By Philip Yatai

The Legal Awareness for Nigerian Women (LANW), an NGO, said that Persons with Disabilities suffered marginalisation during the 2023 General Elections conducted by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC).

The acting Executive Director, LANW, Mrs Hannatu Ahuwan, states this in Kaduna on Wednesday while disseminating the 2023 Gubernatorial and State House of Assembly Elections Observation Report.

According to her, the development was against INEC assurance on provision of disability-inclusive voting materials to ensure their inclusion throughout the exercise.

“In most polling units monitored, there was no provision of suitable means of communication such as braille, large-embossed print, electronic devices, sign language interpreters, or off-site voting for the PWDs especially visually impaired.

“In most cases, the PWDs were given priority by other voters and were allowed to be accompanied by someone to help them identify symbols or help in voting.

“In some of the polling units monitored, the PWDs were assisted by political party agents, which ought not to be so; INEC must do something about this in subsequent elections”.

Ahuwan explained that LANW, with support from Christian Aid, was implementing a project tagged, “Improving Inclusive Participatory Governance Systems”, aimed at improving citizens’ participation in governance processes.

She said that LANW trained and supported election observers for the 2023 Gubernatorial and State House of Assembly elections in 86 polling units across all wards in Jaba, Jema’a, Kaura and Zangon Kataf LGAs

This, according to her, was part of activities towards encouraging civic responsibility and ensuring a transparent electoral process.

She advised INEC to hold General Elections in the future the same day to cut costs and reduce the untold hardship endured by voters during elections.

She added that the move would equally address the issue of low voter turnout experienced during the Gubernatorial and State House of Assembly elections.

“To reduce the high number of invalid votes recorded in both elections, INEC, government agencies and civil society, must improve sensitisation to educate electorates on how to vote right.

“INEC and law enforcement agencies also need to contain vote buying and voter suppression at polling units by party agents,” she said.

Ahuwan commended INEC for early commencement of the March 18 Gubernatorial and State Elections compared to the Feb. 25 Presidential and National Assembly Elections

She, however, said that LANW observed that the Gubernatorial and State House of Assembly elections witnessed a very low turnout of voters compared to the Presidential and National Assembly Elections.

She attributed the development to the outcome of the presidential election, which was allegedly fraught with a lot of irregularities, while in other areas it was due to security challenges.

She said that averagely, the conduct of the process as observed by LANW was smooth with less hitches and irregularities and every stakeholder played their part in a manner that was commendable.

She nonetheless stressed that the task of accomplishing a free and fair election was a collective duty shared by the government, voters, observers, election bodies and all stakeholders.

“We look forward to improved performance in future elections especially from the electoral bodies, especially INEC,” Ahuwan said.