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Kano underage voters : Where is the report?

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On Friday May 5th when the Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Mahmood Yakubu declared, in releasing snippets from the Kano Inquiry report of the Commission that: “Given that the register was substantially not used to accredit voters before voting it is logical to conclude that if under-aged voting occurred in the election it was not due to any presence of under aged registrants on the register of voters” this only served to wet growing public demand for the full report of the inquiry.

The chairman did not specifically tell the public whether the report of the committee’s recommendations was accepted either in whole or in part and copies of the report were not made available to the press.

It would be recalled that Prof. Yakubu, while addressing press men in February at a workshop of INEC at the Intercontinental Hotel Victoria Island Lagos, promised that the commission would set up a committee to investigate the reported under-aged voting in Kano State and that the outcome of the enquiry and recommendations would be made public but this was not done at the Friday press conference addressed by the INEC chairman except commentary on the report. 

What is expected of Prof. Yakubu’s commission is to live up to its promise by publishing the full report and state what its views are on it.

In other words, issue the equivalent of a government whitepaper side -by -side the report, which will include its reasons for accepting or rejecting the committee’s recommendations and the actions INEC intends to take to implement accepted recommendations.

This is the usual practice and accepted norm in government and in the public sector. This is what Prof. Yakubu failed to do last Friday and it is hoped that this would be done in the days to come otherwise the inevitable conclusion, if not done, would be that there is indeed attempts at a cover up or the setting up of a committee was just a ruse or a strategy to buy time because Nigerians would easily forget and move on with their lives. 

If this is the reasoning, then it’s unfortunate that a chairman of such an important body that Nigerians are trying to repose confidence in having not been known by Nigerians until he was appointed unlike his predecessor, Prof Attahiru Jega known from his days as The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) chairman and civil society activist. 

As an umpire that should be an open institution that should be committed to transparency, integrity as its guiding principles in tandem with the requirements and spirit of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) and a statutory duty, Prof. Yakubu should have made public the full report of the investigation and not snippets commentaries on it.

This has now heightened public suspicion and demand for the full report given the delays and speculations about INEC’s sincerity and the displayed equivocation on the true content of the so-called report.

Those at the press conference observed pointedly that Prof. Yakubu’s syllogism is flawed, because if only one or two polling units used the register and it contained under-aged voters, even if 90 percent of the polling units did not use the register, the voter register is contaminated and the nation will never believe that this was not the case except the chairman of INEC who should know better as an academic releases the full report to show how the commission reached its conclusion of substantial negligibility.

A careful reading of the press conference speech would certainly make statisticians insist emphatically that such quantitative conclusions or generalization can only be credible and reliable if the sample size or sample frame of local governments used to draw such conclusion can be evaluated to be significant with respect to the claim of INEC. 

It has to show that there is enough evidence that very many places did not do accreditation using the voter registers and also that equally no place had under-aged voters in the register. It is doubtful if INEC can say that there are no under-aged persons at all in the Kano State register of voters and else where.

The leadership of the Electoral Management Board must be very careful and not to destroy its credibility and public perception before 2019 so that it would be able to command public confidence. 

The register of voters are in possession of politicians as required by law and confirmed by Prof. Yakubu during the press conference and so playing any hide and seek game about existence or otherwise of under-aged persons on the register of Kano or elsewhere, which has been alleged by key stakeholders in the state could damage the umpire’s credibility and should be avoided at all times.

The need for INEC to release the full report also draws urgency from the political implication of its statement because on the basis of its conclusion, it can be deduced that the Kano Local Governments election was procedurally illegal as voting can only be credible if it was preceded by accreditation.

While council elections are conducted by State electoral bodies, these entities are also subject to the Electoral Act regarding election procedures. INEC’s declaration is essentially an invalidation of the Kano State election unless the full report provides evidence or caveats as to the contrary.

More significantly, political parties and politicians, particularly those who participated in the Kano council elections will be unwilling to accept the outcome of the Kano election given that the main Electoral Management Body in Nigeria, INEC, has declared that it did not comply substantially with electoral procedure.

The only proof the opposing parties have to substantiate this irregularity bordering on political fraud is to demand how the conclusion was reached because not to do so will mean that all further elections, especially in Kano will not be conducted on a level playing field if the outcome of such irregularities can be sustained without consequences for those declared as winners of the flawed election.


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