The Independent National Electoral Commissions (INEC) on Monday denied claims that female Muslims in hijab were denied registration at the ongoing Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) in Lagos and other South West states.
The INEC Public Relations Officer in Lagos State, Mr Femi Akinbiyi, said in Lagos that no female in hijab was denied registration since the commencement of the CVR in the state.
Earlier, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), had on Aug. 22, alleged in statement that thousands of Muslim women from South-West may not be able to vote in the 2019 general elections.
Prof. Ishaq Akintola, leader of the group, alleged that INEC officials at some registration centres had been disallowing women in hijab from registering as voters.
According to Akintola, Muslim women are being asked to remove their hijab before capturing could take place, adding that some are asked to draw back the hijab from their faces to expose their ears.”
He said that the so claimed abuse was widespread in the South-West states.
He also urged INEC to focus its attention on its registration centre at Arigbanla Road, Orile-Agege Local Council Development Area, Iyana-Ipaja, Lagos.
But Akinbiyi urged the residents of Lagos to disregard the claims linking the CVR with religious discrimination.
“The attention of the INEC in Lagos State has been drawn to a press statement issued by MURIC.
“The Leader of the organisation, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, however, made a particular reference to a registration centre in Agege Local Government Area of Lagos State.
“It should be cleared here that the statement is not true. A lot of Muslim women in hijab across the 20 LGAs of Lagos State have been captured, and still being captured since the commencement of the exercise.
“The records are there to support our claims,” he said in a statement.
Akinbiyi said the commission had been carrying out the standard practice at registration centers where only female officials were allowed to capture women in hijab in a confined space.
“The standard practice we adopted in all our registration centres is for INEC female officials to capture women in hijab’s biometrics in the open.
“While their faces are captured inside a confinement set aside for the purpose without necessarily exposing their ears or part of their hairs and to protect them from the public view.
“This approach is known and approved by some of the Muslim coordinators who have been interfacing with some of our Electoral Officers since the commencement of the CVR.
“The same approach is being adopted in Agege LGA where the Electoral Officer confirmed that registration of Muslim women in hijab is going on smoothly, and that there have been no complaints from any quarter, ” he said.
Akinbiyi said there was no place for religious fanaticism in the Lagos office of the commission.
“’We therefore, enjoin the good people of Lagos State to disregard the said statement, if care is not taken, it can cause religious unrest in the state which nobody is ready for, ” he said.
Akinbiyi urged organisations and groups to adopt dialogue in channeling their complaints about the commission’s activities.
“The commission’s doors are open for dialogue on this and any other activities of the commission that need further clarification.
“MURIC as a Muslim-based faith organisation is part of INEC critical stakeholders whose ideas and contributions towards the success of 2019 general is most welcome.
“Media statement on this kind of delicate issue is certainly not the best for us at this critical stage of our country development, ” he said.
Akinbiyi urged Muslim women to go out and register at the registration centers close to them.
According to him, INEC-Lagos is as ready as before to respect religious beliefs.