As the 2023 general election draws closer, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has revealed its plan to set up voting centres for over two million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) across the country.
The voting centres will be sighted in IDP camps.
Findings from the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development indicate that 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.
Chairman, Board of Survey and Technical Committee on Equipment Acquisition, INEC, Mohammed Haruna, confirmed to The PUNCH on Monday that the commission was working on setting up voting centres for the displaced persons to ensure that no one was disenfranchised in 2023.
But responding to inquiries from one of our correspondents on the plans for the IDPs for the 2023 election, Haruna explained that with the spread of insecurity across the country, INEC would conduct elections in IDP camps where they still exist, but would adopt a different approach for the internally displaced persons living in communities.
Although the INEC official did not give the number of IDPs that will be affected, findings by The PUNCH indicate that about two million IDPs in camps and communities may fall into this category.
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.
The PUNCH reports that the electoral commission 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.
The INEC 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.
These displacements are the result of insurgency, farmers/herders’ clashes, land disputes, banditry, natural disasters and other emergencies.
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.
Officials of the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, confirmed on Monday that about 3.2m IDPs are in the country. This includes children and infants. According to analysts, eligible voters among the number may not be less than two million IDPs.
Although the spokesperson for the ministry, Rhoda Iliya, could not provide the latest figures when contacted last night, impeccable sources cited figures earlier released by the United Nations.
In April this year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN agency for refugees, said over 80,000 refugees and 3.2 million IDPs were in Nigeria and in dire need of help. These include children and infants.
Last July, the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, confirmed that 3.2m internally displaced persons are scattered nationwide out of which over one million were believed to be children.
The commission said Borno State tops the states with the highest number of IDPs, numbering 1.6m while Ekiti state has 5,377.
The NCFRMI Federal Commissioner, Imaan Suleiman-Ibrahim, who gave the breakdown said Zamfara has 678,000 IDPs; Benue (300,000), Adamawa (208,334), Yobe (156,437), Niger (150,380), Katsina (130,113), Cross River (101,404), Ebonyi (93,404), Plateau (91,524), and Taraba (82,661).
Others are Bauchi (65,595), Nasarawa (46,769), Imo (42,335), FCT (31,029), Kwara (25,024), Kogi (20,477), Kano (17,981), Bayelsa (12,292), Akwa Ibom (10,062), Edo (11,716), Oyo (8,912), Rivers (8,119), Ondo (7,012), Delta (6,172) and Ogun (5,623).
The PUNCH gathered that there are several unofficial camps in Gwoza, Damboa and other locations in Borno state.
Director-General of the Cross River State Emergency Management Agency, Princewill Ayim, disclosed that there were five IDP camps in the state.
“There are two in Bakassi and three in Ogoja,’’ he noted, adding that the ceding of Bakassi, flooding and communal clashes were responsible for the displacement of the people.
Unconfirmed reports also indicated that Sokoto state is hosting about two camps for displaced persons.
The camps were said to be located in the Gandi, Rabbah Local government Area of the state and Ramin-kura, a suburb of Sokoto town.
No fewer than 10 IDPs camps are in Benue state with five in Abagana, Ortese, Daudu I and Daudu II, all in the Guma LGA as well as one in Gbanjimba.
Three other camps are also located in Logo LGA, Makurdi and in Kwande.
Many displaced persons estimated at over 2m also stay with family members.
Meanwhile, Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom 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 stated this through his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Terver Akase.
The governor said he had already made the request to the INEC that displaced persons are also Nigerians who should not be denied their rights.
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.