FCT Elections: It Took Me 2 Hours On Rollers To Get To My Polling Unit, Person With Disability
With the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) area council elections currently ongoing, some persons living with disability have decried the challenges faced in accessing their polling units and areas.
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This comes as several organisations have also called on the Nigerian government to ensure their work with relevant stakeholders to provide voting processes and platforms that fit all.
For Auwal Muhammad, a 42-year-old who sells recharge cards and chargers for mobile phones, the voting process for him has been a herculean task.
Muhammed who lives in the Karamajiji area of Abuja said he had to use his rollers to 'travel' for over two hours before he could get to his polling unit at LEA Primary School, Area 1 Garki.
Speaking exclusively to Legit.ng, Muhammad said because he does not have a wheelchair and the ban on vehicular movement in the city by the police, finding transportation means to his polling unit was a major challenge for him.
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"I trekked from Karamajiji to the Shopping centre here to vote."
The voting process was a challenge for Muhammad
Further speaking on the conduct of the election, the father of seven said at the polling unit, the official could not capture his biometrics.
"They couldn't capture my face and fingerprint... not just me about seven others. They have asked others to go home and come back later but maybe because of my condition, they said I should wait by the side for a while and come back after some minutes."
Muhammad also said that even one of his friends who tried to vote found it very difficult to access the ballot cubicle.
He said the cubicle is quite high and not within reach for many people with disability.
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"The platform is very high for me and some of our people to vote, if only they can arrange it in such a way that those with disabilities can vote without discomfort."
Collaborating Muhammad's challenge, Umar Adoro, said because the voting cubicle was too high for him, the INEC officials asked him to go behind the wall to thumbprint on the ballot paper.
Adoro, a recent graduate who sells plastics as he awaits a white-collar job said it would benefit all if the cubicle can be designed to accommodate everyone's challenges.
Speaking on some of these issues to Legit.ng, a disability activist, a human rights advocate, and the executive director of Inclusive Friends, Grace Jerry, there has to be an intentional attempt to make voting easy for people with disabilities.
Jerry said the polling units have to be designed in such a way that they accommodate all from its entrance - on the outside to the main voting arena.
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"It is important that we check out all these layouts from the outside to the inside, that is one; and when they get to the voting point, how accessible is that place.
"In this particular polling unit (PU003 Area 1 Garki), I can see that the place is even flat, but the ballot boxes are on a table - a high platform - and it's not accessible for all. It should be on flat ground."
"The voting cubicle can be designed in such a way that everybody can access it because this design does not fit all. You see some people who are sitting on the ground stretching their hands just in order to cast their vote."
She also said that the voting cubicle is expected to be a flat surface thereby giving people with disabilities the opportunity to go to the corner and thumbprint because they cannot reach it is denying them of their civil rights.
"Now you give them the ballot paper to thumbprint in one corner and they place it on their palms (which is not a flat surface) to do that."
"What if in the process the ink smears to another party's slot? Of course, that vote would become invalid and it means you've denied him his right because of his disability."
Party supporter at FCT polls accidentally knocks down voter, victim feared dead
Meanwhile, one of the supporters of major political parties at the FCT council elections on Saturday knocked a woman with his bike.
The incident took place at PU048, Salasi opposite Post Office, in Karu, Abuja Municipal Area Council.
The woman, a voter, was hit by the party supporter who was riding a motorcycle in a frenzy with a flag on his vehicle.