INEC clears one million internally displaced persons for election


• Agency warns figure could rise, spill over to neighbouring countries

• UN Security Council seeks end to killings

THE Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Tuesday said it has concluded plans to enable over one million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) exercise their voting rights in the 2015 general elections. 

This pronouncement came as the International Office of Migration (IOM) corroborated INEC’s claim, who said Nigeria’s displaced population may be close to a million, maintaining that unless the insurgency is stopped, the tragedy could leave many more, displaced inside the country and spill over to destabilize Cameroon, Niger and Chad.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council Tuesday condemned recent escalation of attacks by Boko Haram in the northern part of the country, especially the January 10 and 11 bombings carried out by children suicide bombers. The council at a formal meeting Tuesday also expressed concerns on other attacks in the Lake Chad Basin region along Nigeria’s borders with Chad and Cameroon and in the northern provinces of Cameroon, saying they are undermining peace and stability in the West and Central African region.

INEC again restated its fears that the Boko Haram insurgency in the North East may pose a serious threat to the expected voters to exercise their voting rights as the Boko Haram group has resorted to levying heavy fines on villages that have moved to pick up their Permanent Voters Card in Monguno area of Bornu state.

Chairman of the Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, who disclosed this during a stakeholders meeting on IDPs with the commission yesterday in Abuja noted that meeting was to discuss with stakeholders INECs plans for IDP voting in the Local Government areas that are under the control of the Boko Haram Sect in the three North East states of Bornu, Adamawa and Yobe in line with the international principles and conventions. INEC added that the Nigerian constitution of 1999 as well as the Electoral 2010 as amended also guarantees the right of displaced peoples to vote and be voted for in protection of human rights. 

Jega, who assured that special centers would be created outside the centers for the IDPs to exercise their voting rights however noted that Nigerian must be realistic to acknowledge that for the 2015 elections, the commission is constrained to restrict the IDP voting to only those in established camps in the three North East states, which have been under emergency, stressing that those in other states could be captured in subsequent elections.

The INEC boss noted that the commission was working towards achieving the required 2/3 of votes and 25% of votes and valid returns in the displaced areas that would be legally admitted so as a to avoid the case of constitution crisis that could b e raised by politicians after the election.

“These internally displaced person are people who were forced to flee their homes in large numbers as a result of internal strife or systematic violation of their human rights. It is a global best practice for Election Management Boards to cater for the electoral needs of these IDPs. Records available to us indicate that we have between 981, 000 to 1million IDPs in the country,” Jega disclosed.

 Bornu State Governor Mustapha Shettima, who confirmed the N4m fine on Monguno village by Boko Haram commended the INEC in their decisions to encourage the IDPs to exercise their voting right in the 2015 election urged all the politicians in the state give the gesture from the commission an opportunity to excel, stressing that the state government will not only support the efforts of the commission but will give equal access to all the political parties in the IDP centers.

Deputy Governor of Yobe State, Abubakar Aliyu, who faulted the figure declared by INEC, noted even though there was no established IDP center in the state, the number of displaced people and communities were far more than what commission projected, adding that the commission would need to update its list of IDPs as the state has over 116, 595 displaced persons, spread across several Local Government Areas in the state.

Director General of IOM, William Lacy Swing said IOM is working closely with the Nigerian government to accurately assess the impact of Boko Haram on the civilian population.

He said:  “As the number of internally displaced men, women and children (IDPs) now approaches one million, the vast scale of this brutal insurgency is now becoming increasingly clear.”

Swing noted that IOM is also concerned with the growing number of vulnerable people fleeing Nigeria and border areas to seek safety in neighbouring countries adding that with the crisis spreading, IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies Mohammed Abdiker will arrive in West Africa later today as part of an urgent assessment mission.

Director of Operations and Emergencies, Mohammed Abdiker said IOM have irrefutable data on the impact of the crisis on Nigerians and are advocating for more effective humanitarian measures.

“We are concerned with the regional impact of the crisis and potential threats to the peace and security of neighbouring countries, should Boko Haram’s insurgency spread.”

IOM noted growing evidence of the turmoil spreading across Nigeria’s frontiers into the neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Niger and Chad. It estimates that the number of refugees and displaced populations on both sides of Nigeria’s borders is now over 120,000, bringing the total displacement created by the conflict zone to over a million. The DTM was launched in Nigeria in July 2014. Through December 23rd, it identified a total of 389, 281 IDPs (60,232 households) in five states: Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Taraba and Yobe.

Chile’s Permanent Representative to the UN and President of the Council for the month of January, Cristián Barros Melet, reading out an approved statement, said “The Security Council demands that Boko Haram immediately and unequivocally cease all hostilities and all abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, disarm and demobilise.”

The council also welcomed the decision of the Lake Chad Basin Commission Member States and Benin to operationalize the Multinational Joint Task Force, including through the establishment of a joint Headquarters and the deployment of national contingents, to conduct military operations against Boko Haram.

  In the statement, the Council also strongly condemned and deplored all abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law by the terrorist group Boko Haram, since 2009, ‘including those involving violence against civilian populations, notably women and children,’ and demanded ‘the immediate and unconditional release’ of all those abducted by the group, including the 276 schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok northern Nigeria last April.

  The UN body’s condemnation of the terrorist group follows Boko Haram’s recent suicide bombings on January 10 and 11 in Maiduguri and Potiskum as well as attacks in Baga, which resulted in the “massive destruction of civilian homes and significant civilian casualties.”

  According to the council, the surge in violence caused by Boko Haram has also unleashed a wave of fear across Nigeria and the wider region. In northern Nigeria alone, over 900,000 people, many of them women and children, have fled their homes.

  More than 300 schools have been severely damaged or destroyed and hundreds of children have been killed, injured or abducted from their homes and schools, according to a recent assessment by Leila Zerrougui, the UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.

  In addition, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) recently reported that the number of Nigerian refugees seeking safety in Chad due to the dire security situation had almost quadrupled over the past few weeks. Most of the refugees, the agency added, were forced into western Chad, where many are now staying with local communities in villages around 450 kilometres northwest of the capital, N’Djamena.

In the statement, Melet said that the Security Council expressed its concern at the scale of the growing humanitarian crisis enveloping the region due to Boko Haram’s operations, which, he added, had “resulted in the large-scale displacement of Nigerians within the country into neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.”

  Moreover, the Council welcomed plans for the meeting to be held today in Niamey, Niger, in which regional actors would discuss the threat posed by Boko Haram.

  In that regard, the Council noted the decision of the Lake Chad Basin Commission Member States and Benin to operationalize the Multinational Joint Task Force, “including through the establishment of a joint Headquarters and the deployment of national contingents, to conduct military operations against Boko Haram.”

  “The Security Council underlines the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice in accordance with international law and relevant Security Council resolutions,” Melet said. 

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