While Bornor IDPs struggle to resettle, after spending over a decade in various official IDP Camps, at a time close to general elections, they have no idea where to get their PVCs and even where to vote, WikkiTimes’ Idris Kamal writes.
Muhammad Abubakar, a 30-year-old resettled native of Bama, remains determined to elect competent leaders that can end the insurgency that has killed and displaced many people over the years, but he might not be able to make the change as he is yet to collect his voter card.
He argued that more than 60 percent of the resettled Borno inhabitants who registered or renewed their cards are yet to collect them.
“I am awaiting my original voter’s card,” he said. “I registered while I was at Dalori IDP camp in Maiduguri. Our expectation was that INEC can produce the cards before we leave the camp. As it is at the moment, like other resettled IDPs I have no idea about where and when I will get the card before the general elections,” he said.
For the first time in over a decade, Borno insurgency victims will vote in their ancestral communities. In 2015 and 2019, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) exercised their franchise in government IDP camps in Maiduguri.
According to Human Right Watch (HRW), no fewer than 200,000 IDPs have been relocated to their communities as at December 31st 2021, by the Borno State Government.
“As of August 2022, Borno state authorities had relocated over 140,000 people from eight camps shut down in Maiduguri since May 2021,” the report reads.
“Those closed include the Bakassi, Stadium, Teacher’s Village, Farm Center, Dalori I, Dalori II, Mogcolis, and National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camps. Two camps—Muna Badawi and 400 housing estate (Gubio) vamp housing nearly 74,000 people—were also set to be closed later in the year,” HRW said in the report.
While most of the resettled victims anticipate participating in this year’s general elections, uncertainty over the collection of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) dashed the hope of new registrants among the resettled IDPs in Borno communities.
WikkiTimes gathered that some of these resettled IDPs registered for PVCs while still in camps. INEC, however, did not produce the cards before their relocation, thereby putting them in confusion about where and how to get their PVCs for the elections.
The 2022 Electoral Act stipulates that only registered voters in possession of PVC will be allowed to vote in an election. But some of the relocated IPDs have only their temporary voter cards.
“I only have a temporary voter card because I cannot get the original one before I left camp,” Fatimah Abdullahi, a 20-year-old resident of Kawuri told WikkiTimes.
“I hope that INEC may consider our peculiarities and allow us to vote with it in this year’s election,” she said.
Some IDPs were resettled in communities other than their ancestral land, thus raising another wave of uncertainty over not only their participation at the poll but also their PVC collection.
Babagana Karami, Chairman of NYSC IDP Camp, is a native of Bama but found himself resettling at Auno in Konduga local government, thus impeding his voting chances in the community.
“We are natives of Bama local government but found ourselves in Auno. the implication is that even those of us with our PVCs cannot vote here because polling units on the cards are in Bama, not Konduga.
“In the past, government provided transportation for us during elections, but we are not certain that we will get the same support now. With the right assistance, we are ready to go back to our native communities to vote,” he said.
However, an INEC spokeswoman in Borno said the concluded continuous voter registration process allowed registrants to choose prepared local governments and polling units to vote ahead of this year’s election, claiming that this solved the problem of voters among resettled IDPs.
“New registrants among the IDPs relocated back to their communities can collect their PVCs at INEC headquarters of their respective local governments and designated area collection centres.
“Most of the resettled communities will vote in the native communities or settlements close to them based on their choice because the registration exercise conducted allowed for the choice of polling unit and local government,” he said.
WikkiTimes understands that this is not applicable to voters who registered long ago, putting their voting chances in jeopardy.
Dr. Hamid Adamu Muhammad, a chief lecturer with the Department of Mass Communication at the Federal Polytechnic Bauchi said the inability of the relocated IDPs to vote in their respective communities hinges on legislative elections and not national elections.
He said INEC must work with accurate data on the resettled people and make arrangements to safeguard their rights.
“This is an interesting scenario that INEC must work hard on because it is actually the franchise of the resettled communities to vote, and they did not play any part in making themselves the way they are.
“INEC should be responsible for the transportation of the IDPs resettled and displaced by the insurgency. With accurate data, this can be done effectively because authorities can be able to know who moves from which local government to which local government. With clear data, INEC can make provisions for the transportation of these people to go to their original communities to vote. If not, certainly, their franchise is affected,” he said.
This report was published with support from Civic Media Lab.