Controversy as INEC updates voters register
An assessment of the preparedness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to improve its ratings in conducting credible elections in Nigeria has been on the spotlight since April 27 when the umpire commenced the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) across the country to update the national voters’ database which currently has about 70 million registered voters.
The on-going process, which according to the electoral body, will be on until a few months before the 2019 general elections, is meant to capture Nigerians that are just attaining the voting age of 18 years and those who had not registered before or whose names could not be found in the register.
It is also an opportunity for those registered voters who have damaged or lost their Permanent Voters Cards (PVC) and those who have not collected it before to do so while those who changed polling units because of movements can have the data updated in their new abodes.
The essence of the exercise is to also create awareness of citizens’ civic responsibility and democratic rights and largely to absorb as many eligible Nigerian voters as possible so that the outcome of elections will reflect the wishes of the majority of the population.
While launching the exercise last month in Abuja, INEC Chairman, Mahmud Yakubu said the commission was ready to expand the country’s voter population and sanitize the election process. He called on whistleblowers to identify and expose any registration of under-aged voters and foreigners while the exercise lasted.
The commission’s Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, had earlier announced that necessary logistics had been deployed for the exercise.
He said, “The required personnel and materials for the exercise have been deployed. We have also trained our personnel who are going to be at our various LGA offices. We have tested and deployed our Direct Data Capturing Machine (DDCM) for the exercise to take off nationwide and our National Commissioners have gone out to the respective zones to monitor the registration.”
Claiming successes in the first three days of the exercise, INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of Information and Voter Education Committee, Adedeji Soyebi said in a release that 57,737 people were registered with 4,913 collected PVCs. He also stated that within the short period, 1,820 individuals applied for transfer of Polling Units (PUs) while 1,117persons sought replacement of their lost or damaged PVCs.”
But if reports from the 36 states and Abuja, where the exercise is taking place in all the 774 local councils are anything to go by, the process may not be as smooth as the commission claimed in the first three days.
With this, the capability of INEC and ability of the political class to mobilize the people with the aim of increasing voter population and reinforce the election process, which is a major pillar of representative democracy, are being called to question.
Some of the complaints trailing the exercise include the failure and inadequate number of the Direct Data Capturing (DCC) machines in many designated points, long distance to registration centres and inability to handle the large number of prospective voters in some areas.
Reports from Anambra where the governorship election will hold next November indicated that major stakeholders, while complaining about some of the hiccups, have appealed to INEC to focus attention on the state because of the nearness of the poll.
Reacting yesterday, the National Chairman of deregistered National Transformation Party (NTP), Emmanuel Mok faulted the exercise saying it lacks the expected awareness and would probably place the northern region ahead of its southern counterpart in terms of voting strength in future elections.
He said the exercise lacked the desired publicity and that “there are no centers other than where INEC is registering people quietly. The way the exercise is going, it would give undue advantage to the north against the south. This was part of our complaints in the previous exercise.”
He described as an aberration, the idea of carrying out the registration at local council secretariats and wondered how the crowd would be controlled “if all the people living in the Eti Osa Local Government decided to travel to the council for registration.”
Mok blamed INEC “for the lack of awareness because it is being funded by government for that purpose. The political parties that could have assisted in this area are no longer been funded by government.”
Also faulting the process, former National Secretary of Labour Party (LP), Kayode Ajulo said there is no adequate awareness for the exercise. According to him, “We complained of inadequate awareness of similar exercise in the past but for this one, there is zero awareness.
“Many Nigerians, particularly those in the south are not aware compared with their counterparts in the north. Some traditional rulers whom I spoke with in Ondo State are ignorant of the registration.”
He also pointed to the issue of weak opposition parties as a factor responsible for the poor awareness, saying that unlike when the ruling APC was in the opposition “there is no longer opposition forces to drive the exercise at present. The APC, because it is in power, is not doing much to ensure people come out to participate in the exercise.”
He claimed he did not observe any on-going registration during his visits across the country but that “INEC should not only be blamed as other stakeholders have their share of the fault.”
However, Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State, Adebayo Dayo said the exercise was going on well in the state but that the party is only worried “about information reaching us, and backed with facts, that under-age children are being registered throughout the northern region. INEC should be asked why the double different standard for the South and North in respect to same exercise.”
The party’s national spokesman, Benard Mikko who said they are yet to receive any concrete report on the exercise from field officers and that “we have directed our members and supporters to fully participate.”
Spokesman of the Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin said nothing enthusiastic has been seen regarding the registration because of people’s apathy to anything politics, politicians and election.
According to him, “Nigerians are completely tired of politics because they feel that the present democratic system has not added any value to their living condition. If the exercise continues this way, definitely it will have negative effects on the next election and its credibility.”
He also said the capacity of the current electoral umpire to conduct free, fair and credible election in the country is a suspect as he urged that what the country needs now is to restructure the federation.
In his reaction to the plethora of allegations, spokesman of the electoral body, Rotimi Oyekanmi said “It is wrong for anybody to insinuate that the INEC is deliberately creating hiccups in the ongoing CVR exercise.
“On the contrary, our goal is to create the opportunity for qualified Nigerians, who have just clocked 18 years and all those who did not register in last CVR exercise and have also never registered to do so.
“The exercise will be truly continuous and will only be suspended two months to an election. However, we know that there may be some initial challenges, but they will be tackled gradually as we go along.”
He added, “There are no bottlenecks. But there is a procedure. All an intending registrant needs is some patience. However, where an INEC official has sufficient doubts about the age of an intending registrant, a form of identification to confirm date of birth may be required. This is to prevent an under-age person from registering.”
Oyekanmi also said it is not true that the DDC machines are nit functional or that they are not adequate, stressing, “There are enough machines and efforts are on to redeploy from where they are surplus to locations where they are not enough.”
Speaking on allegations of lack of enough awareness, he said, “The Commission did announce through several media channels ahead of time. Various stakeholders were also informed. This will continue. However, it is also the duty of the political parties to create awareness among their members on the need for them to register.”
He however declared frankly, “There will be no preference for any state because its election is near as there is ample time for eligible Nigerians in Anambra and other states to register.”