From Joe Effiong, Uyo
More than 1.5 million people, living various forms of physical disability in Akwa Ibom State, are said to have been politically disenfranchised due to lack of access to polls during elections.
National Association of the Blind (NAB) National Public Relations Officer, Ubong Udoh, disclosed at Ibom Hall, Uyo, during a stakeholders’ briefing on the expansion of voters access and establishment of new polling units in Akwa Ibom State, organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
He said the figure was based on the United Nations statistics which put the numbers of disabled population in the word at 15 percent.
Udoh said with a population of about seven million people, Akwa Ibom should have about 1.5 million with physical disabilities who have equally been denied access to vote or be voted for, just as more than 30 million persons living with physical disabilities have been disenfranchised in Nigeria through lack of provisions to assist them participate in electoral processes.
He said though more polling units have been created in the state, it would not in any way, benefit the blind, the lame, the deaf and dumb and others with physical disabilities since no effort has, so far, been made by INEC to provide for them during elections.
“These persons are politically disenfranchised, misrepresented and marginalised.
“In a meeting like this, we had expected to see a sign interpreter to help the deaf and dumb; but such provision has not been made. During election, if the blind want to vote, they have to be guided by those with sight and they would guide them to thumbprint without knowing whether they’re voting for the party or candidate of choice or not,” Udoh said.
Responding, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner for Akwa Ibom State, Mike Igini, said the solution does not lie solely with INEC since the commission only works based on the rules provided in the electoral act with regard to casting of ballots.