The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said that there will be no diaspora or out-of-country voting in the 2019 general elections.
The commission said this in a statement by its national commissioner and chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye.
This followed a conference on Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) voting held by the commission on Wednesday.
At the conference, the commission had spelt out the procedure it would follow to accommodate internally displaced persons in the presidential election.
On Thursday, the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) in a statement by its spokespersons, Ikenga Uguchinyere, alleged that INEC wanted to open polling units in Chad and Niger Republic with a view to adding five million votes to the tally of President Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential election.
“The attention of the CUPP has been drawn to credible intelligence and reports in the media of the opening of voting centres by the INEC in Niger and Chad under the pretext that the centres are for IDPs to vote. It was more worrisome that the report quoted the Chairman of INEC as having made this declaration in a public forum,” Mr Ugochinyere stated on Thursday.
“Following the report, the Intelligence Unit of the CUPP has since uncovered the massive mobilisation of Chadian, Nigerian and Sudanese citizens preparatory to their participating in the February 16th Presidential elections. We have also uncovered that the plot is targeted at generating nothing less than five million votes for President Buhari in the election.
“It has now become clearer to Nigerians and the entire world the reasons why President Buhari refused to assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill presented to him by the National Assembly which would have made the Card Reader the only means of accreditation of voters for the election. His only options now include allowing non-Nigerians to participate in an election to determine Nigeria’s President and without accreditation.
“We hereby urge the INEC Chairman to retrace his steps and stand with the Nigerian people in these trying times as our electoral laws till date prohibit diaspora voting as no elections for the purpose of electing any public office holder in Nigeria can be held outside the geographical boundaries of the country. If any electoral staff or materials have been deployed outside the country for the purpose of these illegal and unlawful voting points, they should be returned to the country without any further delay.
“Finally, we call on all Nigerians of goodwill to voice out now and condemn this act and caution the President that his disposition of do-or-die is heating up the polity and that he has the example of former President Goodluck Jonathan to guide him in his actions as the elections draw nearer.”
In an apparent effort to dispel such views, INEC in its statement by Mr Okoye said that only voters in Nigeria on election day will be eligible to participate in the elections.
“The Commission wishes to state unequivocally that there will be no Diaspora or Out-of-Country voting for any Nigerian,” the commission stated.
It said in accordance with extant provisions of the Nigerian Constitution 1979 (as amended), only duly registered IDPs within Nigeria will be allowed to vote.
According to INEC, “the Framework and Regulations for IDP Voting were presented and validated by stakeholders at a conference held In Abuja on Wednesday, November 12.
In the INEC chairman’s speech and all the deliberation at the conference, which was reported by LIVING TV, there was no reference to diaspora voting.
The conference explained that IDPs currently residing in states where they registered can vote in all elections while those displaced from their states and are currently in states other than where they registered can only vote in the presidential election.
“INEC also said the validated framework is in consonance with the provisions of Section 26 (I) 0f the Electoral (Amendment Act 2015) which provides that “in the event of an emergency affecting an election, the Commission shall as far as possible ensure that persons displaced as the result of the emergency are not disenfranchised.”