Holding elections in IDPs’ camps will not pose security challenge, says IPCR
AS debates continue on the security implications of holding elections in the insurgency-ravaged North-East and the legality of having the polls at the internally-displaced persons’ camps in the region, the Institute of Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) has given assurance that elections in the region would not pose a security challenge.
The Director-General of the agency, Prof. Oshita Oshita, who gave the assurance in an exclusive interview with The Guardian, said that adequate security has already been provided in the camps and that INEC has the commitment to ensure additional security during the period.
He said: “It’s not all of the North-East that is on fire; there are places where there is peace and people are carrying on with their normal lives. The issue of holding elections in IDP camps is an issue that is sensitive and I’m happy that INEC has decided to accommodate some IDP camps.
“IPCR did a position paper which we call policy brief to INEC on this very issue, asking the commission not to exclude IDPs from the electoral process and it was as a result of this policy brief that the electoral body decided to engage on the issue of IDPs and we are happy to say that it has designed a kind of strategy that will enable some IDPs to vote. And INEC chairman, Prof. Jega, said clearly that even the logistics that will be involved, INEC will be able to accommodate IDPs. That though displaced, so long as they are still within the geographical space of their own state, they will be able to vote”, Oshita said.
On how IPCR is working to ensure that the message of peace and non-violence reaches the people, especially those in the interior, Oshita said nine election conflict resolution teams would be deployed from Monday to the six geopolitical zones so they can work to diffuse issues that may arise before, during and after elections. This, he said, is among other strategies being employed to ensure a free and fair election.
He enjoined Nigerians, especially political supporters, to adhere to the terms of the Abuja Accord, the peace document signed by all political parties to ensure no case of electoral violence.
It would be recalled that the representative of INEC chairman at a just concluded programme held in Abuja by the Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development (SCDDD), Prof. Lai Olurode, had confirmed that since some areas within the North-East are not safe, elections would hold in the IDP camps, but subject to the position of the law.
He had assured of security while informing that permanent voters’ cards are currently being distributed in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. He had said in an interview with The Guardian after the event that though INEC is currently preparing to hold elections in the IDP camps in the three states under emergency rule, it will subject its decisions to legal scrutiny and will not go ahead if the law is not amended before the commencement of elections.
“We will not act outside the law. As soon as we are done with our processes and preparation, we will subject it to legal scrutiny. We are working to see how we can ensure that IDPs are not denied their rights to vote but we will only go ahead as far as the law allows us. We will however work with the National Assembly to ensure that we can conduct elections in the three North-East states affected by insurgency”, he said.
Representatives of both parties present, Alhaji Lai Mohammed for APC and Prof. Wale Oladipo for PDP, expressed their wish for possible elections in the North-East.
However, Lai Mohammed noted that his party would not force INEC to hold election in the North-East if the lives of the people are going to be at risk.
“We’ve (APC) been disturbed that about five million registered voters in the North-East may not be able to vote. APC stands to lose more if voting does not take place in the North-East. We want election to hold but we can’t ask INEC to risk people’s lives because we want elections to hold there”, he said.
He also pointed out that by now, most of the IDPs don’t live in camps, they stay in their relative houses and some must have travelled outside their states of residence to neighbouring states where they have relatives. According to him, using camps may not be effective.