Nigerians displaced by Boko Haram must be allowed to vote – Senator

Senator Ali Ndume

Nigeria’s Electoral Law should be amended to allow the increasing number of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, who have been sacked from their various communities in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states cast their votes while in refugee camps, a lawmaker has said.

Muhammed Ndume, who represents Borno South in the Senate, stated this while addressing journalists on Sunday afternoon in Maiduguri.

Mr. Ndume said the hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their towns and villages to refugee camps calls for an alteration of the Electoral Act to allow them vote.

He said he had concluded plans to move a motion before the National Assembly, seeking for an amendment of the electoral law when the Senate resumes on Tuesday.

“I am going to clearly advocate for the amendment of the Electoral Act to make provision of the internally displaced persons in most part of northeast Nigeria to be able to cast their votes in the 2015 elections,” Mr. Ndume said.

The senator said he had no doubt that his proposed amendment of the Electoral Law would sail through because it had become a matter of urgent national importance.

“The justification is that if I am displaced from Gwoza to Maiduguri or from Damboa to Maiduguri, and it is not my fault that it happened, then government must ensure that my polling unit too is displaced and moved to Maiduguri or even to Yola so that I can exercise my right of franchise and my vote to can count,” he said.

“If Nigerians in diaspora has the right, as it is being advocated, to cast their votes on our general elections, then it is equally okay for IDPs within Nigeria to also cast their vote in the same general election,” he said.

“Though the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has not pronounced that it would not hold elections in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe but our people are presently displaced. That is why I have made up my mind that this week, I am going to propose an amendment to the electoral law to accommodate or recognise the right of IDPs during a general election. This is because the electoral act has not clearly defined how displaced people like us are going to vote.”

Mr. Ndume told journalists that “more than 17,000 persons from Gwoza local government area of Borno state alone are currently camping as IDPs in Maiduguri.”

“There is no way such numbers can be denied the right to express themselves about the leadership of this country,” he said. “If elections are to hold next year, those of us in the displaced part of Nigeria believe it is our constitutional right as citizens to also cast our votes for who is to represent us ahead 2015.

“That right cannot be abrogated and we cannot be disenfranchised. What brought us into this situation is as a result of bad leadership and people must not be denied the chance to express themselves on the need to change such a bad leadership.”

He also lamented that despite the increasing number of the IDPs being ferried into Maiduguri on a daily basis as the Boko Haram continued to gain more towns and villages in their conquered territories, the federal government had left Borno State to shoulder such a national responsibility.

“We are encouraging (the state) government not to relent on that effort of housing the displaced since there is no clear cut seriousness on the part of the federal government to bringing this issue to an end,” he said.

The Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, on Saturday visited about ten IDP camps – mostly in public schools. He directed that more schools be opened to allow for more rooms to accommodate the hundreds of displaced persons besieging the state capital.

The governor had also confirmed that more than eight local councils within his state were under the strangle-hold of the Boko Haram while many others were being taken over daily by the insurgents who have caused the death of over 13,000 people since 2009.

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