By Peter Duru – Makurdi
Former Commissioner for Lands and Survey in Benue state, Mr. John Tondu has petitioned the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, over the fate of over 120,000 prospective voters displaced by armed herdsmen in seven Council Wards of Guma Local Government Area of the state.
He urged the electoral body to within 21 days make necessary arrangements to carry out Continuous Voters’ Registration, CVR, in the affected Wards to capture the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, who might be disenfranchisement in the 2023 general elections.
The former Commissioner in a letter addressed to the INEC National Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu a copy of which was made available to newsmen yesterday in Makurdi threatened to drag INEC to court to ensure the registration of the IDPs.
Mr, Tondu who listed the effected Wards to include Uvir, Mbadwem, Mbabai, Mbayer-Yandev, Mbawa, and Nyiev stated in the letter that “the people were sacked from their homes by armed marauders and for a long time, they have been living in IDPs camps in Benue State.
“I have the mandate of the aforesaid IDPs and my people in general to bring to your immediate attention for necessary action, the fact that the IDP Camps in Benue Sate and their inhabitants are being completely shut out of our country’s political process because they are not part of the on-going continuous voters’ registration exercise.
“As you are well aware, voting and being voted for are at the heart of democratic system of government. The rights to vote and to be voted for also constitute inalienable human rights recognized by the Nigerian Constitution and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
“Facilities to enable on-line registration are non-existent in the IDP Camps at the moment. Even if such facilities were to be made available in the IDP Camps, it is a known fact that the level of illiteracy, including computer – illiteracy, is very high in Nigeria.
“It could be safely estimated that 75% to 80% of those in the IDP Camps in Benue State are illiterates who would find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to manipulate smart phones or computers in order to fill on-line soft-copies of the requisite forms to initiate or conclude their voters’ registration process.
“In the light of the foregoing, I call on INEC to make immediate special arrangements to take the on-going Continuous Voters’ Registration exercise to all the IDP Camps hosting Nigerian citizens from Uvir, Mbadwem, Mbabai, Mbayer-Yandev, Mbawa, and Nyiev Council Wards of Guma Local Government Area in Benue State. It will be very much appreciated if registration centres for physical registration of voters are located in the IDP Camps in Benue State.
“We believe this is the only way to guarantee that the IDPs are given the opportunity of exercising their franchise in the forthcoming elections so that they can freely choose their political representatives.”