By Ahmed Abubakar
The Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega has re-instated the commission’s commitment towards addressing barriers that prevents Persons Living with Disabilities (PLDs) from accessing the electoral process.
The INEC Chairman stated this at a conference on tiltled “Mainstreaming into the Electoral Process Persons Living with Disabilities’’ in Abuja yesterday.
Jega, who was represented by a National Commissioner, Dr Chris Iyimoga, said that right engagement of PLDs, who constitutes 25 per cent of the national demography were necessary, was key.
“PLDs have been under represented in not just the electoral and political process in Nigeria, but in almost all spheres language interpretation.
“Also some very important voter education materials such as Frequently Asked Questions, Guide to Transfer of Registration etc should be produced in Braille for the benefit of our visually impaired brothers and sisters.
“However, permit me to state at this point that the commission can only do what it is legally empowered to do.
“We need to have a legal framework in place that will empower the commission in its quest for equitable and participatory democratic process,’’ Jega said.
In her remark, the Deputy Chief of Mission at United States Embassy in Abuja, Maria Brewer said the mission had followed with interest the progress of disability bill through the National Assembly.
Brewer said that US looks forward to a law that would have a positive impact on PLDs in the electoral arena and elsewhere.
“Of course, the US and other international partners can provide some supports, but the most critical driver of progress for persons living with disabilities will come from within Nigeria, from government and the civil society representatives,’’ she said.
Brewer disclosed that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) was committed to disability-inclusive development and had focused on expanding access to the electoral process among PLDs.
“USAID is supporting the work of partners like the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, the International Republican Institute, and the National Democratic Institute to ensure that persons with disabilities remain enfranchised.