The British government has said it was neither backing the presidential candidates of the All Progressive Congress (APC), President Muhammadu Buhari or that of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar.
Speaking at a one-day dialogue programme tagged: ‘Enhancing electoral participation of PWDs in 2019 general elections’, Political Adviser to the country’s Deputy British High Commissioner, Mr Wale Adebajo, said the British government had no vested interest in either Buhari, Abubakar or any of the other candidates in the February 16 poll.
This was just as international agencies in collaboration with local civil society organisations urged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure the full inclusion of Peoples Living with Disabilities(PWDs) to easily participate in the electoral system in 2019.
The agencies, which included the British High Commission and Australian High Commission in Nigeria, British Department for International Development (DFID) and Foundation for Justice and Social Development (FOJSOD) said excluding people living with disabilities from the electoral system was not in consonance with global best practices.
The DFID Regional Programme Officer, Mrs. Margaret Fagboyo, said the agency had always believed that PWDs should be beneficiary of the sustainable development in Nigeria, which unfettered access to participate in elections was part of.
“In 2019, INEC must ensure that ballot boxes are placed where they can access easily, the police shouldn’t harass them, they should be accorded respect. They should be seen as critical stakeholders in any election.
“We commend INEC for noticing where there are lapses and trying to improve on them. We can’t leave these people behind while taking critical decisions just because they are having one form of disability. If this happens, definitely, there will be problem.”
Adebajo said the National Disability bill that is awaiting presidential assent will help in resolving some of the issues bedeviling the group in the country.
Adebajo praised the INEC for including PWDs in its strategic plan for 2017-2021 elections, saying the British government and United States Department forInternational Development (USAID) were favourably disposed to the action.
Resident Electoral Commissioner, Ekiti State, Prof. Abdulganiyu Raji, said INEC has identified those critical areas where PWDs were having problems in the electoral system.
“The overall goal of this programme is to consolidate inclusive electoral process that would be in consonance with the international best practices devoid of any rancour or acrimony but free, fair, transparent and acceptable elections,” Raji said.