Nigerian citizens, particularly those in the North have been experiencing serious security challenges as a result of incessant terrorist activities in the region. This poses a great threat to the lives of Nigerians within the States of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe most especially. The situation has created an unprecedented number of ‘internally displaced persons’ the world over. With the forthcoming 2015 general elections, the tension in these parts of Nigeria is heightened due to the fear of possible difficulties that the Nigerians living in the region would face in their attempt at exercising their constitutional right of participating in electoral processes.
In order to address the prospects and challenges faced by these internally displaced Nigerians and their rights to vote, HEDA Resource Centre, in its weekly tweet chat session (#MondayTango), hosted Barrister Monday Onyekachi Ubani to share knowledge and thoughts with the public on the implications of disenfranchising over 3.5million internally displaced persons.
Barrister Ubani is a lawyer, a human rights activist and political analyst. Barrister Ubani, who is also the immediate past Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (N.B.A), Ikeja Branch, has over twenty-three years of experience as a legal practitioner.
The chat session started with Barrister Ubani rating the performance of Nigeria’s electoral body, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), poorly in its preparation for the forthcoming elections. In his words, he explained that ‘the INEC distribution of PVCs (permanent voters cards) and the continuous registration exercise cannot be commended’, as, according to him, INEC has shown ‘no competence’ in carrying out these exercises.
The erstwhile NBA (Ikeja Branch) chairman lamented the nonchalant attitude of the Nigerian political class to sensitization and mobilisation of voters for the 2015 elections. In his words 'these politicians are busy quarreling amongst themselves instead of educating the people’.
On the position of the law regarding the rights of over 3.5 million internally displaced Nigerians in the North to vote, Ubani explained that the ongoing crisis in the region does not affect the execution of the right of these citizens to vote and be voted for. He warned that the possible disenfranchisement of the electorates would result in a huge loss as, according to him, ‘in a keenly contested election, loss of about 3 million voters make a difference.'
Barr. Ubani further explained that the Senate, in an attempt to capture the votes of Nigerians living in the affected areas, ‘has passed a resolution for INEC to create polling units for them.
Barr. Ubani suggested that in order to avoid the loss of such huge population of voters, the Electoral Act needs to be amended to ensure the participation of these electorates.
The session ended with Barrister Ubani stressing the need for voters to get their permanent voters’ cards and to ensure that they vote and protect their votes by ensuring their votes are counted.