Nigerian with disabilities seek participation in electoral process

Africa, February 25 2013

The Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities has inaugurated a committee to ensure the participation of its members in the electoral process towards 2015.

 The Chairman of the committee, Mr. Augustine Onwuamegbu, said on Thursday that the association had observed that persons with disabilities had been sidelined from the electoral process for too long.

“During the 2011 general elections, a lot of persons with disabilities were disenfranchised,” he said. “When they went to the polling booths, so many of them were told that their names were not on the list of registered voters, while their names were there; some of them were asked why they were at the polling booths; some were even asked who told them to go to the polling booths just they were seen to have disabilities. We want to use this committee to sensitize the local governments, state governors, the president and the legislature, for them to really involve persons with disabilities in the 2015 general elections.”

He said that there was need for awareness creation for persons with disabilities, stressing that the committee would sensitize them to what their rights were, and how it could be entrenched.

Onwuamegbu said that it was only through the participation of persons with disabilities in governance that their needs could be addressed.

He said it was important that persons with disabilities were integrated into the political, social, economic and cultural lives of the society.

“Persons with disabilities are not properly sensitized; they feel that the electoral process is for able-bodied persons only; they don’t feel the sense of belonging that is what this committee is all about,” he said.

“We want to use this committee to go to all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria to sensitize them, tell them that look you have to come out, vie for positions and vote for people that are vying for positions, wherever you are, don’t feel that you are a person living with one form of disability or another, don’t feel that you cannot vie for positions and vote for people; come out en masse during the 2015 general elections.”

Onwuamegbu called on registered political parties to issue out nomination forms for free to persons with disabilities, saying that the gesture would further demonstrate the disability-friendly nature of the parties and their readiness to allow for equal participation for all.

He also called on INEC to fashion out modalities that would encourage equal participation of persons with disabilities in the upcoming general elections.

“I call on all levels of government to please consider persons with disabilities for a paltry five per cent affirmative action of appointive and elective positions on employment and other areas,” he said. “We must ensure that persons with disabilities are included into the mainstream of Nigerian society and work to eradicate all the barriers that hamper the attainment of their full potential.’’

Source: Daily Times

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