The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) scheduled June 28, 2021 as the start of continued voter registration. Some logistics and rules were set up to speed up the registration process but they didn’t take into account the people who live in riverine communities and fishing settlements in the Niger Delta, especially those in the oceanic parts of Rivers State.
The following questions have arisen in the minds of stakeholders in that region:
Are the millions of indigenes and residents of the riverine and oceanic regions are not considered Nigerians?
Are the territories and communities within the Niger Delta excluded from the federal administration?
Does the region that has supplied the nation with natural resources at the expense of its natural environment not have the right to choose who should lead them?
If the government declares certain communities to be unsafe, then why are residents in those areas not given other options for safety?
The most worrisome aspect of this heinous situation is that some stakeholders within certain local government areas of the oceanic region are instructing INEC officials to avoid certain communities in order to reduce the voter strength of those communities. What an unenlightened way of politicking!
Communities within the Ke Kingdom are examples of communities that have been severely deprived of the ability to register voters. They include the Kingdom’s capital, Ke Town, as well as the Dikamakiri, Ferupakama, Akupoku, Kalaekuleama, and Dramakiri, among others.
Ke Town, the clearly documented oldest community in the Eastern Niger Delta, is an oil-rich community that has produced several other communities over the centuries.
A visit to the Ke Kingdom’s headquarters surprised members of the Let Us Vote Group, given the inaccurate information we had received about the region. The territory was calm, safe, and completely peaceful for anyone to visit, including the Queen of England. During the long period of INEC registration, agitation and pleading by several stakeholders from the community, including their chiefs, made the resident commissioner of that region allow officials to visit only the headquarters for registration for three days only. As at June 5 up to June 26, 2022, we didn’t record any presence of INEC officers within that region.
Another factor to consider is that the Degema Local Government Area’s headquarters is not accessible by land therefore, those wishing to register from a community like Ke must hire a speedboat for a fee of N20,000 per one-way trip.
Lastly, the Independent National Electoral Commission should make it possible to register voters in every creek in the Niger Delta. This would give every Nigerian the right to vote, which is a basic human right.
The LET US VOTE MOVEMENT provided this brief report.
Signed: Dr. A.B Tam Robinson
Chairman Media Committee, Let Us Vote Movement.