July 23, 2024

INEC calls for integration of PWDs in electioneering process in Nigeria

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Resident Electoral Commissioner for Osun State, Dr Mutiu Agboke has called on political parties and relevant government agencies to fully integrate Persons with Disabilities in the electioneering process in Nigeria.

This call was contained in Dr Agboke’s address delivered during the second consultative quarterly meeting with CSOs and political parties on Wednesday in Osogbo.

Agboke who maintained that the collaboration between INEC, CSOs and political parties is fundamental to the advancement of our democracy, added that democracy can be as strong, strengthened and consolidated only when no single strata of the society is left behind in the processes of the electoral process.

He said, “In this regard, Persons with Disabilities, PWDs, represent a significant portion of our society, and their full participation in the electoral process is not only a matter of legal obligation but also a moral duty. An inclusive electoral process ensures that every citizen’s voice is heard and valued. It strengthens the legitimacy of our political system and promotes a more equitable, fair, egalitarian and just society.

“Ensuring full inclusion and integration of Persons with Disabilities, PWDs, in the electoral process is crucial for upholding democratic values, as well as fundamental aspects of a democratic society and demar rights. Despite advancements in legislation and international conventions, PWDs often face significant barriers to participating in elections.

“Therefore, political parties play a crucial role in this process, as they are the primary vehicles through which political representation and participation are channelled. By adopting Inclusive policies and practices, political parties can significantly enhance the electoral engagement of PWDs, ensuring their voices are heard and their rights are upheld. Civil Society Organizations, CSOs also are key players in advocating for and facilitating the inclusion of PWDs, working to eliminate barriers and promote equal participation.”

Highlighting the barriers to political participation of PWDs which include: physical barriers, information barriers, attitudinal barriers and economic barriers, the Osun INEC boss revealed that political parties had a role in mitigating these barriers.

The strategies to overcome these barriers Agboke suggested included, “inclusive policy development, policy platforms, legislative advocacy, party primary/selection of a candidate, support mechanisms, accessible campaigning and accessible information.”

Others he said are, “inclusive campaign events, voter engagement, voter education, transportation assistance, internal party inclusion, inclusive membership, training and sensitisation, collaboration and partnerships, partnership with civil society organisations and partnership with relevant government bodies.”

He insisted that “CSOs play a pivotal role in addressing challenges facing PWDs full participation in the electoral process and are instrumental in advocating for the rights of PWDs, raising awareness, and providing critical support services through advocacy, education, capacity building, resource provision, legal assistance, and partnership building.”

He also added that “political parties play a vital role in the full integration and inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in the electoral process by developing inclusive policies, supporting PWD candidates, ensuring accessible campaigning, engaging PWD voters, fostering internal party inclusion, and collaborating with other critical stakeholders such security agencies for the provision of watertight security before, during and after the election.”

He called for synergy to create an environment where every citizen can participate fully and equally in Nigeria’s democracy.

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