The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has raised the alarm that thousands of women in the South West of Nigeria may be disenfranchised in the 2019 general elections.
The group alluded the development to what it described as overzealousness on the part of some ad hoc staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who have allegedly been disallowing women from registering as voters.
In a statement signed on Wednesday, the human rights organisation said that women in hijab were being disenfranchised right from the PVC registration centres.
The statement signed by leader of the organisation, Ishaq Akintola, reads, “Muslim women are being asked to remove their hijab before capturing can take place. Some are asked to draw back the hijab from their faces to expose their ears.
“Of course the whole world knows that it is a taboo for Muslim women in hijab to expose their hair or ears. The Muslim women who refused to remove their hijab or to expose their ears are being turned back without being registered. This is unacceptable.
“The INEC ad hoc staff, who commit this atrocity claim that they are following instructions from their head office. This is an old trick and a common line of argument. It suggests conspiracy. It means anti-Muslim elements have taken over in INEC head offices in Lagos, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Oshogbo, Ondo and Akure (capitals of Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti states).
MURIC traced the history of the disenfranchisement of Muslims to 2003 elections, saying the organization would kick against any action by INEC to treat Muslims as second class citizens.
“MURIC will not stand akimbo while Muslims are turned into mere laughing stock. We affirm our Allah-given fundamental right to vote and be voted for. We demand equal opportunities in all aspects of the Nigerian life. In particular, we assert clearly, emphatically and unequivocally that obtaining voters’ cards is the right of every Nigerian citizen regardless of creed, ethnic background, profession or level of education.
“We cannot trivialize the issue of PVC. Apart from using it for voting, it can be used for various official transactions. The implication is that Muslim women who are denied access to PVC are deprived of their Allah-given fundamental right to perform their civic responsibilities like voting for their preferred candidates. They are also robbed of the right to possess means of identification whenever the need arises.
“As a palliative measure and in the interest of justice and fairplay, we demand further extension of the registration deadline to enable those Muslim women who were maltreated by high-handed ad hoc officials to return for registration. We also suggest that INEC headquarters should draft more ad hoc staff to the South West and open more registration centers,” the statement added.