Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Open Letter: Reversing Policy Of Political Exclusion & Disenfranchisement Of 12.4 Million Ethnic Voters In Nigeria’s 2015 General Polls


The Federal Executive Council of Nigeria
Senator Anyim Pius Anyim
Secretary to the Government of the Federation
Office of the SGF, the Shehu Shagari Secretariat Complex
Three Arms Zones, FCT, Abuja, Nigeria
Dear FEC,
 Open Letter: Reversing Policy Of Political Exclusion & Disenfranchisement Of 12.4 Million Ethnic Voters In Nigeria’s  2015 General Polls
On 10th February 2015, the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety) wrote the offices of the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Chief of Defense Staff and the DG of SSS. The referenced letter was titled: Healing The Wounds Of Aborted Scientific Rigging Of 2015 General Polls In Nigeria: What Your Respected Authorities Must Do.  The letter follows shift in the dates of the 2015 general polls from 14th and 28th February to 28th March and 11th April 2015 owing to security concerns in the Northeast and INEC’s unpreparedness particularly as it concerns PVC distribution.

The INEC and the CDS replied us on 17th and 25th February 2015 respectively and we have since publicly responded to relevant issues raised in the letter. On 20th March 2015, we wrote the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the IGP, the CDS, the COAS and the DG of SSS. The letter was titled: Conditions For Secured & Rogue Free Polls In Nigeria: What Must Be Done. On 21st March 2015, we issued a detailed public statement, titled: Dangers Of Political Exclusion: Exposing INEC’s Bias Against Ethnic Minorities In Nigeria. The overall aim of the letters and public statements of ours under referenced is geared at ensuring effective poll security and enfranchisement through issuance of PVC, of every registered Nigerian voter particularly those of vulnerable and minority origins and classes.

Dangers of Political Exclusion & Disenfranchisement of Minority Populations:
It is both scholarly and popularly established that the fundamental causes of civil wars and violence around the world particularly in Africa are political exclusion and systematic undermining of socio-ethnic identities particularly of minority populations.  The 2015 general elections’ handling styles informally adopted by the Independent National Electoral Commission are clearly laid on the foregoing.

The fundamental feature of a plural society is its ability to protect at all times the rights of the minority populations particularly their inalienable rights to participate, vote or be voted for in national elections. To ensure this, democratically advanced countries with plural settings have gone extra miles in adopting proportional representations and other favorable pluralistic measures in their national elections to lay to bare all encompassing democratic practices. Countries like Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium and even South Africa are typical examples. In the United States, the two dominant national policies in the country as of date are issues of voting and immigration rights. At a point in the contemporary history of the USA, it became evident that a favorable national policy must be devised to accommodate and legalize the rights of approximately eleven million unlawful immigrants in the country as at 2013.

In the country under reference, a Hispanic (Mexican American) or Chinese American or African American is fully empowered by law and morality to vote or be voted for in municipal, State, legislative or presidential polls. As a matter of fact, the country’s current President has a trio of Kenyan, Indonesian and American descent. He earned his electoral value and popularity leading to his triumphant presidential emergence in 2008 as a celebrated minority voters’ rights advocate.

It has always been calamitous in the histories of countries that stuck to their guns on majority superiority at all times electoral governing styles. From Burundi to Rwanda; Africa’s Great Lakes region to Sierra Leone and Liberia; the list is too long to be exhausted. The most typical example is Ivory Coast; the former Paris of Africa. Most of the 30 ongoing civil wars and insurrections (intra State conflicts) in Africa are waged following fierce protests against political exclusion and ethnic cleansing of the minority populations, considered as antithetical to their social existence and values. Dangers and consequences of political exclusion targeted at the minority populations are tangibly and intangibly catastrophic and age long. Civil wars premised on economic/resource and political disagreements can easily be overcome; but certainly not those triggered off by ethnic and religious suppression. In other words, value oriented civil wars are age long and unquenchable; except where the political actors act swiftly and arrest same at early warning levels.

Our Latest Findings:
It is now officially confirmed following the closure of the country-wide PVC distribution by INEC on Sunday, 22nd March 2015 that 12.4 million registered voters, most of them of Igbo indigenes residing in Lagos and the North as well as ethnic minorities of northern origins and residency, have been disenfranchised and denied their voting rights by the Independent National Electoral Commission by way of non issuance of their PVCs and adamant refusal by the Commission to allow them vote with their TVCs. It is also incontrovertibly factual that most of the uncollected PVCs in the Northeast, the Northwest, Niger and Plateau States in the North-central as well as Lagos State are PVCs belonging to registered voters of the reference ethnic backgrounds.

Conversely, over 98% of registered voters of majority, Islamic and sedentary populations have received their PVCs as at 21st March 2015. In sedentary population PVCs distribution, for instance, we mean host Yoruba voters at home in the Southwest particularly in Lagos State, host Hausa-Fulani Muslim voters at home in the Northwest and the Northeast and parts of the North-central particularly in Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Borno, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfrara, Bauchi, Yobe, Bauchi,  Niger and Plateau States. Most of the guest and minority populations in the area are denied PVCs.  In Kaduna State, most of those who did not get their PVCs are minority Christians of the Southern Kaduna and guest Igbo population; likewise in Kano State particularly in Sabon Gari and Nasarawa LGAs or areas. In Plateau State, most of the non-recipients of the PVCs are guest Igbo registered voters and Plateau Christian indigenes.

In Borno, Taraba and Adamawa States in the Northeast with sizable Igbo and Christian populations, the story is not different. Instead, the Commission said it has made adequate arrangements for Muslim IDPs of Borno and Yobe States to vote in unlawful voting centers the Commission created for them. The Commission said it has no resources and provisions to allow their Christian counterparts outside the area to vote. In Lagos State, out of 2,022, 973 registered voters that were not given PVCs by INEC as at the end of the PVC distribution exercise; 70% or more are Igbo and other guest residents. In all these, the PVCs of the referenced citizens were deliberately misplaced or mis-located/mis-distributed, or impersonated or officially hoarded or cleansed.

Further, our findings from the pattern of PVCs collections in the 36 States and the FCT as well as the country’s six geopolitical zones as at 21st March 2015 showed that there have been no PVCs collections particularly in most States of the Northwest zone since February 26, 2015. For instance, in Kano and figures remain 3, 174, 519 out of total registered voters of 3, 407, 222 for Kaduna State and 4, 112, 039 out of total registered voters of 4, 975, 701 for Kano State respectively. Same thing applies to Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara States.

In the Northeast zone, similar situation applies except in Bauchi State where there was alarming PVC collection allocation of 188, 701 in ten days (7th to 17th March 2015). In all these, it simply shows that all Muslim populations said to have been registered to vote including millions of under-age voters have all been allocated PVCs leaving Igbo and minority Christians in the referenced areas without PVCs. While the former are kingly issued with PVCs, the latter are tortuously dribbled and denied same by INEC.

Disenfranchisement Of 12.4M Voting Citizens: Our careful analysis of INEC’s last update of 21st March 2015 on PVC distribution across the country clearly shows that whopping  12. 402, 221 registered voters dominated by Christians, Igbo and ethnic minorities `have been disenfranchised by the Commission and denied participation in the referenced crucial polls particularly the presidential, owing to the inability of the Commission to issue them PVCs. With this alarming number of registered voters excluded and disenfranchised from voting by INEC, it is likely correct to hold that the Commission’s perceived desperation to return power to the core North is coming to fruition. Like we earlier said, the 2015 Presidential Election is long rigged demographically and kept in coolers waiting for its legitimatization date called “28th March 2015”; except God divinely says otherwise or an effective reversal dying minute intervention by your respected FEC.

For instance, in our careful analysis of the Commission’s PVCs distribution of 21st March 2015, nothing has changed in terms of leveling up the gross imbalance and lopsidedness inherent in the PVC distribution by way of issuing it to every registered voter irrespective of his or her tribe, sex and religion or geopolitical area. The Commission said it distributed at as the date under reference total PVCs of 56, 431, 255, out of the total registered voters of 68, 833, 476; leaving 12, 402, 255 registered voters dominated by Igbo and minority Christians and populations without PVCs and disenfranchised. This includes over one million PVCs not yet produced and delivered to the Commission till date; with 500,000 of them awarded to a local firm in Abuja.  Till date, there are alarming 32.04 million PVCs in the North as against 24.2 million in the South; with a shocking difference of over 8 million PVCs between the North and the South.

Implications of Disenfranchising  12.4 Million Ethnic Registered Voters:
The recent public comment of  the INEC Chairman justifying the failure of his Commission to give every registered voter in Nigeria his or her PVC irrespective of his or her tribe, sex and religion; using low voters’ percentage in the recent staggered gubernatorial polls in Ekiti and Osun States as a defense, is most regrettable and condemnable. The INEC leadership under Prof Attahiru Jega must be reminded by all and sundry including your respected FEC that in the Presidential election involving multi ethnic and religious groupings like in Nigeria, denying a whopping 12.4m registered voters their rights to vote by way of non issuance of PVCs to them and disallowing them the use of TVCs; is tantamount to ethnic cleansing and political alienation. It is important to inform that 12.4m registered voters denied PVCs in Nigeria is more than the population of a sovereign country. In law, he who asserts must prove! That is to say that since INEC insisted on using PVCs for the referenced elections, the Commission must give every citizen registered to vote PVC to enable him or her participate and vote in the referenced crucial polls or allow those without PVCs but who have TVCs to vote provided their names are in the Voters’ Register.

In the recent political rally held by a leading opposition party called “the APC”, in Yobe State aired live by Channels TV, the APC publicly said that GEJ’s ouster is long concluded and that this is the first time the opposition party will be ousting the ruling party in Nigeria. The fundamental import of this magisterial assertion made without waiting for the balloting outcomes is fundamentally hinged on INEC’s grossly lopsided distribution of PVCs, which ensured high concentration of PVCs in the North particularly in the hands of most of Hausa-Fulani registered voters including millions of underage voters. These referenced registered voters are popularly believed to have been issued PVCs through themselves and by proxies. The Prof Jega’s INEC refusal and adamancy in allowing the 12.4 million registered voters the use of TVCs even when it has no single harm in the outcome and credibility of the polls; is ethnically and parochially motivated.  

Final Solution:
The only way to popularly reverse INEC’s thick plots to effect majoritarian manipulation of the presidential poll and ensure multi ethnic and all inclusive general polls on 28th March 2015 is to compel the Commission to rescind its ethnically biased decision by insisting on the use of only PVCs and Card Readers for the polls. Contrary to INEC’s defence, which is infantile and empty; the side by side use of PVCs and TVCs will never result in any rigging or compromise of the polls. The incontrovertible truth is that the voters’ register and not the Card Reader is the fundamental anti rigging mechanism. As a matter of fact, the Voters’ Register is the sine qua non of the 2015 General Polls’ credibility. For instance, even if a voter / holder of PVC is authenticated by the Card Reader and his or her name is found missing in the Voters’ Register, he or she cannot vote. INEC also said severally that the Voters’ Register in its possession and midwifery is clean and updated, and that all multiple registrants have been gotten rid of. This has rubbished its argument of disallowing the use of TVCs on the basis of their proneness to rigging.

Like we earlier said even after the Card Reader must have authenticated the PVC and its bearer, the bearer must subject his or her PVC to voters’ register checks to ensure that his or her name is in the register. In the case of TVC and its bearer, it requires only voters’ register authentication. In view of these, it has been established that both PVC and TVC can be used side by side without rigging or compromising the polls. Besides, the Electoral Act of 2010 has no automatic provisions making it mandatory for only PVCs to be used in the 2015 polls. During the issuance of PVCs, it is made mandatory for registered voters to surrender their TVCs before issued their PVCs. So, the issue of voters bearing PVCs and TVCs at the same is made impossible.
Therefore, our firm position is that those registered voters with PVCs and those with TVCs should be allowed to vote.  In doing this, the PVC holders should be subjected to the Card Reader authentication before finally checked in the Voters’ Register. In the case of those with TVCs, they should be subjected to Voters’ Register checks and accredited if their names and photographs are successfully traced to the Voters’ Register. Any registered voter with PVC or TVC whose name is not in the Voters’ Register will be made to leave the voting station. In all these, Card Reader cannot make a registered voter to vote.

Yours Faithfully,

For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
41, Miss Elems Street, Fegge, Onitsha, Southeast Nigeria

Emeka Umeagbalasi, B.Sc. (Hons.) Criminology & Security Studies
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
 emekaumeagbalasi@yahoo.co.uk, info@intersociety-ng.org

Uzochukwu Oguejiofor, Esq., (LLB, BL), Head, Campaign & Publicity Department

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