INEC Unveils Voting Framework and Regulation For IDPs

Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC today Tuesday 6th September 2022 unveiled a Voting Framework and Regulation for Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, a policy and framework designed by the Commission which was revised and validated in 2018 for the 2019 General Election.   

In his remarks, the INEC Chairman Professor Yakubu Mahmood said, the idea is to ensure that no eligible Nigerian is left out of the electoral process on account of displacement, disability or other circumstances that may limit citizens’ participation in the electoral process. 

Presenting to stakeholders for review and validation, the INEC Chairman said the purpose, first, is the increased number of IDPs as a result of widespread insecurity nationwide. Secondly, to incorporate not only the displaced citizens arising from armed conflicts but also natural emergencies such as flooding. 

"Thirdly, to align the framework with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, specifically Section 24(1) which empowers the Commission to ensure that, as far as practicable, no Nigerian is disenfranchised on account of displacement by emergency situations. Finally, to align the framework with the national policy on internally displaced persons 2021.

He assured Nigerians that the Commission will display the comprehensive register in all the 8,809 Wards and 774 Local Government Areas/Area Councils nationwide as envisaged in Section 19(1) of the Electoral Act 2022. 

In her word, the Honourable Dr Aishatu Jibril Dukku said, There is need to also improve on the framework and the Regulations and Guidelines for Voting by Internally Displaced Persons which will drive IDP voting operations for the 2023 general elections.

She advised INEC to draw lessons from the 2015 and 2019 experience and efforts made and also consult with other knowledge holders at state and national levels, and also in consideration of International best practice. That will ensure that the framework document and the Regulations and Guidelines, are grounded on practical realities.

Earlier, the Country Director International Foundation For Electoral Systems, Nigeria, Mr Seray Jah said "this started way back in 2015 when we had to come together again with the Electoral Commission to look at the IDP issue and to ensure that our people are in franchise, are allowed to vote irrespective of their temporary status, and today that is the same commitment this Commission is advancing. 

"They've looked at, reviewed the document to make it current and relevant to the 2023 elections, but if not also turn that alone is thought it white and feet to invite all stakeholders to be part of this journey to ensure that this document reflects an in franchise all IDPs who are eligible to vote", he stressed.

Jah noted that IFES remains ready and willing to support the Commission in this drive and in the successful implementation of the framework and regulations for voting by IDPs, assuring INEC of IFES readiness to continually partner with the Commission in achieving its mission of serving as independent and effective election management body committed to conducting free, fair and credible elections for sustainable democracy in Nigeria.

In his speech, the Chairman of TCR-IDPVF, Dr Baba Bila said the broadening of the IDP framework is critical because of the growing population of displaced Nigerians that is estimated at 3.228,000 as at the end of 2021.

He maintained that the validation meeting is therefore critical, for it aims to take in the suggestions from field officers directly working with IDPS across the country to improve the Framework.

Dr. Bila said certainly, this will send encouraging signals to the IDP communities dotted across the nation that their participation in the electoral process is valuable and will be protected by the Commission.

“INEC’s commitment to its mission to serve as an independent and effective Electoral Management Body committed to the conduct of free, fair, and credible elections for sustainable democracy in Nigeria is not in doubt as it ensures that persons displaced as a result of emergency are not disenfranchise” he stressed.

Also, Team leader DAI - EUSCAN 2, Mr Rudolf Elbling said, INEC has laid out a very good baseline for the inclusion of all walks of people, including IDP, including persons with disabilities, youth, women and other disenfranchised groups and there is another principle, another guiding principles, which was also formulated party United Nations on IDP inclusion in a document, ratified in 1998.

"They will enjoy in full equality the same rights and freedoms and international domestic law for other persons in their countries. They shall not be discriminated against.

During the discussion session, the representative from Nigerian Immigration Service, Comptroller Ekpanja Kakwa seeks INEC and other security agencies for proper regulation in order to stop vote buying in IDP Camps. 

NDLEA Representative suggested that security agencies should have a day inteface with chairmen of committees in IDPs camps, so that security situation will be discussed thoroughly.

Defence Headquarters representative, Colonel Musa Adamu, who spoke on behalf of Nigerian Army, Navy and Air Force reiterated that, the Armed Froces of Nigeria in synergy with other services will ensure that 2023 Elections holds peacefully. Other representatives from Nigerian Navy and Nigerian Air Force were, Lieutenant Commander Mark Lucius Apie and Squadron Ldr Ekerete Ndah.

On his part, the DSS representative,  Dr Ibrahim Mohammed opined that, with credible intelligence gathering, there will be no room for criminal element to hijack the electioneering processes. 

Giving updates, the Zamfara State INEC Resident Commissioner said, the Insecurity affected North West but IDPs are waiting to exercise their civil responsibility, the Kaduna Resident Commissioner announced that the IDP Camps has reduced from 5 to 2. There has been improvements in termsnof security in Kaduna state and some IDPs have returned to their ancestral homes. 

In addition, the Imo INEC Resident Commissioner laments how gunmen have destroyed almost all the INEC offices in the state. He therefore seeks security asistance for some Communities in Imo State. "The activities of Gunmen destroyed smooth operatiosn of CVR", he said.

Some communities leaders from Benue, Plateau and Niger States, Commended INEC for Framework and Regulations for Voting by IDPs. 

"8 Wards out of 15 wards have been affected by Insecurity in Shiroro LGA", the Niger State community representative said.

Dignitaries at the event were, National Commissioners of INEC, Representatives of various security agencies and other members of ICCES, Representatives of various civil society organisations, International Development Partners, Resident Electoral Commissioners, Administrative Secretaries and other officials of the Commission.

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