From Steve Oko, Umuahia
Persons with Disabilities in Abia State have threatened legal action to nullify the outcome of the December 18 Local Government election in the state if their members were denied access to the electoral process.
The threat is coming barely 72 hours after the state High Court had vacated an injunction restraining the Abia State Independent Electoral Commission, ABSIEC from conducting the poll.
PWDs demanded inclusion of their members in the political process of the state, warning that any attempt to disenfranchise them would lead to legal fireworks.
Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, Comrade David Anyaele, who made the threat during a media interaction in Umuahia, accused ABSIEC of having no regard for persons with disabilities.
“There is nothing on ground to show that ABSIEC is including persons with disabilities in its plan for the forthcoming council election in Abia. This is very worrisome.
“We are angered by the level of despondency on the part of ABSIEC, and last week we had threatened to look at all the legal frameworks that support this election to identify abuse against PWDs.
“Where we discover deliberate exclusion of persons with disabilities, we won’t hesitate to ask the court to cancel the election even if it had been conducted.
“If we discover any breach of the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities, we will go to court to make sure the election is upturned”, he fumed.
Anyaele tasked ABSIEC ” to put appropriate materials in place to enhance the voting opportunity for the blind, the deaf and the physically challenged.”
He also urged the electoral umpire to conduct audit of its polling units across the state to identify access for the physically challenged to polling units.
According to him, any deplyment of polling units not accessible by PWDs is a direct abuse and disregard for Persons with Disabilities Act which provides that all public facilities must be made accessible to PWDs.
The CCD boss further demanded that priority voting opportunity be given to PWDs during the election, arguing that persons with disabilities should not be subjected to long waiting in the queue.
He added that ABSIEC should also provide disability sensitive electoral materials for the persons with disabilities.
Anyaele who however expressed satisfaction with the major political parties in accommodating Persons with Disabilities in their internal political process, urged them to go beyond granting them waiver for nomination forms and support them to win elections.