Ms Sara Minkara, U.S. Special Advisor on International Disability Rights, on Friday called on Nigeria to ensure accessibility and inclusiveness for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) during elections.
Minkara made the call during a news conference in Abuja as part of her official visit and engagement with civil society groups, international organisations and government officials ahead of the 2023 elections.
She stressed the importance of free and fair elections accessible to all, while encouraging PWDs to actively participate in the political process.
According to her, the visit will enable her to take stock of Nigeria’s efforts to reshape the narrative around disability, their rights and their value when fully included in all sectors of society.
“One of the main reasons we are here is to talk about the upcoming general elections in 2023 and how we can support to make sure the elections are inclusive for PWDs.
“We are aware of the Electoral Act, which has some provisions around inclusivity and accessibility for PWDs.
“But how do we ensure that PWDs are able to participate fully?
“This is also an opportunity of bringing accessibility and inclusivity beyond the general elections.
“We want to bring PWDs to the table, their voices should be heard and they should be seen as source of value, not charity,’’ she said.
Minkara commended the government for the amended Electoral Act that had accessibility and disability on section 54, calling for its full implementation and a budget attached to it.
She also stressed the need for security, accessibility and training of personnel to ensure the participation and safety of PWDs during elections.
“We want to understand if there is a budget attached to it? Are the disability communities part of the implementation?
“We also know that there has been a lot of training of electoral officers and security forces, are PWDs part of the training?
“When it comes to security, during that moment of election, we want to ensure that if anything happens PWDs are safe, put into consideration. Police officers and security officers know how to interact with PWDs.’’
The US Special Adviser also called for sustainability of inclusiveness and accessibility for PWDs beyond the 2023 general election.