INEC considers voting centres for two million IDPs

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The Independent National Electoral Commission has unveiled plans to set up voting centres for over two million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) across the country.

According to the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development many of the IDPs are living in Borno, Zamfara, Benue, Nasarawa and 23 other states.

The IDPs were displaced from their communities and ancestral lands by Boko Haram insurgents, armed herdsmen and bandits, natural disasters and other emergencies.

The Chairman, Board of Survey and Technical Committee on Equipment Acquisition at INEC, Mohammed Haruna, explained that the commission is setting up voting centres for the displaced persons in IDP camps to ensure that no one will be disenfranchised in 2023.

Haruna revealed that with the spread of insecurity across the country, INEC would conduct elections in IDP camps where they still exist, although a different approach would be adopted for the internally displaced persons living in communities.

According to him, “The issue of people voting in IDP camps is complicated. When insecurity was essentially restricted to the North-East ahead of the last general elections in 2019, it was easy to create IDPs camps. This time, however, many of the camps in the North-East and the few elsewhere have closed and most of the displaced persons are dispersed inside communities away from where they registered.”

‘’Besides, insecurity has now spread nationwide. We will conduct elections in IDP camps where they still exist. But for the internally displaced persons living in communities, we need a different approach. We will do our best to see that no one is disenfranchised.’’

INEC had designed “a special voting regime” and procedure for internally displaced persons in the North-East and other victims of natural disaster, insecurity, land disputes and other emergencies in 15 states during the 2019 elections.

INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, had disclosed then that voting modalities were established for 930,000 IDPs in Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Edo, FCT, Nasarawa, Ondo, Plateau, Taraba and Yobe states.

Okoye said “These displacements are the result of insurgency, farmers/herders’ clashes, land disputes, banditry, natural disasters and other emergencies.”

He added “It is estimated that there are around 930,000 IDPs in Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Edo, FCT, Nasarawa, Ondo, Plateau, Taraba and Yobe. INEC has classified the IDPs by location, surveyed their voter registration status and designed a special voting regime and procedure for them”.

The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, confirmed on Monday that about 3.2million IDPs including children and infants are in the country, while analysts have said that eligible voters among the number may not be less than two million IDPs.

Meanwhile, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State on Tuesday reiterated his call on the Federal Government to create voting centres in all the internally displaced persons’ camps in the state to enable the inmates to vote in the forthcoming general election.

Ortom, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Terver Akase, said that displaced persons are also Nigerians who should not be denied their rights.

Akase said, “The governor has made that request to INEC that the IDPs are also Nigerians who have inalienable rights. The fact that they have been driven away from their ancestral homes to camps does not mean that they should be denied their rights to exercise their franchise. Benue State has over two million displaced persons scattered across the over 10 designated camps in the state.’’

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