2019 Election: Displaced Bayelsa Residents May Be Disenfranchised
The aftermath of the flood in Bayelsa State is still being felt in Peremabiri, a coastal community in the southern Nigerian state.
General elections will commence in four days, but the residents of the community are not sure where to cast their votes.
Their situation has been made worse by the activities of militants in the area.
They want the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to provide alternative voting venues to enable them exercise their franchise.
Hundred of the displaced persons led by their traditional ruler, Progress Neverdie, submitted a petition to the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr Monday Udoh.
Addressing officials at INEC’s headquarters in Yenagoa, Neverdie said that no fewer than 3,000 adults had fled Peremabiri to Yenagoa and neighbouring communities over threats to their lives my militants.
He said that under the prevailing circumstances, it would be impossible for INEC to conduct elections in the area as the place was not conducive for political activities.
“The reason we are here today is to bring to the attention of INEC the situation in Peremabiri, the community has been deserted following insecurity created by an ex-militant leader from Peremabiri.
“People are not free to go about their normal businesses and because of the violence they (militants) unleash on innocent people.
“The place is like a ghost town; we do not want to be disenfranchised on Feb. 16 and March 2 elections.
“That is why we are here with a written request that alternative arrangements be made for my subjects to vote.
“I am conversant with the provisions of the law to pave way for displaced persons to vote.
“It is our hope that there is a window of opportunity for INEC to act so that my community people can exercise their civic responsibilities in the forth coming elections,” Neverdie said.
Also, Mrs Polomi Suanaimi, the Vice Chairman of Southern Ijaw Local Government, said the council was making concerted efforts on the welfare of over 2,000 displaced persons currently in makeshift shelters.
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She said that both the local government and traditional institutions had resolved to wade into the crises so that the people could participate in the electoral process.
However, Mr Lebai Samsi, Administrative Secretary of INEC in Bayelsa told members of the community, who carried placards in a protest march to the office that issues of security was beyond the commission.
He, therefore, urged them to report the situation to the police and other security agencies, adding that INEC relied on the law enforcement agencies to do its job of conducting elections.
Samsi reassured them that INEC remained committed to the conducting free and fair credible polls on February 16 and March 2.
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