– News Desk
The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, yesterday announced that the closing date of the registration exercise for the 2023 general elections is 30th June 2022.
Reacting to this announcement, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has appealed to the electoral body to ensure that Nigerian Muslims are not disallowed from partaking in the exercise by overzealous Muslim-haters among INEC’s ad hoc and full staff who are in the habit of disallowing hijab, cap and turban-wearing Muslims from registration.
This was contained in a statement issued on Saturday, 23rd April 2022, by the director of MURIC, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
The statement reads:
“The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, yesterday announced that the deadline of the registration exercise for the 2023 general elections is 30th June 2022.
“While we commend INEC for successfully carrying out its duties in the past few years, we sound a wake-up call to the electoral body to prevent the disenfranchisement of millions of Muslims in the coming 2023 general election.
“It is very common for Muslim haters among INEC’s full and ad hoc staff to harass hijab-wearing female Muslims as well as cap and turban-wearing male Muslims at the registration centers in a bid to frustrate and prevent them from registering for the election. They are ordered to remove their hijab, cap or turban during capture. Such orders are illegal, unlawful, illegitimate and unconstitutional.
“Only those who are ready to compromise their faith by obeying the illegal instruction are allowed to register while others are turned back. As a result of this intimidation, millions of Muslims are disenfranchised. The effect is a huge deficit in the numerical strength of Muslim voters. This will not be tolerated in the ongoing exercise.
“INEC is fully aware that it is illegal to disallow citizens from registering for election on the basis of religion. It is also a precursor to the rigging of elections in favour of Christian candidates all over the country. This practice is evil and provocative. It can lead to crisis before, during and after elections.
“It is a major threat to a peaceful election, particularly in the 2023 exercise. Judging by the announcement of the leading Christian firebrand Pentecostal wing, namely, the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) that it has formed political wings in all its parishes, it is clear that Nigerian Christians plan to hijack the 2023 exercise.
“While Muslims in the North are not likely to fall victims of the disenfranchisement, millions of Muslims in the South are definitely exposed to the danger because it is not a new phenomenon in the southern geo-political zones of the South West, South East and South-South. It occurred in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. MURIC documented these ugly events.
“We, therefore, urge INEC to give necessary instruction and training to all its staff. They should be warned against coercing Muslims on account of their manner of dressing. Apart from internal memoranda, INEC should issue public statements whose copies Muslims can use to defend their appearances in case of intimidation. In addition, INEC should discourage the opening of registration centers in places of worship.
“MURIC advises Muslims who face victimisation of any sort in registration centers to maintain their stand by insisting on being registered with their hijab, cap and turban. They should not obey illegal orders. Any refusal to register them should be reported to the Imam in the nearest mosque, Muslim leaders and officials of Islamic organisations.
“As a precaution, MURIC will document all cases of illegal prevention of Muslims from registration. Where possible, details of INEC officials involved in such unlawful prevention will be provided. We shall also institute lawsuits in courts of competent jurisdiction against perpetrators.
“All state commissioners of INEC in the three geo-political zones in Southern Nigeria are advised to ensure that no single Muslim is denied his or her Allah-given fundamental human right, including the right to partake in voting through the denial of voters’ cards. We will hold each commissioner responsible for any infraction that takes place in his or her state.
“While MURIC and the generality of Muslim voters in Nigeria seek a peaceful electoral exercise, we call on INEC not to ignore our advice in the interest of peace. Nigerian Muslims will not stomach any attempt to disenfranchise them during the 2023 general election. INEC should therefore take necessary steps to avoid the persecution of Muslim voters by its officials.”