The Albino Foundation (TAF) have introduced ABLE2VOTE campaign to tackle voter apathy among Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) and increase electoral participation ahead of the 2023 General Elections .
The Founder, Chief Executive Officer, TAF, Mr Jake Epelle said this at a news conference on Tuesday in Abuja.
Epelle said that the collaboration has led to the introduction of the Able2vote campaign aimed at sensitising PWDs to tackle voter apathy.
He said that the programme was supported by the European Union through its EU Support to Democratic Governance in Nigeria (EU-SDGN)programme.
According to Epelle, with the effort already made by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC),for a more inclusive process, low educational levels and illiteracy among persons with disabilities and the population at large will weaken participation and inclusion.
“There is a serious information gap on the provision and processes available to encourage an inclusive process, therefore, a timely intervention that would address the gaps and improve electoral participation and inclusion of people with disabilities in the General Election is pertinent.
“As we work towards improving the participation of PWDs in the imminent 2023 elections and subsequent off-cycle elections, we at the Albino Foundation officially flag off our ABLE2VOTE campaign.
“Through the campaign, we will sensitise and create awareness among PWDs across the six geo-political zones on their rights and the need to participate in politics and electoral processes ,promote more inclusive political commitment and public policy making,” he said.
Epelle said the campaign would also build the capacities of PWDs aspirants and elected officials and work around other legal, policy reforms that would contribute to increasing the number of PWDs in Nigeria’s political process.
He said it would also eradicate identified barriers to political participation of PWDs such as the negative attitudes of the general public towards PWDs and cumbersome electoral process.
“We hope that before the elections ,at least 6000 PWDs would have been adequately equipped to participate in the political process and the age long disability gap in voter turnout would have been addressed,” he said.
Epelle added that the foundation would introduce sign language interpreters at the two chambers of the National Assembly and send interns to 10 states houses of assembly to promote improved inclusivity in the legislative process in Nigeria.
He said that the foundation would engage all the presidential candidates on their manifestos to know their plans for PWDs and use that as an accountability measure to hold them to their words after the elections.
Mr James Lalu, the Executive Secretary, National Commission for Persons With Disabilities (NCPWD) said it was high time to drive the issue of increased inclusivity in Nigeria’s electoral process because the participation of PWDs in the electoral process was key to democracy.
Lalu said the commission embarked on its Voter-Ability campaign programme to sensitise the general public on the rights of PWDs to actively participate in the electoral process.
“To further broaden the scope of accessibility during voting exercise, the NCPWD equally proposed to INEC on the need to have Sign language interpreters at poling units to enhance communication with the Deaf community.
“May I also assure you that the population of over Thirty-five million Persons with Disabilities in various clusters and strata of Nigeria is very significant in determining the outcome in any election especially at this crucial electoral cycle.
“In addition, PWDs need to unite in unison and produce the next generation of leaders who will champion the course of all OPDs and diverse interest groups. ‘’
Lalu said the time politicians take PWDs for granted had passed adding that they have the number to make laudable effect in votes and they would use it to demand commitment from political parties.
“We were not involved in the political parties leadership structure so that leaves us with the elections ,any party that fails to take recognize us , we will move our votes to the party that will, we have our PVCs and they are not sell.’’
Mrs Saudatu Mahdi, the Secretary-General, Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA) said the partnership between the commission, TAF and WRAPA was a good signal for Nigerians.
Mahdi said the partnership showed that citizens were willing and able to take up accountability and demand accountability,inclusion and gender equity because social inclusion is a must for democracy to be a good one for the citizens.
Highlights of the event was the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between TAF ,WRAPA and NCPWD to promote inclusion in Nigeria’s electoral process among others. (NAN)(nannews.ng)