By Elijah Ojonicko Akoji
Mal. Audu Muhammed, 51, and his two wives Aisha and Khadijat, who are residents of Dubantu community in Hadeja LGA may have to wait for the announcement of the election result to see if their preferred candidates have been voted into power in the coming election. This is not because they are not interested in going to the polls in February, but because a lot of the affected victims have lost their property, including their PVCs which have been flushed away by the flood.
While Audu is yet to find a safer place to keep his family, he is still concerned about who becomes the next governor of Jigawa State, his constituency representative, and also the president of the country.
“With the way things have been for us, I have long been waiting for this election to vote the right person into office who will protect us and help us live a decent life, but unfortunately, we are caught up in this situation where we can’t even approach the ballot because our PVCs have been destroyed by the flood,” Audu said.
Khadijat, one of the wives of Mal. Audu, said the state government had abandoned them and is not giving any thought to how they will participate in the next election.
“We the women in this camp raised our concern to the local government chairman when he visited us here in the IDP camp. We told him we have lost everything including our PVCs and he said he was going to speak with the resident electoral commissioner to act fast on this, but we never heard from him ever since then. If they have done it in other IDP camps I don’t know, but for us here it is certain that we won’t be voting in the coming election,” Khadijat said.
Yunusa Jaffar Mai’Ungwa, the community head of Dubantu community who was also displaced by the flood, narrated how they were able to collate names of all residents who had misplaced their PVCs when the local government chairman sent some aid to them.
“We decided to use the PVCs to distribute the relief materials not because we have the intention of not given everyone, it was just to identify those who have misplaced their PVCs to the flood, and we discovered almost everyone affected by the flood have misplaced their PVCs and National Identity card.
“While we have discovered that there are a lot of people without their PVCs, it will be difficult for election to hold in Dubantu polling unit unless INEC does something about how residents will go about it,” Mai’Ungwa said.
However, in Kasuwa Kuda Community in Hadeja LGA, Ibrahim Dahiru narrates how everyone in his house had PVCs but could not trace them after the flood visited their community and washed away his muddy house.
“I have eight children, five boys, and three girls, and they all have their PVCs. We are used to keeping such sensitive documents in our bags, so we could not save any of our property including our PVC.”
For Auwal Salisu, his saving grace would have been if he had gone out with his wallet before the flood came.
“I left my wallet at home and my PVC was inside. I am not even worried about that. My credentials that got destroyed are my worries. The flood came and soaked everything in the house, and destroyed everything and we didn’t take anything from inside the house. I will like to vote if the government can provide an alternative voting system for us. That who help us here,” Auwal said.
LG Chairman Reacts:
Umaru Hadeja, the chairman of Hadejia Local Government, in an interview, narrated how details of affected communities have been collated, adding that plans were on ground for polling units across the communities.
“It is really unfortunate that we are caught up in such a frustrating situation where so many families have lost their loved ones and even property. As the head of the LGA we have collated the list of the communities and have sent it to INEC. This is just to draw their attention to the need that residents must have misplaced their PVCs due to the flood and may require a replacement.
“We are not silent about the need of the people and their need to participate in the coming election,” Umaru said.
Miga LG Also Affected:
Residents of Miga local government areas were not left out of the devastating effect of the flood, particularly because communities in this areas are on the northern bank of Hadejia River, and many of them are at risk of flooding when it rains heavily.
Yet, INEC with 10 polling units in the LGA is where at least five out of these 10 polling units might not experience voting in the coming election as residents have been displaced from their communities and road connecting this communities already destroyed restricting access into the desolate locations.
Shehu Maikifi, in Koya village whose family have been relocated to Dutse, the state capital where they will have to stay with their uncle, described the situation in Miga as a devastating and a frustrating situation, stating that Koya is worse hit by the flood.
“I doubt if there will be any election in Koya community in the coming election. Over 300 residents of this community have been displaced while we can’t even count the number of people that died or propertimy lost. Over 500 residents may no longer have their PVCs again, I and my family are practical examples.”
Tsakuwawa village in Miga LGA was not also spared. Nura Muhammed believes that the coming election is only for residents in urban cities like Dutse, Gumel, Kazaure and others, and not for rural residents yet to recover from the deadly flood that reaped communities of their wealth.
“Should we abandon our present situation and begin to go to INEC office for our PVCs? I won’t do that. A lot of communities were destroyed by the flood. Election can only hold for residents in the city whose PVCs were not destroyed by the flood. As for me, I will only await the result,” Nuhu said.
Mustapha Sani, a resident of Tsakuwawa village, also said he no longer has his PVC, expressing fear that many residents would be disenfranchised in the coming election.
“We will have to go with whatever choice other people make while voting, but I fear people voting the candidate we all don’t desire into office. This won’t be a good thing for us. We are hoping to vote the right and competent candidate who will help us not to have a reoccurrence of such kind of devastating flood again. I just hope we get it right this time, even as I will not be voting because my PVC has been destroyed by the flood.”
However, it appeared the residents of flooded communities ignored the warning by the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet). In an interview with Nuradeen Abdullahi, NEMA coordinator, Kano/Jigawa territorial office, he narrated how residents and government agencies ignored the flood predictions of NiMet.
He said the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet), on August 16, predicted above-normal rainfall in 19 states between August and September, including Kano/Jigawa and called on the affected states to intensify mitigation, adaptation, and response mechanisms.
“We are in a very relaxed system where warnings of such magnitude are not taken seriously. If the government of these affected states had taken these warnings seriously, communities close to waterways and rivers should have been evacuated to safer places, but as a Nigerian which we are, we always wait until the situation has gone bad before we respond to deadly situations.”
According to the Jigawa State Directorate of Polling, the state has a total of 3,526 polling units across the 27 LGAs.
The Jahun Experience
While INEC is yet to release the list of polling units where elections might not be taking place in Jigawa state as a result of the flood, residents across Aujara and Gunka communities will still not be able to vote even if the ballot is brought to their doorstep.
Yunusa Faruk, 46, a father of five children disturbed by how his family has had to sleep in the classroom for several months, can only wish there will be another registration access printout which can be given to them to vote on election day.
“We are still Nigerians no matter how bad things turn for us. God knows why it has happened this way. Voting is part of our right and we can still be considered if only INEC can come up with an idea such as re-registration for those who have lost their PVC to the flood, this will greatly help us to vote during the coming election.”
INEC To Act In January:
While it’s still uncertain if INEC has taken a survey of the affected polling units across the communities affected by the flood, Prof. Muhammed Bashir, the Resident’s Electoral Commissioner in Jigawa state, in an interview explained the efforts being put in place to ensure every eligible voter in the state cast their votes on election day regardless of the flood situation.
“The commission understands that there must have been a lot of Nigerians affected by the flood whose PVCs must have been destroyed by the flood or even misplaced while in search for safety. It will be right to also notify Nigerians that there are recommendations in this regards. Consideration and dialogue are still ongoing to ensure no one is disenfranchised especially flood victims, there will be some good news in January.
“Nigerians are aware that due to the insecurity situation, some polling units across Katsina and Yobe states will be relocated by January to other safer locations, so the commission is also mapping out flooded areas where polling units are situated and affected by the flood for possible relocation, but that has to be a decision by the commission from the headquarters. We have collated the necessary data needed and we are currently working on them,” Muhammed said.
This SOLACEBASE investigative publication is supported by Civic Media Lab