The story on the denial of voter registration for Muslim women by the Independent National Electoral Commission ad hoc staff, which was reported by the Muslim Rights Concern on Wednesday, took a new turn after it was published by some newspapers, the group has said.
This was revealed in a fresh statement issued on Thursday by Prof. Ishaq Akintola, the leader of MURIC.
The statement said: “We thought the marginalization of Muslims in the ongoing voters registration exercise was limited to the South West, but we received information yesterday after releasing our first statement that it is also happening in Suleja, Niger State. Our source is very credible. We have branches in all states of the federation and MURIC state chairmen have been mandated to send in reports as they happen. We are still waiting for more reports.
“Our concern right now is that if it is happening in a place like Suleja which is in the North Central part of the country, the possibility of Muslims in the South East and South South falling victims cannot be ruled out because Muslims are in the minority in those places.
“The latest report reaching us is that the victimization of Muslims in the ongoing voters registration exercise is not restricted to Muslim women alone. Any Muslim male who appears, dresses or speaks like a Muslim is finding it difficult to register in some centres. It is now a crime to greet people with ‘Salaam Alaykunm’ while standing on the voters registration queue.
“INEC should criminalise the marginalization of any citizen for no just cause. We Muslims in this country are bona fide citizens. Nobody can Shugaba us. Even INEC lacks the power to declare us persona non grata. We are tax payers and our hard-earned money is part of what INEC is spending for the operation. INEC should fish out the bad eggs among its ad hoc and permanent staff and punish them in order to serve as deterrent to others.
“MURIC appeals to Muslims who fall victims of INEC staff’s anti-Muslim gimmick to refrain from any display of anger or resort to violence. Instead of resorting to self-help, we advise them to call or send text messages to their local Imams, leaders of their Islamic organizations, the state chairman of MURIC or MURIC headquarters on telephone numbers 08090674844 and 08187631861. We urge Muslim victims to get evidence of victimization. We will not hesitate to make scapegoats of recalcitrant and fanatical INEC staff, whether ad hoc or permanent.”
MURIC also complained about the slow procedure.
According to Akintola: “The Muslim Rights Concern is concerned about the efficacy of the process. We are concerned that the operation should be hitch-free. We are also concerned that Nigerians are not made to suffer undue hardship during the exercise. Our concern is not for Muslims alone. It is for all Nigerians. We feel the people’s pain.
“For instance, the registration process is too slow, very tedious, highly cumbersome and extremely tortuous. It should be simplified. Nigerians should not be made to suffer whether they are Christians, Muslims or traditionalists. They should be able to enjoy the dividends of democracy by exercising their franchise without much ado.
““But this is not happening in this dispensation. It is such a pity. There are too few registration centers and they are far from one another. Besides, people shuttle between their homes and registeration centers for days before getting registered. It takes some about two weeks to get registered. Some stop going out of frustration.
“Why can’t INEC evolve a people-friendly method of registration. The rush for registration is so much that those who arrive as early as 5 am still pick number 400 on the queue! The earliest arrivals reach the centers as early as 4 am. This is very unsafe for Nigerians in view of the security situation around the country. But to add salt to injury, INEC’s ad hoc officials do not arrive until about 10 am. They only register about 80 or 100 and leave. INEC’s performance falls far below the average if only about 100 are registered daily out of over 500 people on the queue. Something needs to be done very urgently.
“MURIC suggests decentralization of the centers. More centers should be created particularly in cosmopolitan cities like Lagos, Ibadan, Kano, Kaduna, Zaria, Port Harcourt and Enugu. We suggest further extention of the deadline in view of the widespread victimization of Muslims in order to have enough time to redress wrongs.
“As a parting shot, we remind members of the press that they have a vital role to play in this exercise. Part of the role of the press is to inform and to educate. The operation is not being properly covered. It is high time journalists got cracking. This registeration exercise is going haywire. Journalists should cover some registration centers and interview people on the queue to get their opinions.”