The Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) has disclosed that it has arrested non-Nigerians for being in possession of permanent voter’s cards (PVCs). NIS comptroller general, Muhammad Babandede, who stated this at the 2018 NIS award presentation yesterday in Abuja, revealed that the service had retrieved over 700 PVCs from foreigners living in the country.
LEADERSHIP Sunday also learnt exclusively that over 323 national identity slips had also been seized from foreigners in the last six months.
An inside source who pleaded not to be named also revealed that about 1,729 irregular migrants were also repatriated between the second and third quarter of the year.
LEADERSHIP Sunday reports that only Nigerian citizens are eligible to vote in elections in the country.
The immigration boss also warned politicians against engaging in “political smear campaign,” even as he gave assurance that his agency was fully involved in the election process to ensure that no foreigner votes during the forthcoming 2019 general elections.
Babandede made the disclosure while responding to questions bordering on the alleged importation of a crowd by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from Niger Republic to boost its support strength in Sokoto.
He said, “This year, we have retrieved over 700 voter’s cards from non-Nigerians. We promise that we will stop at nothing to ensure that non- Nigerians do not participate in the 2019 general elections.
“We will make sure that they don’t vote and they are not voted for. During the election, we will ensure the borders are secured so that nobody can enter the country.”
The NIS boss added that the service had built the capacity of personnel and improved on structures which had contributed to Nigeria’s security and prosperity.
LEADERSHIP Sunday recalls that Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai had accused the PDP of importing foreigners from Niger Republic to its Sokoto rally, a development which led to his political rivals advising him to also import a crowd from Sudan for his campaigns .
The allegation sparked a protest in Sokoto State as youths from the state gave the NIS a 24-hour ultimatum to respond to el-Rufai’s allegation.
We need collective effort to forestall future occurrence – INEC
However, in its reaction, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) called for collaboration among security agencies and Nigerians to tackle the problem of foreigners having voter’s cards.
The chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Lawrence Oyekanmi, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the electoral commission had earlier visited the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) in Abuja some months to ask for help in identifying foreign nationals who are in possession of PVCs.
He said it was part of the Commission’s responsibilities to clean up the voter register by identifying ineligible persons who might be on it.
“On that occasion, the NIS informed the Commission that it had actually identified about 300 foreign nationals with Nigeria’s PVCs and had recovered the cards from them.”
Explaining how these PVCs would have gotten into the hands of foreigners when many Nigerians are having trouble getting theirs, Oyekanmi said:“There are many foreign nationals from neighbouring countries living in Nigeria and vice versa. Some of these foreign nationals bear names similar to those of Nigerians.
“For instance, nationals in some parts of Niger Republic bear similar names with northern Nigerians and a few of them could have knowingly or unknowingly taken advantage of one of two loopholes to register in the past.
“Ordinarily, no INEC official will register a foreign national, but in a few cases where this might have happened in the past, the facts were not visible.
“However, the important thing is that the relevant agencies are now measuring up to ensure that non-Nigerians do not flout our laws by attempting to participate in the electoral process.”
Speaking on preventive measures INEC will adopt to ensure such PVCs are not used for the 2019 polls, the commission said it requires the collaborative effort of all agencies and Nigerians.
“One of the measures the Commission has taken is to approach the NIS as I explained earlier, but the Commission cannot prevent a PVC legitimately obtained from being used.
If for instance, a non-Nigerian bears the name, Mohammed Yusuf, and presents himself as a Nigerian to INEC officials during the CVR exercise with a form of acceptable identification, there is no way of finding out that he is not a Nigerian unless somebody alerts the Commission to that effect. “Therefore, collective efforts are necessary to prevent such things.
That was why the Commission displayed the voter register throughout the country for one week recently, for claims and objections, so that Nigerians can look at it and draw its attention to names of deceased or underage persons and foreign nationals that should not be on the voter register.
“An agency like the NIS has been helpful in this regard, and once such names are identified and checks carried out, they will be removed from the register. We appeal to Nigerians to help the Commission clean up the voter register,” Oyekanmi said. …
Immigration Has Vindicated Us – PDP
On its part, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said yesterday that the recovery of PVCs from foreigners had vindicated its position that INEC must allow stakeholders participate in the review of the voter register. The national publicity secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, who dismissed the review of the voter register by INEC, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that the refusal of the Commission to objectively sanitise the voter registers shows that it has no plan in place to conduct free and fair elections in 2019.
He said, “It is a vindication of our position on INEC. We have repeatedly said INEC has been registering underage persons and aliens. We have challenged them to review the register and also allow stakeholders to participate in the review.
“So INEC said they have reviewed their register and that they came up with a certain number of people, which we challenged because stakeholders were not allowed to participate in that process.”
Attempts to reach the All Progressives Congress (APC) for reaction were abortive as several calls placed to the spokespersons of the party, Lanre Issa-Onilu and Yekini Nabena, were not returned just as text messages sent to them were also not responded to.