The Senate on Tuesday directed its committee on Independent National Electoral Commission to liaise with the authorities of INEC to establish special polling units for the internally displaced persons, who were victims of the on-going insurgency in the North East.
The upper chamber’s directive followed an extensive debate on a bill for the amendment to the Electoral Act 2014, sponsored by the senator representing Borno South Senatorial District, Senator Ali Ndume.
Ndume’s bill sought an amendment to section 42 of the Electoral Act to make provisions for the enfranchisement of the IDPs in the various camps nationwide.
The senator said that the quality of elections was not only measured by the extent to which the franchised is guaranteed and elections are impartially administered for the majority of voters, but also by accommodation to enfranchise voters who are marginalised in the polity.
He therefore said since countries like Afghanistan, Syria, Cuba and Iraq, among others who suffered serious conflicts that led to the displacement of many of their citizens, had incorporated the IDPs in their electoral system, Nigeria too should do the same.
He said, “Elections are an important means by which IDPs can have a say in the political, economic and social decision affecting their lives. As citizens of the country , IDPs are entitled to vote and participate in public affairs.
“Disenfranchisement of IDPs calls into doubt the legitimacy of the forthcoming elections. Let us borrow examples from Afghanistan, Syria, Cuba, Iraq and so on, who have all incorporated IDPs into their electoral system”
The senators who contributed to the debate agreed that the passage of Ndume’s bill might not be necessary since the process of the amendment it sought might not be completed before the forthcoming general election.
They therefore suggested that the senate passed a resolution that would mandate the INEC to ensure that the interest of all the displaced persons is taken care of during the 2015 polls.
Senate President, David Mark, who presided over the session, said, “When we have a large internally displaced persons, they should vote irrespective of their locations. However the process of amending the Electoral Act as being suggested by the bill is long.”
The senators therefore voted for the withdrawal of Ndume’s bill and in its place passed a resolution, directing its INEC committee to ensure that the electoral body put all necessary measures in place to make sure that all IDPs nationwide exercise their franchise during the forthcoming general elections.