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“Promote Disabled Rights” – Nigeria Youth to INEC

Voting in Nigeria's Anambra state (Facebook/INEC)
Voting in Nigeria's Anambra state (Facebook/INEC)

As Nigeria edges closer to elections set for February 25, that will witness a new candidate replacing the outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari, youth advocates are calling on the Independent National Electoral Commission to ensure that all stops are exploited so that the disabled community can easily cast their ballots.

For more, VOA’s Mike Hove spoke to Racheal Inegbedion, a disability rights advocate.

The interview was edited for brevity and clarity.

VOA: What sentiments are being echoed by Nigerian youth pertaining to the upcoming elections that will witness the nation having a new leader?

Inegbedion: Nigerian youth have fully expressed their desire to see tangible change. They are talking about improved infrastructure, job creation and other things that have been lacking.

VOA: Youth in Nigeria are calling on INEC to ensure that all groups receive an opportunity to cast their ballots, especially the disabled community. Kindly tell us more about the challenges faced by that community especially around election season.

Inegbedion: Nigeria is part of a list of African nations that have prioritized people with disabilities during the election process. This was demonstrated when members of the disabled community were part of the election observers during the governors race in Edo and Ondo state.

That historical shift enabled INEC to think around how the disability votes matter, but a lot still needs to be done. The electoral act needs to go beyond theory and into implementation.

Persons with disabilities need to be at the frontlines of electoral observations as well becoming voters.

There is the Africa disability protocol which ensures that the disabled community can rightfully participate in politics. Nigeria presently has not practiced that protocol.

VOA: How catering have previous elections been for Nigeria’s disabled community?

Inegbedion: I would argue that there has been progress over the years because there have been several organizations that have worked tirelessly to ensure that brail, sign language interpreters and all essentials are available.

Despite these measures, there is still room for improvement.

INEC needs to undertake a survey which will give them data on where there are polling stations that are not easily accessible. This will help them ensure that all polling stations are accessible to everyone, including members of the disabled community.