Nigeria’s three million IDPs won’t be disenfranchised in 2023 poll, INEC assures
*** denies violating electoral act on voter register
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Tuesday said it has put measures in place to ensure that every eligible Nigerian, including the over three million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), participate in the 2023 general elections.
Chairman, of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu gave the assurance in Abuja at the stakeholder’s validation meeting on the 2022 Revised Framework and Regulations for Voting by IDPs.
Yakubu maintained that the policy was to ensure that no eligible Nigerian is left out of the electoral process on account of displacement, disability or other circumstances that may limit citizens’ participation in the electoral process.
He added that the policy had taken into consideration several developments since the last review and validation exercise in 2018.
One of such development, according to the INEC boss, is the increased number of IDPs as a result of widespread insecurity nationwide.
“Secondly, to incorporate not only the displaced citizens arising from armed conflicts but also natural emergencies such as flooding. Thirdly, to align the framework with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, specifically Section 24(1) which empowers the Commission to ensure that, as far as practicable, no Nigerian is disenfranchised on account of displacement by emergency situations. Finally, to align the framework with the national policy on internally displaced persons 2021”, he stated.
Yakubu observed that beyond the validation of the document, there is also a need for robust collaboration with stakeholders for voter education and sensitisation of IDPs.
The INEC boss also denied the claim by a coalition of civil society organisations that it violated some aspects of the 2022 Electoral Act.
The CSOs, under the platform of Situation Room, had on Monday accused INEC of non-compliance with Section 19 (1) of the Act which spells out how voters’ registration should be displayed across the country.
They said the commission has only displayed the voters’ register at the LGA levels, not at the registration centres as stipulated in the revised Electoral Acts.
But describing the group’s claim as incorrect, Yakubu said INEC has not fixed a date for the activity in question and when it is time, it will do the needful to the letter.
He hinted that the date for the exercise will be communicated after cleaning its data of double or multiple registrants after the just concluded Continuous Voters Registration (CVR).
“While we always appreciate our collaboration with all stakeholders, it has become necessary to make an important clarification in respect of a statement attributed to a section of the civil society organisations.
“At a media briefing yesterday, the Commission was accused of failure to display the voters’ register as provided by Section 19(1) of the Electoral Act 2022. This claim is incorrect.
“What the Commission displayed for claims and objections in our Local Government Area offices nationwide for a period of one week, from 15th – 21st August 2022, was not the entire register of voters but the list of fresh registrants at the end of the Fourth and last quarter of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise covering the period from 11th April – 31st July 2022. This has been the practice for several years.
“Earlier, the Commission had displayed the register three times: 24th – 30th September 2021 (First Quarter), 24th – 30th December 2021 (Second Quarter) and 26th March – 1st April 2022 (Third Quarter). A comprehensive schedule of the CVR exercise and the display of the register was shared with stakeholders at our quarterly meeting just before the inception of the exercise in June last year,” he said.
Yakubu said the Commission would display the comprehensive register in all the wards and local government areas in the country with a view to integrating fresh voters registered during the last continuous voter registration.
He said: “We wish to assure Nigerians that the Commission will display the comprehensive register in all the 8,809 Wards and 774 Local Government Areas/Area Councils nationwide as envisaged in Section 19(1) of the Electoral Act 2022. This will integrate fresh voters registered under the last CVR exercise into the existing register of over 84 million voters. The date will be announced as soon as the Commission completes the ongoing Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) to weed out all double/multiple as well as ineligible registrants. We appeal to some of our friends in civil society to be guided accordingly,” Yakubu said.
In his presentation on the evaluation of IDPs and refugee status in Nigeria, Chairman, the Committee on the Review of the Internally Displaced Persons Voting Framework (TCR-IDPVF), there are over 3.2 million persons who have been displaced from their homes in Nigeria as of 2021, adding that the figure stood at 2.730 million in 2020
He said the revised IDP framework and regulations provide a template for IDP voting operations not only in conflict zones but also in areas of population displacement by non-conflict factors.
Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters, Aishatu Jibril Dukku, said the Electoral Act 2022, Section 24(1) has provided an excellent legal foundation upon which to build a sustainable and strategic framework for IDP voting in Nigeria.
She urged the Commission to draw lessons from the 2015 and 2019 experience and also consult with other knowledge holders at state and national levels in consideration of International best practices.
“That will ensure that the framework document and the Regulations and Guidelines are grounded on practical realities”, she said.