INEC chairman clarifies that IDPs, not refugees will be able to vote in 2019

CHAIRMAN of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu, has clarified that it is only Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who are taking shelter in camps within the country that would be able to vote in the 2019 general election.

Yakubu gave the clarification at the ongoing Election Security Management Workshop holding in Abuja, on Thursday, following misinterpretations to his earlier comments on Wednesday about IDP voting.

He had said that persons who had been displaced as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency, farmer/herdsmen clashes, or natural disaster would not be denied their rights to vote.

Many media reports suggested Mahmood was saying that even the Nigerian citizens who are in IDP camps located in neighbouring countries, would be allowed to vote.

But speaking on Thursday, Yakubu explained that the IDPs in camps outside Nigeria are technically referred to as refugees, and since the Electoral Act does not recognise diaspora voting, they will not be eligible to vote.

“This category of Nigerians is not eligible to take part in the 2019 general elections because our laws do not make provisions for diaspora voting. The decision of INEC for IDPs to vote in the 2019 election is only limited to IDPs in Nigeria. There is no diaspora voting,” he said.

Yakubu had explained that there would be slight changes to the pattern used in 2015 where a day was set aside for IDP voting.

“This time around, it appears that displacement resulting in a number of citizens, not residing in places where they were ordinarily registered to vote, has led to much wider displacement,” he explained.

“We interacted with Resident Electoral Commissioners (RECs), at the moment, we are looking at about 15 states, for a variety of reasons citizens are not living in their natural and normal places of domicile.

“Intra-state IDPs shall participate in all election categories when and where applicable, while inter-state IDPs shall only participate in presidential elections in order to limit the challenges associated with political perception and suspicion over transmission of results across state borders and constituency boundaries.”

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The Nigeria Army says thousands of IDPs have been relocated to their homes as a result of the successes being recorded in the counter-insurgency operations in the North East. However, there are still fears of attacks by Boko Haram on some of the communities that have been recovered.

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