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Victims of Muna IDP campfire who lost their PVCs in the blaze don’t know if they will be allowed to vote

24 February 2023
Reading time: 5 minutes

Victims of the fire that gutted hundreds of shacks, thatch huts and tents in Muna internally displaced persons’ camp in Maiduguri last week are in a serious quandary.

Apart from losing almost all their possessions and their shelters in the fire, many of them also lost their permanent voters cards (PVCs) and will probably not be allowed to vote in today’s general elections.

Ya Kura Abatcha, a victim of the fire, told RNI that the fire had a devastating effect on camp residents. Many had lost all their worldly possessions in the fire and had only a pile of ashes left.

“All our shacks and tents were burnt and, as I speak, I don’t know where to go or where to stay with my little children. I came to Muna from the Mafa Local Government Area. Now I have nothing, not even my PVC. I don’t know if I will be allowed to vote.

“All of us who were affected by the fire no longer have shelters, food or clothes. We received a little support from members of the host community, who provided some materials to set up tents, a few mattresses, clothes, food and other essential items. But we have had not any humanitarian assistance from the government. I am pleading with the government to help us – and to let us know if we will be allowed to vote.”

Zara Goni, an elderly resident of the camp, said she was anxious because she had lost her PVC in the fire and she also did not know if she would be able to vote.

“The fire outbreak has completely destroyed and burnt down our thatch houses, property and valuables. Many of us lost our permanent voters cards and the elections are already here. I don’t know what to do, who to speak to or if I will be able to get a new PVC in time. And, if I cannot get a new PVC, will I be allowed to vote? It is very troubling.

“No one from the government has told us what to do about our lost PVCs. Right now, we don’t know if we will be allowed to participate in the elections. Will the Independent Electoral Commission of Nigeria [INEC] make provision for us to vote? It is my constitutional right to vote but without a PVC I might lose that right. Authorities from the government or INEC need to tell us what options we have, if any. No one has explained anything to us.

“We are also suffering from a serious humanitarian crisis because we have lost all our possessions and the roofs over our heads. We urgently need the government and non-governmental organisations [NGOs] to come to our aid as we do not have shelters, our possessions were burnt, our food and clothes are gone.”

Ya Kura Abukar told RNI that she also lost her PVC in the fire.

“All my belongings were burnt to ashes, including my voters card. Now I don’t know whether I will be able to participate in the elections. We have not heard anything from INEC or government officials. We do not even know if they are aware that our PVCs were burnt. It’s important for them to tell us whether we can vote or not. Even though we are in the middle of a humanitarian crisis, we would still like to be able to cast our ballots.”

Usman Sandama said: “I don’t think I will be able to vote in the elections because my voters card was burnt with the rest of my belongings.

“And the government has not said anything to us. Do they realise that there was a fire here in Muna camp? Do they even know that we lost everything, including our PVCs? Right now, we have so much on our minds. The fact that our PVCs were burnt along with all our other possessions is making the humanitarian crisis even more difficult. It is very stressful and we don’t know what to do. We need advice from the government and/or INEC and we need aid to help us improve our living conditions. It’s urgent.”

Ya Zara Abor told RNI that everyone was thinking about the elections and she was sure the authorities did not even realise the dire circumstances they were experiencing at Muna camp.

“We are in a predicament because we don’t know if we will be able to vote. But because everything was lost in the fire, we don’t even have shelters. Our children are starving because we lost our food. All our goods were destroyed. I begging the government and the NGOs to come to our aid. We urgently need shelters, food, clothes and other essential items.”

Bulama Sa’adu, an elderly man, said: “The fire burnt down our thatch house and destroyed everything inside. My wife and I were left with the clothes we were wearing and that’s all. We are begging for help. If the government and NGOs can’t help us, maybe a philanthropist can help us. We are desperate.”


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