Bakassi returnees camped at St Mark Primary School and Community High school, Ikot Offiong, Akpabuyo Local government Area of Cross River State have appealed to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to exclude them from the forthcoming Continuous Voters Registration (CVR).
The CVR is billed to take place in Cross River State from August 20th to 25th of August, this year as announced by the INEC.
Speaking with journalists at the camp yesterday, the leader of the returnees, Etim Ene-Okon, said 90 per cent of their members are of voting age and have not been registered.
He said there at least 1225 people of voting age among the Bakassi returnees and most of them are unaware that very soon; the distribution of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) and CVR would be conducted soon in the state.
“Are we not Nigerians? Why are they treating us as if we are from another country? They sacked us from our ancestral homes without our knowledge and brought us here to suffer.
“Now it is time for us to use our vote to elect a leader of our choice. The INEC refused to register us. If we are recognised we expect then to come to this camp to educate us and enlighten our people both on PVC and CVR.
“Anywhere in the world, 3000 including women and children are significant. Out of this number, 1255 are of voting age. This is large enough for any government; state or federal not to play with.
“We use this opportunity to call on the federal and state government to commence the registration exercise for our people here because about 90 percent of us here did not registered in 2011 for no fault of ours.
“During the period we were in the ceded Peninsula and did not have access to the machine to enable most of our people to register. Government should not abandon us and not make us feel as if we are not part of this country.
“We hope they are listening because we don’t have any information about the exercise. We believe that government will provide the machine needed for us to exercise our civic rights,” Ene-okon said.
Commenting on the demand of the Bakassi returnees, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner , Mike Igini, said: “On the 15 to 17th, the PVC shall be distributed in the various polling unit where people were registered which include the entire 2,283 polling units, particularly the resettlement centre where we have the Bakassi returnees because their Polling Units (PUs) were tied as what we called Voting Points (VPs)to the main PU at Day Spring 1,2 and Qua Island, so they should not fear because those who registered will collect their PVC and when we commence the CVR ,those who are of voting age and are yet to registered will do so.
“There will be distribution of PVC in Bakassi. I can assure you that part of the PVC we have here are for Bakassi. Despite the challenges we had that time people (including the returnees) actually registered and the people who registered will collect their PVC. That I can assure you; they will be distributed and the CVR will still take place in Bakassi.”