The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Guma Local Government Area of Benue have dragged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) before a Federal High Court, Abuja over alleged attempt by the electoral body to disenfranchise them.
The IDPs, who are plaintiffs in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CS/104/2022, are contending among others, that INEC’s alleged refusal to register them and provide them with polling units in their IDP camps amounted to a violation of their constitutional rights.
The plaintiffs, through their lawyer, Abraham Aporugha, also told Justice Inyang Ekwo that INEC is in breach of its duties under Section 10(1) and (2) of the Electoral Act and Paragraph 15(c) of Part 1 to the Third Schedule to the Constitution.
They prayed the court to among others, compel INEC to register them, issue them with permanent voter’s card and cute polling units in their camps since they have been displaced from their various homes.
Justice Ekwo, therefore, advised INEC, through its counsel, Maryfrances Orji, to work on ways to ensure the IDPs were afforded opportunity to register and vote in the next general elections.
Ekwo told Orji to explain to his client the need to utilise its administrative mechanism to ensure the registration of the IDPs and allow them vote, including setting up voting centres in IDP camps.
The judge then adjourned untill July 22 for report on INEC’s compliance.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that in a supporting affidavit, Aporugha stated that he is an IDP living at the Internally Displaced Persons Camp in Makurdi, Benue.
“I, along with the other plaintiffs and many residents of Guma Local Government Area, were displaced from our homes in 2018 in a wave of violence between herdsmen and farmers that swept through Uvir, Mbadwem, Mbabai, Mbayer-Yandev, Mbawa and Nyiev Wards of the Local Government Area.
“We have been living at the internally displaced persons’ camps in Makurdi since 2018.
“We could not vote in the 2019 general elections because we were not afforded the opportunity of registering a voters.
“Once again, another voters’ registration exercise is on-going, but there are no registration centres in our internally displaced persons’ camp in Makurdi to enable us register as voters.
“We do not have the finance and facilities to engage in online registration.
“It would not be possible for most of the internally displaced persons to take the arduous step of starting or completing their voters’ registration at the Guma Local Government headquarters because it is very far away from Makurdi and we do not have the resources and facilities to travel to the Local Government headquarters.
“The internally displaced persons who are in the camp in Makurdi are mostly illiterate poor farmers and are not computer savvy to be able to participate in the electronic or on-line voters’ registration,” he said.