the advancement of the right of PwDs to accessible and inclusive electoral process,” Ogunmola stated.

Nigerian constitution in Section 12 (1) of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended states that a person shall be eligible to vote if she or he is not subject to any legal incapacity to vote under any law, rule or regulation in force in Nigeria.

The promotion of inclusive voting began in 2017 when Mahmood Yakubu, chairman Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), announced that come 2019, inmates in Nigerian prisons would be allowed to exercise their right to vote.

Just like disability disenfranchisement, felony disenfranchisement has been a norm in Nigeria over the years but from 2019 general elections, the electoral commission is willing to break the chain to promote the commission as inclusive in its human and financial resources as well as in its practice and process Ogunmola stated.

Currently, there are 240 prison institutions spread across Nigeria and as at 2015, the total prison population was 56,718, comprising – 17,686 convicts (4,000 lifers; 1,612 condemned convicts) and 39,032 Awaiting Trial Persons.

INEC’s new inclusive framework will guide the commision to develop its electoral database, aid in proper planning and provide adequate support and materials needed in the electoral cycle. It will also ensure that PwDs participate in all aspects of the electoral process, be it as voters, candidates for elections or as election observers.