The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday, train visually impaired registered voters in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, on the use of braille ballot guide to enable them to vote independently in the February 12 Area Councils Election.
The Commission also assured them and other registered voters living with disabilities in the FCT, unhindered participation in the forthcoming Area Councils election.
INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for FCT, Yahaya Bello, gave the assurance at“INEC Voter Education and Sensitisation for Visually Impaired Voters on the Use of Braille Ballot” in Abuja on Tuesday.
The programme was organized by INEC Area Council Election in collaboration with the International Foundation for Electoral System (IFES).
Represented by the Director of ServiCom, Dennis Ogu, Bello assured that magnifying glasses and other visual enhancing devices would be provided for the Area Councils election.
“The Commission has made provision for braille ballot guide and magnifying glasses as part of the electoral materials to ensure a seamless voting exercise for the visually impaired on Election Day. Hence, the need for this disposition program.
“This is part of the commission’s efforts geared towards achieving its vision on gender and inclusivity, especially in the build-up to the 2023 general elections,” Bello said.
In her remarks, Director Gender and Inclusivity Department at INEC headquarters, Blessing Obidegwu, said the sensitisation program was for the visually impaired voters to make informed division on election day.
Represented by Lakunuya Bello, Obidegwu, said that INEC had made it a priority over the years to deliver free and fair, and inclusive elections, “as elections could not be inclusive if all sectors of the society are not included.”
She recalled that INEC “braille ballot guide” was introduced in September 2018, at the Osun State governorship election to enable voters with visual impairments identify party symbols and cast their ballot in the election.
She said that this had remained an enormous success so far, adding: “The commissioner recognises that citizens irrespective of their peculiarities, hold the key to the enthronement of the will of the people in any democracy.
“The unhindered participation of all eligible citizens in the electoral process does not only confer credibility and legitimacy on the process but also enables a nation to benefit fully from the talents and potentials of all its citizens.
“To enhance the participation of the visually impaired persons for the Feb 12 FCT Area council election, the commission will be making available the brain ballot guide available at pulling units for election, to ensure that the visually impaired cast their ballots independently,” she said.
He expressed hope that; “at the end of the sensitization forum, the participants would be well equipped and sensitized their other members for inclusive FCT elections.”
IFEC Country Director, Seray Jay, noted that as much as possible electoral process must be inclusive to accommodate all persons will disabilities, which are critical members of the society.
Jay represented by IFES Deputy Country Director, Obaje UKeh said the event provided INEC and stakeholders to engage in the FCT area council’s election.
“This is an opportunity to engage with INEC, to understand the things that they have prepared to ensure your participation in the FCT elections.
“But most importantly, to understand the tools which have been provided by INEC which is the braille ballot guide to help you make informed decisions on Feb. 12.
“This is an opportunity to ask the questions you need to ask and to familiarise yourselves with the tools, . and be able to look at the gabs with the tools and proffer solutions to engage the tool,” Jay said.
The Chairman, Nigeria Association of the Blind, Jacob Agada, appreciated INEC in carrying people with disabilities along in electoral processes.
“I want to sincerely thank them for adhering to Article 29 of Disability Rights Act which provides that everyone, irrespective of your status in society should be carried along when it comes to issuing of politics and politicking. This go a long way to give everyone an equal opportunity,” he said.