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CVR: Igbos Allege Marginalisation, Claim Hoodlums Invaded, Injured Registrants in Lagos
* Police, INEC sue for peace, says eligible voters would be accommodated
*Ohaneze Ndigbo condemns targeted attack, says its call to anarchy, seeks
*Sanwo-Olu’s intervention Peter Obi calls for extension of voters’ registration
Chiemelie Ezeobi and Rebecca Ejifoma
A large number of Igbos in Lagos State, yesterday alleged marginalisation and targeted disenfranchisement as they attempted to register in the ongoing Continuous Voters Registration (CVR).
The allegation followed viral videos on social media that claimed Igbos at Alaba International, Ojo, were attacked by hoodlums and the machine carted away while attempting to register at the local government office.
The leadership of the market had earmarked yesterday as a closed market day to enable all eligible voters go to their respective local government area offices and register to vote or collect their Permanent Voter Cards (PVC).
But there were allegations that hoodlums invaded registration centres at Ojo, Amuwo-Odofin, Ago Palace Way, and some parts of Isolo, while registrants at the Ikotun-Egbe, Ejigbo and Idimu axis alleged that they were given pieces of papers instead of their PVCs because they are Igbos.
Particularly in Ojo, attempts by officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to register those on ground ended in chaos as hoodlums disrupted the process, leaving several injured.
In the said video, the registrants took to Twitter to register their displeasure after they were deprived of getting their PVCs.
Lending a voice to the clamour, Nigerian artiste and activist, Debo Adebayo popularly known as Mr. Macaroni via his Twitter handle wrote: “I have seen different videos of Igbo traders being attacked in Lagos while trying to register for their PVC.
“We can’t be shouting get your PVC and some people are attacking others while they are trying to do it! It is wrong and Evil! These are the issues.
“The government should provide safety measures for the people to register, except you don’t want us to register.”
He reminded Nigerians, however, that every citizen has the right to collect their PVC and the Igbos are not exempted! “Stop the oppression,” he cautioned, “Do not disenfranchise the people! Let us vote!”
He also clamoured for extension of the exercise, noting that, “several challenges including insecurity have slowed down the process. Please extend the deadlines! @inecnigeria, Please let the people vote.
“We have received so many messages from Nigerians on our various platforms, asking us to continue to appeal to INEC to make the registration process stress free for Nigerians. @inecnigeria una Weldon! But you can do better.”
The presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, also called on INEC to extend voter registration.
He made the call on his Twitter handle, @PeterObi, yesterday, while highlighting that voters’ registration across the country, especially in the south-east had been impeded by bureaucratic bottlenecks.
Tweeting from his Twitter handle @PeterObi, he wrote, “Information reaching me indicate that voter registration across Nigeria, more so in the South East, is dogged by inertia & bureaucratic bottlenecks.
“I respectfully call on @inecnigeria to facilitate speedy registration of Nigerians to enable them exercise their voting rights.-PO.”
Reacting to the incident, Ohaneze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, condemned the reported attack on its people.
In a statement seen by THISDAY, the organisation said: “several videos currently circulating on social media show several youths being attacked by thugs where they had gone to obtain their Permanent Voters’ Cards, PVCs.
“They could be heard wailing in the video that despite closing shops for that purpose, some hired thugs had prevented them from obtaining the card.
“Some Igbo youths sustained injuries in the process.
Reacting through a statement by its President-General, Mr. Okwu Nnabuike, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo Youth Council Worldwide said Ndigbo should not be pushed beyond the walls.
“We have already been pushed to the walls, what they are doing now amounts to pushing Ndigbo beyond the walls and the consequences could be drastic.
“The two major political parties in the country cannot deny the South-east presidential ticket and at the same time deny them the opportunity to exercise their franchise.
“This is a call for total anarchy in the land and we are urging the security agencies to rise to the occasion,” Okwu said.
He called on the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Bola Tinubu and the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, “to call their people to order.
“We are saying this because Bola Tinubu has serious hatred for Ndigbo which he demonstrated by shunning the entire South-east during his consultations with delegates ahead of his party’s primary election.
“We do not begrudge him as it is within his right to choose who to interact with. However, what we will not condone is the mindless and unprovoked attack on Igbos resident in Lagos State.
“If those behind this mayhem are not doing his bidding, he should come out and condemn their actions in strong terms.
“The same goes for the Lagos State Governor, who is the Chief Security Officer. He must ensure the protection of every resident of Lagos State no matter where the person comes from.
“We also call on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to deploy registration materials to churches and other public places in Lagos in order to give Nigerians free access.”
But in his reaction, the spokesman for the Lagos Police Command, SP Benjamin Hundeyin, said there was no ethnic colouration to the incident, rather, misunderstanding between intending registrants.
He said: “First, this wasn’t about Igbos. These are the true facts behind the trending videos. The entire Alaba International Market decided to close the market today to enable the traders register for their PVCs. A phased closure would have been better.
“Consequently, the Ojo Local Government venue of the registration was besieged by a mammoth crowd. The situation was made worse by the fact that only one registration terminal was working.
“One of the people who came for registration made trouble and was challenged by those around. Going by simple probability, the attacker or the attacked is very likely to be Igbo.
“They were simply large in number. However, giving this incident ethnic coloration would not help matters. The entire episode lasted a few minutes.
“Sadly, recordings from those few minutes are still traveling far and wide.
Normalcy has since returned and the Divisional Police Officer there is fully in charge of the security situation.”
However, INEC on its part has assured that all eligible voters would be accommodated.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, in his speech yesterday said: “I wish to reassure Nigerians that the commission remains committed to ensuring that all citizens who wish to register are given the opportunity to do so.
“This is one of the reasons why this meeting has been convened. Already, some of the RECs have requested for more voter registration machines to ease the congestion.
“The commission will deploy additional machines to areas of need immediately. Thereafter, the commission will meet to review the progress of the exercise and take further decisions.
“We appreciate the desire of Nigerians to register as voters. Let me reassure all eligible registrants that no one will be left out.”