The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has said training electoral desk officers on how to manage the disability process remains the only way to go because of their numerical strength saying this training provides an opportunity to listen to some of the fears these special groups have and ways offered on how to manage it.
Prof. Kunle Ajayi, National Commissioner, INEC, during his remark at the opening ceremony of Bridge Modular training on access and participation of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the Electoral process for INEC disability Desk officers held at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos State maintains that the training creates room for interaction and ability to exchange ideas on a number of issues.
He stressed that section 54 (2) of the Electoral Act 2022 and other legal instruments empower the Commission to ensure that persons with disabilities are given assistive support so as to be able to exercise their rights whenever the needs arise just like they are doing now ahead of the general election.
According to Professor Ajayi: “As a new National Commissioner and Chairman, Outreach and Partnership Committee (OPC), this training provides a veritable opportunity for me to interact with you to have first-hand knowledge of your field experiences and operational challenges, to enable us to forge a strategic bond for quality service delivery guided by international best practices on electoral inclusion.
“The non-negotiable minimum of a credible and democratic electioneering process is its inclusivity; the ability of all stakeholders to access and participate in the electoral space based on equality. Section 54 (2) of the Electoral Act 2022 and other legal instruments empower the Commission to take reasonable steps to ensure PWDs, special needs, and vulnerable persons are given support at the polling place by the provision of assistive devices.
“The Commission also has as one of its core values, the creation of a level playing field for all stakeholders to participate in, especially the marginalized groups, including the PWDs.
”This taken, the BRIDGE Modular training is part of the Commission’s Strategic Plan of Action (SPA) designed to sharpen and enrich the working knowledge of our new Desk Officers, and refresh the memories of other officers with long experience at the Disability Desk of their responsibilities as frontline implementers of the Commission’s PWDs’ policies.
”You are the leading contact points to provide strong support to the mainstreaming of disabilities’ issues into the electoral process in your various states, and to offer assistance to the capacity-building of election personnel for enhanced knowledge and response to PWDs’ matters during elections. This underscores the importance of the training, even more so, as the General Elections and stand-alone elections are upcoming”, he said.
He explained that at the end of the training more knowledge and skills would have been given to the special needs of these people because going against the law will be tantamount to not allowing them to participate in the electoral process as provided for in the Act.
He said further that as desk officers the Commission rely so much on their skills and experience because its usefulness cannot be overlooked considering the due attention required by this set of people whose condition cannot be underrated no matter the situation.
”Expectedly, at the end of the training, the Desk Officers should better appreciate the various innovations and the changing dynamics on PWD electoral issues all built into the training modules of this 5-day program, and also develop the capacity to cascade the training for a broader knowledge on issues on disability inclusion at your respective stations.
“As Desk Officers, the Commission counts on your expertise as foot soldiers on PWDs responsive policies for effective coordination and implementation of its disability focal programs as you will put the knowledge you acquire here to good use.
”I wish to reiterate the unwavering commitment of the Commission to PWDs sensitive actions, even as we have a Framework on Access and Participation of PWDs in the Electoral Process and have almost completed work on Disability Inclusive Guide, a tool for reference in mainstreaming disability issues in the electoral process, which will further firm up the Commission’s resolve on electoral inclusivity to serve PWDs community better.
“The Commission also places a high premium on its collaboration with development partners to sustain the multi-stakeholders synergy for a credible and inclusive electoral process for sustainable democracy in Nigeria.
” May I at this juncture, therefore, express the Honourable Chairman’s and the entire Commission’s goodwill and appreciation to the European Centre for Electoral Support (ECES) for supporting the Commission in the organization of this BRIDGE Modular training and other contributions of the European Centre towards the advancement of democracy and its values in Nigeria.
“The support from ECES and other stakeholders has helped to reform and grow our systems of elections, their processes, and outcomes. It is indeed in the interest of participatory democracy in Nigeria to sustain the strategic partnership”, he noted.