2023 OFF-CYCLE ELECTION PRE-ELECTION PRESS BRIEFING

PRE-ELECTION PRESS BRIEFING ON TAF AFRICA’S PREPAREDNESS FOR THE UPCOMING OFF-CYCLE ELECTION IN IMO, KOGI, AND BAYELSA STATES, ISSUED ON FRIDAY, 10TH NOVEMBER 2023 Introduction: We have come to another momentous period in this continuing democratic dispensation, which is the off-cycle elections taking place in Imo, Kogi, and Bayelsa States tomorrow the 11th of November 2023. The 11th of November holds immense significance for TAF Africa as we embark on our election observation mission. Our team is committed to meticulously monitoring these elections, with a primary focus on how they affect the disability community. We aim to assess the accessibility of polling stations, the availability of assistive tools, and the overall experience of voters with disabilities. Our work extends beyond mere observation; we actively engage with stakeholders, educate voters with disabilities about their rights, and advocate for positive changes to enhance the inclusivity of the electoral process. Through this action, we seek to not only promote fair and equitable elections but also to raise awareness about the importance of disability inclusion in the broader context of democratic governance. This statement, therefore, seeks to communicate to you our preparedness and concerns, ahead of the 2023 off-cycle elections. TAF AFRICA'S PREPAREDNESS TAF Africa is taking the following steps in preparation for the elections: Observers Deployment: We are committed to ensuring the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the electoral process. To this end, we are deploying a team of thirty (30) well-trained observers to polling units with registered persons with disabilities in each of the three states. These observers will closely observe the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) level of compliance with the provision of assistive tools for persons with disabilities as mandated by the Electoral Act. This will include the availability of a Braille Ballot guide for the blind, magnifying glasses for persons with albinism, election day written instruction for the deaf ballot guides, as well as access to priority voting, and any other necessary accommodations. Beyond the observation of the responsiveness of the process to persons with disabilities, we will of course also be assessing the general quality and integrity of the elections. Upgraded Election Observer App: As in the general elections held earlier this year, our observation and assessment will be technology and data-driven. TAF Africa has upgraded its election observer app to enhance our data collection and real-time reporting capabilities. This app will allow our observers to transmit information swiftly in real time to our election hubs. This technology will significantly improve the accuracy and timeliness of our observations. PWD Election Hub: In each of the three states, we have established a PWD election hub, where information received from our observers will be aggregated and analyzed in real time. This data will be displayed on our PWD election monitoring dashboard, and accessible to the public, stakeholders, and relevant authorities. This transparency tool is vital for ensuring accountability in the electoral process. SECURITY CONCERNS Regarding the participation of people with disabilities in the impending off-cycle elections, we are extremely concerned about the security situation. Election-related violence has a history in Imo, Bayelsa, and Kogi. Imo state has seen a high level of electoral and non-electoral violence throughout 2023, so security is a major concern as the election draws near. The community of persons with disabilities might be discouraged from voting if the situation stays unstable. In the two months preceding the election, electoral violence has increased in Bayelsa, while Kogi state has seen the highest number of fatalities from this type of violence. This dire security situation is likely to discourage the participation of persons with disabilities and the general electorate. RECOMMENDATIONS Bearing in mind these concerns and more, we, therefore, wish to make the following recommendations: The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC):
  • INEC Should ensure proper coordination with security agencies to forestall incidences of violence and ensure the safety of voters and poll officials on election day.
  • The 2022 Electoral Act stipulates that every person with a disability is entitled to priority voting. INEC should ensure that this right is duly respected by its polling officials and that PWDs are allowed priority voting at their respective polling units.
  • INEC should ensure proper and adequate deployment of assistive tools for persons with disabilities in the Gubernatorial and state assembly elections, such as magnifying glasses, Election Day written instruction (FORM 30E PWD), and braille ballot guide.
Security Agencies: Security agencies should deploy adequate security to polling units to protect voters from violence. The police should also investigate and prosecute perpetrators of electoral violence. Bringing perpetrators of violence to book will demonstrate the commitment of law enforcement agencies to a violence-free electoral process. Political Parties:
  • Political parties should commit to conducting peaceful elections and work to prevent their supporters from engaging in violence.
Civil Society Organizations:
  • We urge civil society groups watching the voting process to report any instances of violence or prejudice against people with disabilities.
  • Persons with Disabilities:
  • We also call on persons with disabilities to exercise their right to vote. Do not be intimidated by the threat of violence. Your vote is a civic duty, one vote abstained for no just cause, is a definite vote against our democracy.
  • Conclusion: TAF Africa remains committed to promoting disability inclusion in the electoral process, despite the potential challenge. We call on relevant authorities, political parties, and civil society organizations to prioritize the rights and needs of persons with disabilities.
Together, we can ensure that all citizens, including those with disabilities, can participate in the electoral process freely and without fear. We will continue to work diligently to provide updates and reports on our observations throughout the election. Thank you for your attention.  

SIGNED:

Amb. Jake Epelle CEO/Founder, TAF Africa Convener, Disability Inclusion Nigeria Social Media Handles: Twitter: @TAF_Africa Instagram: @taf__africa Facebook: TAF Africa Website: www.tafafrica.co WhatsApp: 09088757496

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