By Amos Aar
TOR Tiv (V), Prof. James Iorzua Ayatse, has called on the federal and Benue State governments to relocate Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their ancestral homes before the 2023 general elections so as to achieve peaceful electioneering campaigns and elections.
The Tor Tiv made this clarion call on Wednesday during a stakeholders’ meeting organised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Benue State on “Political Party Campaigns for 2023 General Elections” held in Makurdi, the State capital.
Represented by Tor Lobi 1, Chief Moses Anagende, the paramount ruler said INEC lacks the powers to return the IDPs to their homes, adding that only federal government and the Benue State governments can do that.
“In Benue State here, when you talk about peace and I’m present, sometimes when you look at my face it changes! As I’m talking to you now, my brothers and sisters are being maimed in the bush. The Civil Defence are aware of this, the police are aware of this and they are part of the victims. They are killed on a daily basis; they are killed by herdsmen!
“Here in Benue State, we have IDPs. INEC, I wonder what is going to happen in IDPs! You are talking about peaceful campaign, where are you going to do the campaign? At the camps? in the towns?
“Most of our people here in Benue State have run away from their villages and they are staying with their brothers in cities. So, where are you going to do the campaign and eventually voting? Voting is done at polling booths, none of them is ready to go to the polling booths in the villages.
“We have been crying to the federal government and the state government, take those IDPs back to their homes, set up police stations to protect them. This is the responsibility of the federal government and the state government; INEC cannot do that. But INEC, you are our mouth. Tell them that this is what we are saying, that if you want to have a peaceful election, take the IDPs to their villages and provide security for them to vote,” Tor Tiv said.
He noted that there are many unemployed youths in the state and recommended that they should be employed as police officers and soldiers to provide security in rural communities. “The money is there but they don’t want to do it,” he lamented.
Addressing the stakeholders earlier, INEC Administrative Secretary in Benue State, Mr Shehu Adulwahab, said without peaceful campaigns, “achieving peace on actual election day may be a mirage.”
He added: “Indeed for us in INEC, we have over the years observed that some of the violence/crisis experienced on election day were carryover from political campaigns.”
On the lifting of ban on campaigns and announcement of election timetable by INEC, Shehu said: “It’s pertinent to remind this audience that in arriving at the dates for political campaigns, the commission relied on the provisions of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, particularly section 94(1) of the 2022 Electoral Act which states that “the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 150 days before polling day and end 24hrs prior to that day.”
He therefore said that in order to facilitate and ensure peaceful electioneering, “there are laws set out in the Electoral Act 2022 as well as the guidelines and regulations on rallies and campaigns issued by the commission and there was need to enlighten people about it.”
Also speaking, Benue State Police Commissioner, Wale Abass, urged INEC to be an unbiased Electoral umpire, assuring that the police will eradicate cultism and create a peaceful atmosphere in the state before the forthcoming general elections.
Representative of the NSCDC State Commandant, K. O. Ibrahim, said the 2023 elections should not be regarded as a do or die affair and candidates should carry out issue-based campaigns.
On his part, FRSC Assistant Corps Commander, Bernard Imojara who represented the Sector Commander, said a lot of accidents occur during electioneering campaigns as result of overloading and assured that the commission will do its best to avert such accidents this time around.
Also speaking, NDLEA state commandant, Esther Musa Lami, urged politicians to avoid the use of thugs who are always under the influence of alcohol and ready to cause violence.
In his remarks, state director, National Orientation Agency (NOA), Mr Solomon Omale represented by Joseph Ijir, said the duty of the agency is to propagate government’s programmes and policies as the country goes into another election. He said the agency will not relent in its efforts to sensitise all candidates and their supporters to achieve peaceful campaigns and elections.
Spokesperson of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dan Morgan Ihomun, and Acting Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Isaac Teryila Mffo, assured that candidates of their respective political parties will maintain issue-based campaigns up to the general elections.
Highlight of the stakeholders’ meeting was the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by political parties including PDP, APC, LP, YPP, APGA, NPP and others for peaceful campaigns and elections.