The Northern Elders Forum, NEF, has described the move by politicians to buy up permanent voters’ cards and financially induce unsuspecting Nigerians to compromise their Voters Identification Number as an attempt to suppress votes in the region.
In a statement issued yesterday, NEF’s Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, said, “Northern Elders Forum had followed this worrying phenomenon, advising community leaders and major stakeholders on the dangers of disenfranchising large numbers of citizens. We have also undertaken our own investigations, which prompt this public warning.
“Thousands, or possibly even millions of Northern voters, particularly women, are being made to surrender their PVCs for a pittance, in most instances not more than N2000.
“In some instances they are told their cards will be returned to them after they are processed for additional payments as poverty relief. No cards are returned.
“Our investigations suggest that this is an aggressive and blatant voter suppression attempt to reduce the voting powers of the North.
“We have been assured by INEC that this practice in itself will not compromise its systems and processes.
“People who are involved in this practice appear to be working for different parties, but they target communities where they assume their parties or candidates have comparative advantages or disadvantages.
“NEF advises registered voters not to part with their PVCs under any circumstances. Irrespective of which party or candidate they support, Northerners must vote in the forthcoming elections, as this is the only way our region can reverse its current fortunes and circumstances.
“To sell your card now, or sell your vote in next year’s elections is to betray your responsibility to improve our circumstances and future.
“Every Northerner should know that our voting population and turnout during elections are the only powers we have left, but we can use them to affect who will lead us at the next elections.
“Voters from other parts of the country are jealously guarding their voting opportunities. Our relative poverty now is no excuse to surrender the opportunity to improve our future.
“NEF calls on INEC to intensify its public awareness campaign against this dangerous threat to rights of all voters to vote. It calls on all authorities to raise levels of vigilance and arrest this practice.
“NEF also calls on the federal and state governments to intensify the campaign against violent threats that could prevent millions of voters in the North, and many other citizens in other parts of the country from voting.
“INEC should sustain its efforts to conduct credible elections next year.”