2019: Mounting Concerns Over INEC’s Voters Register

The recent controversy over under-age voting during the Kano State local government elections has sparked a national outrage over the credibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) voter’s register, SUNDAY ISUWA reports. Videos and pictures that emerged after the Kano State local government elections conducted on Saturday, February 10 2018, has prompted political parties and pundits to question the credibility of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) register as the country prepares for the 2019 general elections.  INEC had earlier distanced itself from the election but had to beat a retreat in the face of the mounting criticisms. The commission setup an enquiry team headed by a national commissioner, Engr Abubakar Nahuche.  Others include a National Commissioner, Mrs May AgbamucheMbu; Akwa Ibom State REC, Barr Mike Igini; Adamawa State REC, Barr Kassim G Geidam; an electoral officer, Yakubu M Duku; official from Voter Registry Department, Mrs Rukayat Bunmi Bello; an official from ICT department, Mr Paul Omokore. Mr Jude Chikezie Okwuonu is the secretary of the investigation panel. The committee, which was given two weeks to submit it’s report, is to ascertain if the voter’s register requested by the Kano State Independent Electoral Commission was actually used in the local government election; investigate the widespread report that person below the statutory age of 18 years voted using INEC’s register; engage with stakeholders on issues related to the use of the voter register in the election. They are also to make any other recommendations which, in the opinion of the committee, are relevant to its assignment.  But political analysts opine that the Kano State Independent Electoral Commission (KSIEC) must have requested for the INEC register to enable them carry out the exercise. According to them, KSIEC does not have an independent voter register which they use for local elections. First to raise alarm over the under-age voting saga and ‘lack of credibility in the Kano and Katsina states voter registers,’ was the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).  The party said it has lost confidence in INEC and demanded an immediate resignation of the commission’s head, Prof Mahmood Yakubu. PDP, according to its national publicity secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan, said INEC must revalidate the voters register in Kano and Katsina States to eliminate all the minors, insisting that no election must hold in these states until the register is sanitised. PDP’s allegation was corroborated by the National Chairman of Rebuild Nigeria Party (RNP), Mr Nsehe Oscogbo.  He said the difficulties Nigerians go through in trying to register for the Permanent Voters Card was worrying adding that it might affect the 2019 elections.  The All Progressives Congress (APC) on their part, debunked the assertions made by the PDP, saying the allegations are wild and unsubstantiated. APC national publicity secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi said the PDP’s statement should be ignore adding that their party has confidence in the present INEC.  But the national chairman of National Interest Party, Eunice Atuyide, told LEADERSHIP Friday that the problem with the Nigeria’s voters register has a long history. “Even before the election of late Chief MKO Abiola, there were underage voting. Even though such incidences are embarrassing, it did not start today,” she said. According to the chairman, “While we must ensure that the voter’s register is clean, our attention must not be diverted from the fact that the vote must count. “The outrage on the underage voting should not take us away from the main issues bothering us,” Atuyide said. “Our votes must be counted.” She said Nigerians must ensure that the electoral process in 2019 is credible, free and fair. INEC statistics has shown that, ahead of 2019 general elections, the North-west and South-west geo-political zones lead with the highest number of registered voters. It revealed that Lagos State comes first, with 6,048,156 while Kano State comes in second place with 5,149,070. Bayelsa State is occupying the last position with merely 754,394 registered voters so far. The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) has 952,815 registered voters. About 1.4 million PVC are still uncollected in Lagos State alone, the records also show. But the North-west geopolitical zone has the highest number of registered voters in the country with a total of 18,505,984 voters. The second position is the South-west zone, with 14,626,800 registered voters. The South-east zone has 8,293,093 registered voters. With these, the total number of registered voters across Nigeria stands at 73,944,312. INEC is projecting 80 million registered voters at the end of the Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) exercise in December, 2018, it was gathered. But the concern of some political pundits in the country remains the credibility of the voter register. Questions still reverberate over authenticity of register going by the experience at the Kano and Katsina State local government elections which was said to have witnessed underage voting. But INEC spokesman, Mr Rotimi Oyekanmi, while reacting to the allegations, said the commission will not rest until Nigerians get the best in the coming elections. Oyekanmi told LEADERSHIP Friday that the commission appreciates the concern of the PDP and other well-meaning Nigerians’ on the need to have a credible electoral system. He added that credibility has been the hallmark of all the actions undertaken by the present leadership since of the electoral commission since its inception in November 2015. He said “With regard to the Kano incident, the commission has already constituted a committee headed by a National Commissioner, to be assisted by some Resident Electoral Commissioners and our staff drawn from the Voter Registry and ICT departments which are investigating what actually transpired. “The INEC Chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu has pledged that the outcome of that inquest will be shared with Nigerians. So, my appeal to the PDP and other Nigerians is that, they should give room for the committee to carry out its assignment and report back to the commission. We assure all Nigerians that we will continue to take steps to preserve the integrity of the electoral process,” Oyekanmi added.

Source:  LEADERSHIP.

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