The United States has urged the Nigerian government to make adequate arrangements by providing and improving security coordination for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to exercise their voting rights in next month’s general elections. It also noted that the visit by President Goodluck Jonathan to Maiduguri last Thursday during which he visited IDPs was an important one.
Deputy spokesperson Marie Harf, during a daily press briefing in Washington, disclosed that the US had been working with the Nigerian government, INEC and civil society organisations in emphasising the need for a well co-ordinated security plan to avoid dis-enfranchising of the IDPs.
Nigeria has 981,416 IDPs as at January 15, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). Of this number, 107,997 IDPs are in camps in Adamawa, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi and Taraba states, while 802,148 are being hosted by communities. While 66,087 of the number were displaced by natural disasters, 868,235 were affected by the ongoing insurgency in the North East, with 123,601 camped in Adamawa, 125,991 in Yobe, 11,483 in Gombe, 46,419 in Bauchi and 81,790 in Taraba.
"Obviously, it’s the responsibility of the Government of Nigeria to protect and enfranchise its citizens. But a key pillar of our elections engagement strategy is the importance of enfranchising displaced voters… I know the INEC has embraced that point. They understand the importance of it," she said.
Harf added that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is exploring ways through its Electoral Empowerment of Civil Society Project, to assist IDPs with voting.
"We’ve talked about this in other countries who’ve had elections in pretty significant security-challenging environments. But we are assisting. We’re offering it, certainly, yes," she added.
Harf, speaking on President's Jonathan's visit to Maiduguri, said the visit is an important one which would show Nigerians how seriously he considers the threat by the terrorist group.
"…anytime you can demonstrate to your people that you take a terrorist threat seriously, no matter when, is probably important," she added.
Harf noted that although there is no knowledge of any collaboration between Boko Haram and ISIS, it is a concern that the US government is watching for.
She did not elaborate on the British-US initiative against Boko Haram raised by US Secretary of State John Kerry during a recent visit in Bulgaria but noted that the US is constantly talking to Nigeria on what form of assistance it is willing to offer.
"…what he (Kerry) was conveying was the horrific nature, of course, of what we’ve seen, particularly the escalation in attacks and the number of casualties, but also underscoring the Nigerians’ need to move forward with their elections, even despite what has been a pretty significant amount of violence," Harf said.
Also, as part of efforts to ensure a hitch-free general election next month, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will on Thursday meet with all the political parties to resolve all grey areas that could interfere with the success of the upcoming general elections.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, said the Thursday meeting with the parties will be the commission’s final parley with the political parties before next month’s election.
The meeting, according to the INEC boss, is expected to resolve all issues on the forthcoming election, and it is part of the Commission’s inclusiveness and engagement efforts to carry all relevant stakeholders along in the electioneering process.
He said: "As we move closer to the February election, we decided to be meeting monthly and this has helped tremendously in terms of enabling INEC to share with the political parties what it is planning and doing to clarify issues and respond to questions as demanded by this key stakeholder, and to be able to also gain mutual trust and confidence and this has gone a long way in helping our work.”
The INEC boss who spoke in Abuja at the Katampe Hill Policy dialogue organized by the African Policy Research Initiative (APRI), added that INEC is fine tuning a framework that will ensure that all Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are not disenfranchised in accordance to the Electoral Act.