Lagos State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola, said in an interview in Lagos, western Nigeria, that the country has not developed enough to fully accommodate persons with disabilities during elections.
“No, there’s no specific arrangements from INEC,” Ogunmola said when asked what specific arrangements the commission had made.
He said most persons with disabilities, especially those with visual impairment are not educated enough to make use of the braille.
“The population of physically challenged Nigerians that can make use of the braille is very small compared to the total number of those who are visually challenged. That is to say that even if you make use of the braille, not all of them will be able to interpret it. That’s the point I’m making.”
He said physically challenged Nigerians visited him recently and he assured them they would be given the opportunity to vote. “But you see, our society has not really developed to what obtains in some other parts of the world,” he said.
He said the commission expects Nigerians to be accommodating and give them priority at voting unit.
“I do know as I told them that when physically challenged people get to the polling unit, Nigerians have a way of giving them priority when it comes to voting, so they will not be discrimitated against in whatever way.”
Ogunmola spoke in Lagos on 4 November shortly after attending a media launch of “Civic Education on Inclusive Voter Participation” organised by the State Accountability and Voice Initiative, SAVI.
In prepared remarks, SAVI Team Leader, Felix Obanubi, said the task of educating voters, especially Nigerians with physical disabilities, cannot be left to INEC alone.
“This is why as civil society players, we have taken up the challenge to enlighten and educate eligible citizens,” Obanubi said.
Nigerians with special needs, he added, have not adequately participated in past elections because of communication gaps, poor access to polling units and other factors beyond their control.
“We are optimistic that through partnering with the media, proper awareness would be created this time around,” he said.
Deaconess Beyioku Alase Adedoyin, Chairperson of Lagos State Joint Association for Persons with Disabilities and the Deaf Women Association of Nigeria, DWAN, urged INEC to make provisions for them.
“My experience during the last election is not palatable because all of us that are deaf, our disability is hidden,” she said.
She said most deaf people arrive polling units without interpreters and with such communication gap, they cannot exercise their rights.
“Disability is not the problem. Deaf is not the problem. The society is the problem, ” she said.