Campaign for Equal Voting Access for Persons with Disabilities (EVAPWD), an NGO, has lauded the priority given to Persons with Disabilities, the aged, nursing and pregnant women in most polling units in the Ekiti State Governorship Election.

Mr. David Anyaele, Chairman of EVAPWD, lauded the priority-voting for the marginalised group in a preliminary statement issued on Saturday In Abuja.

Anyaele also commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the conduct of the election, early arrival of materials and the large turnout of voters at various polling units.

“The EVAPWD, a program of the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), participated actively in the observation of the June 18 Ekiti State Governorship Election organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

“We received reports from our field observers deployed across the three senatorial zones of the state and these observers were trained to observe the election with focus on equal voting access for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs).

“The key objective of the observation was to observe provisions made by INEC for persons with disabilities’ participation in the election and raise awareness on equal voting rights for citizens with disabilities.

“EVAPWD is impressed to observe that marginalized populations, the aged, nursing mothers and pregnant women and persons with disabilities were offered priority voting in most of the polling units visited.

“We commend polling officials for their efforts in this regard and EVAPWDs is pleased that INEC granted PWDs priority voting during the 2022, Ekiti State Governorship Election,” he said.

Anyaele, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the scarcely available Braille materials at various polling units for easy voting access for the Blind.

He said that the promised Braille Ballot Papers by INEC for easy access for the Blind voters were scarcely available as it was observed at PU 003, Ward 10, Afao/Kajola and PU 001, Ward 11, Odese in Ikere Local Government Area.

He said that the EVAPWD observers did not see any magnifying glasses at the Polling Units visited and when Ad hoc staff of INEC were asked about these materials, they told EVAPWD observers that it was not available.

“EVAPWD also observed that Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials such as Election Day instructions and guidelines to assist the deaf or persons with hearing impairment understand voting process were not available in all the polling units visited.

“And large numbers of the polling units were not accessible to physically challenged persons,” he said.

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He said that most of the polling units were sited in difficult places such as buildings without ramps/handrail, across gutter and staircase.

Anyaele said that a disturbing scenario for PWD was observed at a Polling Unit in a basement at PU 004, Ward 002, near Odo-Ado market, Ado-Ekiti LGA where no provisional elevators nor ramp to assist physically challenged voters was made available.

He also decried massive vote buying and selling, particularly in PU 001, Ward 10, Irepodun/Ifelodun LGA, PU 002, Ward 10, Odo-Oye/Ayedun 1, Gbonyi LGA, and PU 039, Ward 11, Ado-Ekiti LGA.

He said in the conduct of the election, provision of assistive devices such as Braille Ballots, Magnifying Glasses were not sighted and locations of Polling Units in unaccessible environments were disturbing and discouraging.

According to him, INEC has displayed minimal commitment to the implementation of the Electoral Act and INEC framework on access and participation of persons with disabilities in the electoral process and neglect of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018.

He urged the commission to address the issues as observed by EVA4PWD, especially in its plans and preparations for the conduct of Osun State Governorship election. (NAN)