People With Disabilities (PWDs) have thrown their weight behind the Independent National Electoral Commission’s decision to shift the general elections from February 14 and 28 to March 28 and April 11, saying extra time will give them more opportunities to collect their permanent voter cards, PVCs.
Addressing a press conference under the aegis of Goodluck Vision for Persons with Unique Abilities, the PWDs said their members nationwide have found it very difficult to access polling units to collect their PVCS, a situation which they fear will lead to their disenfranchisement during the elections.
A member of the group, Paul Ihekwoaba, who said he monitored the collection by PWDs in the Southeast, said the environment and crowded centres made it impossible for them to get their cards, adding that the shift in the time table of the general election would only be worthwhile if the plight of over 22 million PWDs would be accommodated.
“With more than 20 million eligible voters yet to get their Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) then their inalienable right to vote is being denied and no one had the right to disenfranchise them.
“So INEC must be given ample opportunity to ensure that every eligible voter is enfranchised.
“It is just sad that Nigeria don’t learn from history. Now that a section of the Nigerian society (PWDs) has complained of being disenfranchised, it is imperative for the Commission to check itself.
“We believe that INEC cannot address that problem within a week, so it’s important that wisdom and caution is brought to bear on the issue.
“We are saying that instead of us being in a haste and bring chaos thereafter, it is important we shift it a bit within the confinement of the Constitution.
“If this will give us peace, with nobody saying they were being disenfranchised, then it’s important that INEC takes the path of wisdom”, he said.
The group also urged INEC to provide braille’s for the visually impaired and wheelchairs for the physically challenged on the Election Day.
The group also expressed support for the candidature of President Goodluck Jonathan because of his support for PWDs, while urging him not to renege on his promise to sign the People Living With Disability Bill recently passed by the National Assembly into law.
National coordinator of the group, Timiepiri Ziriki, enjoined PWDs across the country to support President Jonathan for being a PWD-friendly leader who has incorporated PWDs into public service, including SURE-P.