Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Maiduguri, Borno state, northeast Nigeria, have begun risky journeys back to the home regions they fled, ahead of Saturday’s general elections.
The IDPs, mostly from “unofficial camps” and host communities, were seen trooping into vehicles provided by the state government and some politicians.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said it has registered over 2.5 million voters across the 27 local government areas of the state.
The electoral body said all registered voters outside their polling units must return there to vote.
IDPs who had fled their communities for many years have to return for yet another election in territories they still consider unsafe for habitation.
The electoral body said it would conduct elections in all local government areas of the state except two – Guzamala and Abadam that will conduct their elections in neighbouring LGAs of Nganzai and Mobbar in the northern part of Borno.
Ayuba Saidu, an IDP from Doron Baga, said he was leading his fellow IDPs from Doro Camp, one of the unofficial camps in Maiduguri, to their community in Kukawa local government, for voting on Saturday.
“As you can see, we are set to travel to our village at Doron Baga to vote for our leaders. We hope to get there safely and return safely.
“We hope that the next government we plan to vote for will appreciate our plights as people who had to escape attacks more than three times. We fled our communities on foot and continued to journey from Doro to Monguno, through bush paths to Monguno, before we could get a vehicle to Maiduguri.
“But here we are today, abandoned and left with nothing. That’s why we are calling on the new government to understand that we need a better deal; we want policies that will guarantee peace and security and enable us to return to the farming and fishing business for which we are known.”
Aisha Musa, who is in her 60s, said she is the women’s leader at the Doro Camp. The grandmother said she wants a better life for herself and her kids.
“We are tired of running; all we want is for us to have a normal life after we’ve lost everything, “she said. “That is why we are taking this risk to travel even if the highways are not safe. We pray our children will be safe as they go to vote.”
Aisha said she would not participate in the elections because she lost her voter card in a recent flood that overtook her hut in the camp.
“But our men and the youth are going, and we have come to wish them a safe trip. We are tired, we want to go home, and we hope this election will give us good leaders to help us return to our normal life where we can, once again, catch and eat delicious fish.”
Ahmadu Barde, one of the commercial drivers conveying the IDPs to Doron Baga, said he also lived in the community before being displaced.
“I am excited that we are going home to vote, and I hope the trip will be safe for us,” he said.
Barde worried about the insecurity on the highway.
“We are concerned about the security situation on the highway because one cannot be sure what will happen. But the people here have shown courage that we must go and vote for a change and a better life, and we pray for God’s protection during this election.”
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