Some senatorial candidates for next Saturday’s general in Borno State have protested the relocation of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from their camps in Maiduguri to “unsafe locations.”
They said the movement of the IDPs back to their local government headquarters, where Boko Haram attacks still occur, was a ploy to deny other candidates the opportunity to campaign to the IDPs.
They said the relocation is also endangering the IDPs’ lives.
Speaking at a press conference in Maiduguri on Monday, the Borno-North senatorial candidate of Green Party of Nigeria (GPN), Jubrin Mustapha, also accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of not giving all parties the list of registered IDPs in the state.
Mr Mustapha spoke on behalf of the candidates of the YES Party, Nigeria Progressive Movement (NPM), Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), United Peoples’ Congress (UPC) and Nigerian Community Movement Party (NCMP).
The aggrieved politicians said they wanted to protest the development Friday last week but were told that it was too late because the campaigns had closed.
“The rescheduling of the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections was a good omen for the state and us as candidates,” said Mr Mustapha.
“We the seven undersigned candidates contesting election for senator under Borno Central senatorial district wish to draw the attention of REC, Borno State and the entire world that we are opposed to the IDPs relocation arrangement made by the state government.
“It is worthy to note that most of the internally displaced persons in Borno State were camped in various locations within the state capital Maiduguri. These people were brought to Maiduguri because of the security situation in their respective local governments. But to our astonishment, they were moved to other locations outside the state capital.
“It was equally on record that the convoy of the state governor who happens to be the chief security officer of the state was recently attacked in Gamboru, one of the locations where the IDPs were relocated with a view to casting their votes.
“As candidates, we have canvassed and mobilised these IDPs at their various locations within the metropolis. But sadly, INEC who supposedly was expected to be an unbiased umpire and its accomplices decided to frustrate our efforts.
“The state governor who happened to be a candidate in the forthcoming election had already relocated the IDPs with vehicles owned by the state government as well as gave them stipend which invariably translates to vote buying under the watchful eyes of the commission.
“We equally understand that one of the candidates for Borno Central senatorial district contesting under the platform of the ruling party claimed that we have endorsed him. His claim is absurd and false. We have never agreed with him.
“A statement by Premium Times on February 15, 2019, credited to the Borno State INEC resident electoral commissioner that (there are) about 409,000 internally displaced persons are absurd and fabricated lies. It is a poly to rig the 2019 elections in favour of the ruling party APC.
“It is on record that only 515,008 cast their votes during the 2015 presidential election.
“Invariably the REC is now telling us that virtually 75% of people that voted were IDPs or the increase of about 400,000 from the total number of registered voters of 1,934,079 were IDPs? Display of voters register isn’t enough. We must know the number of registered voters issued with PVC in all the local governments, wards and, polling units. It is equally worrying to note that the cost and risk of sending our party agents to these locations may not augur well for us.
“The INEC resident electoral commissioner is supposed to publish the number of registered voters in the state and local governments, wards, units as well as the number of registered voters that were issued permanent voters card (PVC) before conducting an election.
“As it is now we don’t know the number of registered voters and the number of registered voters issued with PVC in local governments, wards and polling units. Invariably we are participating in an election in the abstract.
“In view of the foregoing, we categorically wish to state that we are repugnant to the relocation arrangement and non-publication of the number of registered voters issued with PVC. Accordingly, we have no confidence in the umpire in conducting free and fair elections in Borno State.
“We, therefore, call on the Resident Electorate Commissioner of Borno State to as a matter of urgency to immediately direct the state government to bring back the IDPs to cast their votes here in Maiduguri as well as publish the list of registered voters and the number of registered voters issued with PVC in all the local governments wards, and polling units or else we will be left with no option than to withdraw from participating in the election.”
The INEC resident electoral commissioner in Borno State, Mohammed Ibrahim, last week said the over 409, 000 IDPs to vote in the camps are the registered voters from the eight local government areas displaced by Boko Haram.
Mr Ibrahim also said the decision on where the IDPs’ will vote was decided by stakeholders in the local governments and not INEC.