South, M’Belt meet, demand probe of voter register
Friday Olokor, Jos
Politicians under the aegis of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum have called for a probe of the voter register. They also advised that the probe should be carried out by a panel to be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge.
The call was contained in a communiqué issued by the group at the end of its meeting in Abuja on Saturday. The meeting was attended by the Ijaw leader and First Republic federal commissioner for information, Chief Edwin Clark, who led the South-South delegation; while Chief Ayo Adebanjo led the South-West delegation. Chief John Nwodo and Dr Bala Takaya led the South-East and the Middle-Belt respectively.
A copy of the communiqué signed on their behalf by the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, was sent to The PUNCH in Jos on Monday.
The SMBLF also requested a probe of the allegation made by the Director General of the Department of State Services during the Senate security meeting that most of the sophisticated weapons being used by Fulani herdsmen were from the armouries of security agencies.
The communiqué partly read, “The meeting was alarmed by the perverse culture of underage voters, which was palpable in the recent local government elections in Kano. This open rape of democracy is a carry-over of the 2015 elections practice and a clear erosion of confidence in INEC to conduct credible elections.
“The meeting rejects INEC’s probe into the incident as its earlier statement that the cards were used for local elections was an attempt to cover up, forgetting we know that it has exclusive right over registration of voters, which state electoral bodies only make use of.
“Before further elections are held with the current INEC register, we demand a judicial probe of the voter register by a panel to be headed by a retired Supreme Court judge and members drawn from the INEC registered political parties, civil society groups and the NDI for international representation.”
The group warned the Presidency against the declaration of a state of emergency in Benue State as being advocated by some persons.
On the killings and military operations in Benue, the communiqué stated, “The meeting was disturbed by the allegation that solders drafted to Benue, under the Operation Cat Dance, were circulating leaflets calling the Tiv people cattle rustlers, which clearly suggests that the operation is ostensibly meant to turn victims into villains and decimate their capacity for self-defence.
“The meeting was appalled that the Internally Displaced Persons camps in Benue State have been treated in discriminatory neglect compared to other IDPs camps in the country.
“We are calling on President Buhari to immediately stop the killings going on in Benue and other parts of the country by disarming all armed herdsmen carrying illegal weapons and fish out culprits of killings in Benue and other places for prosecution.”
It added, “We warn against any plot to declare a state of emergency in Benue State as being canvassed by some sponsored groups as such a move in the Western Region had dire consequences in the past.
“We demand an end to open grazing of cattle and opt for ranching as obtained in this modern age and time with a warning to all governors within our space not to concede to the obnoxious cattle colonies as doing so may attract serious consequences.
“We demand the immediate rejigging of our security architecture as the current template where 16 out of the 17 security chiefs are from a section of the country is not healthy for a multi-ethnic state and violates the principle of federal character.”
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