The Campaign for Equal Voting Access for Persons with Disabilities (EVAPWD), a program of the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD), has said that its observers witnessed massive vote buying and selling in the ongoing election in Ekiti State.
According to the preliminary statement by the Campaign for Equal Voting Access, EVAPWD said it participated actively in the observation of the June 18, 2022 Ekiti State Governorship Election organized by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The group further stated that while partaking of the polls its observers witnessed massive vote buying and selling, particularly in “Polling Unit (PU) 001, Ward 10, Irepodun/Ifelodun LGA, PU 002, Ward 10, Odo-Oye / Ayedun 1, Gbonyi LGA, and PU 039, Ward 11, Ado-Ekiti LGA”.
In the communique signed by David O. Anyaele, Chairman, Campaign for Equal Voting Access, EVAPWD said it is impressed to observe that marginalized populations – the aged, nursing mothers and pregnant women and persons with disabilities were offered priority voting in most of the polling units observed.
The group commended Polling Officials for their efforts in that regard.
INEC was also praised for the conduct of the election, even as it was observed that voters turned out in their large numbers at their polling units as early as 8am.
EVAPWD observers also, however, noticed that the promised Braille Ballot Paper by INEC for easy access for the Blind voters were scarcely available as it was only observed at PU 003, Ward 10, Afao/Kajola and PU 001, Ward 11, Odese in Ikere Local Government Area.
They did not see any magnifying glasses at the Polling Units observed, and when Adhoc Staff were asked about this material, they told EVAPWD Observers that it is not available.
Furthermore, EVAPWD observed that Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials such as Election Day instructions and guidelines to assist the deaf or persons with hearing impairment understanding of voting process were not available in all the polling units visited.
The group’s report shows that large numbers of the polling units were not accessible to physically challenged persons. These polling units were sited in difficult places such as buildings without ramps/handrail, across gutter, staircase etc.
The worse they however, observed was locating of a Polling Unit in a basement at PU 004, Ward 002, near Odo-Ado market, Ado-Ekiti LGA with no provisional elevators nor ramp to assist physically challenged voters.
EVAPWD asserted that its reports were from field observers deployed across the three Senatorial Zones of the State, adding that these observers were trained to observe the election with focus on equal voting access for persons with disabilities (PWDs).
According to the body, the key objective of the observation exercise was to observe provisions made by INEC for persons with disabilities’ participation in the election and raise awareness on equal voting rights for citizens with disabilities. It was an opportunity to observe the extent of INEC compliance to the new Electoral Act 2022.
EVAPWD was of the opinion that with their observations, the group is pleased that INEC granted PWDs priority voting during the 2022 Ekiti State Governorship Election.
Nevertheless, the group was disappointed that there was no provision of assistive devices (Braille Ballots, Magnifying Glasses and location of Polling Units in accessible environments).
“By this singular act, INEC has displayed minimal commitment to the implementation of the Electoral Act, INEC Framework on Access and Participation of Persons with Disabilities in the Electoral Process and the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018,” EVAPWD declared.
The group urged INEC to address the issues as observed by EVAPWD observers, especially as the nation moves towards Osun State Governorship election next month and other elections to come in 2023.