by Christiana Gokyo, Jos
A Stakeholder Validation Workshop to revise the framework and regulations of voting for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Nigeria has been organized by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
This is an effort by INEC to give an equal opportunity to all eligible voters to participate in the electoral process and ensure that the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the country are not left out in the forthcoming 2023 general elections.
Speaking during the workshop recently at Ladi Kwali Hall, Abuja, the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mamood Yakubu, said, the idea was to ensure eligible Nigerian is not left out on the account of displacement, disability or any other circumstances that may limit citizens’ participation in the electoral process.
Those in attendants were the National Commissioners of INEC, representatives of various security agencies, civil society organizations, and members of ICCES; International Development Partners, INEC Administrative Secretaries and other officials of the Commission, the National Assembly members, and the media, among others.
Prof. Yakubu recalled that, “In 2015 General Elections, the commission introduced the idea of voting by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and, for this reason, a policy and framework designed by the commission was revised and validated in 2018 for the 2019 General Elections.
“Today, the same policy has been revised and is being presented to stakeholders for review and validation in preparation for the 2023 General Elections. What is presented to stakeholders today has taken into consideration several developments since the last review and validation exercise in 2018,” he stated.
The INCE chairman explained that, “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 and, 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 for as practicable, no Nigerian is disenfranchised on account of displacement by emergency situation.
“Finally, to align the framework with the National Policy on Internally Displaced Persons 2021,” he further stated.
He assured Nigerians that “The commission will display the comprehensive register in all the 8,809 Wards and 774 Local Government Areas (or Area Councils) nationwide envisaged in Section 19(1) of the Electoral Act 2022,” and further assured that the date will be announced as soon as the commission completes the ongoing Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) to weed out all double/multiple as well as ineligible registrants.
Also speaking, the Zonal Sensitization and Candidates Colloquium on the Electoral Act 2022, Hon. (Dr.) Aishatu Jibril Dukku, commended the commitment of the commission to inclusivity in the electoral process and in response to stakeholders’ request in organizing IDP voting operation in the State of Emergency (SOE) States for the 2015 and 2019 general elections.
According to her, there is the 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 called on the commission to draw lessons from 2015 and 2019 experience and efforts made and also consult with other knowledge holders at state and national levels as well as consider the international best practice to ensure that the Framework Document and the Regulations and Guidelines are grounded on practical realities.
Also on a contributory note, Country Director of ‘International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) Nigeria,’ Seray Jah, assured the commission that the Foundation is “ready and willing” to support the commission in the implementation of the Framework and Regulations for voting by Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
He asserted that, INEC should be assured of their readiness to continually partner with the commission in achieving its mission of serving as an independent and effective Election Management Body committed to conducting free, fair and credible elections for sustainable democracy in Nigeria.
Chairman of TCR-IDPVF, Dr. Baba Bila, in his presentation of ‘An Overview of the Revised 2022 Framework for IDP Voting,’ noted that, 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.
Said he, “For the 2019 General Elections, which was the second period, a broader and more robust framework developed and implemented covers areas where displacements were triggered by factors other than insurgency – such as natural disasters, herders/farmers conflicts as well as communal crisis.”
Dr Bila added that, “As part of the preparations for the 2023 General Elections and, in accordance with committee to review its IDP policy framework, in line with current realities, the Committee on the Review of the Internally Displaced Persons Voting Framework (TCR-IDPVF) embarked on the process of systematically revising the framework and gathering data on IDPs, including the identification of affected polling units and wards/registration areas, so as to plan on how best to provide them with electoral services across the states of the federation where displacements had occurred.”