The report released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on the underage voting in the Kano State Local Government Elections has raised concern on the integrity of LG elections in the country as well as the 2019 general elections, SUNDAY ISUWA reports.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has disclosed that the underage voting in the recently held Kano LG elections was because the State Independent Electoral Commission, KANSIEC did not use its voter register.
INEC had set up an investigation committee headed by a National Commissioner, Engr Abubakar Nahuche to look into reported cases of underage voting since KANSIEC don’t have a separate voter register.
Other members of the committee include: another National Commissioner, Barrister May Agbamuche-Mbu, two Resident Electoral Commissioners (Barristers Mike Igini and Kassim Geidam) as well as some Directors and staff of the Commission, who were said to be experts in ICT.
INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu said that based on the terms of reference given to the committee, they have summarised four key points of the recommendations which may be summarised as follows:
“Kano State Independent Electoral Commission requested for and received from INEC the Kano State Register of Voters for the election.”
“The Register was produced for use for the elections. However, the register was only sighted in a few polling units. In other words, the register was not used in most of the polling units. In fact, accreditation using the Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) largely did not take place,” Yakubu said.
He said given that the Register was substantially not used to accredit voters before voting, “It is logical to conclude that if underage voting occurred in the election, it was not due to any presence of underage registrants on the Register of Voters,” Yakubu said.
While speaking on what actually happened, INEC said there is need and ample room for collaboration between the Commission and all stakeholders to continue to update and improve the National Register of Voters to eliminate all ineligible registrants from it, including dead persons, aliens and underaged registrants.
The committee also advised that INEC should work with the State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) to ensure continuous improvements in the quality of all elections conducted in Nigeria.
Many Nigerians have been reacting to the report and how it will affect the conduct of the 2019 general elections.
While some are of the opinion that local government elections conducts should be removed from the State Independent Electoral Commission and given to INEC, others say that SIECOM should be scrapped.
“If State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECOM) don’t have their own voter register, how can they conduct election? These are electoral umpires in the states who don’t issue voter cards to electorate. They don’t have control over PVC. How can you allow such an institution to conduct election? a resident of Abuja, Julius Daniel asked.
The issue on the Kano underage voting and the released of the findings, according to some political pundits, pointed at the scrapping of SIECOM as the only way of ensuring free and fair election at the grassroot.
While some are arguing that the report, as released by INEC might affect the 2019 general elections, some stakeholders have advised the commission to take precaution.
The national chairman of New Progressive Movement (NPM) Alhaji Mustapha Bala Getso, wants INEC to organised a mock exercise before the 2019 general elections.
“We want INEC to organised a mock exercise. In develop world, there is always a mock exercise before the main conduct of the elections. This always help the electoral empire to prepare well for the main exercise. It will also expose the issue of underage voting if there are people considering that. The mock exercise should be carry out by INEC staff and not adhoc staff,” Getso said.
On his part, the national chairman, Sustainable National Party (SNP), Mr Kayode Michael Arimoro, said INEC should ensure voter accountability unlike what he said happed in Kano.
“If the voter register is clean, there will be accountability. We also want INEC to setup every structures on ground. The commission should also intimate people about every step it will take on the election and there should be total awareness campaign,” he said.
The national chairman of Restoration Party of Nigeria (RP) Nsehe Nseogbong told LEADERSHIP that INEC should ensure the security of the voting centres to avoid underage voting.
“INEC should make haste and ensure people get their PVC. There is no sensitization on the voter registration exercise because people are mixing things up. Some don’t even know the importance of voter registration while others don’t even see the need to get their permanent voters card. So, more awareness should be done by INEC especially on the side of people who want to vote but are illegible,” Nseogbong said.
Since the complain on the integrity of the National Register of Voters has been raised because it is the bedrock of the 2019 general elections, the INEC chairman, Mahmood Yakubu said the present register of voters is the one compiled by the last commission in 2011.
“Recall that before 2011, the register of voters was full of errors including strange entries like Mike Tyson, incorrect entries and misplaced records. Although the pre-2011 register was supposed to contain the fingerprints of registrants, the last commission found that most of the fingerprints were missing or of very poor quality.”
“Also, there were integration issues and a lot of data were lost because they were collected using incompatible platforms. In addition, there were multiple registrations, as there was minimal attempt to remove multiple entries from the register. These were some of the problems that the last commission tried to solve by embarking on fresh registration of voters in 2011,” Yakubu added.
He said since the 2011 general elections, the commission has been updating its register in accordance with the law along three lines: “ (i) addition of new registrants from the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR); (ii) more stringent running of the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) to identify multiple registrants and remove them; and (iii) updating incomplete records such as entries with incomplete fingerprints, wrongly spelt names, etc.
“These became particularly important with the introduction of the PVC and Smart Card Reader (SCR). For this reason, records without fingerprints had to be updated otherwise the concerned voters will not be able to vote using the PVC and SCR.”
“As a result of these updates and clean up, a final register of 68,833,476 was used for the 2015 general elections,” Yakubu said.
“Consequently, this commission believes that it inherited a register that: Meets a high standard of biometric registration. In fact, many other countries have subsequently learnt from INEC in handling their own registers.”
“For instance, during the recent Presidential election in Liberia, the country’s National Electoral Commission (NEC), through the United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC), which I currently chair, requested the services of INEC staff to sort out issues with their register. Their work has been highly commended by these organisations and the diplomatic community for contributing to the success of the Liberian election; Contains 68.8 million valid entries, easily the largest single database of Nigerians in existence; Supports fingerprint matching for authentication of voters during elections using the SCR; Supports the introduction of machine readable, chip-based PVC; and Ensures continuous updating through the Continuous Voter Registration, as prescribed by law.”
“Under the present INEC, only 432,233 new registrants have been added to our national Voter Register. This represents 0.9% increase on the Register used for the 2015 general elections. These additions came essentially from CVR in 2015 and 2016 in States where we conducted off-season Governorship elections namely Bayelsa, Kogi, Edo and Ondo as well as the FTC Area Council elections. From April 2017 when we commenced the CVR to December of the same year, some 3,981,502 new registrants were recorded, including figures from Anambra State Governorship election held in November 2017.”
“This figure represents the first major additions to the Register since this Commission came on board. Even so, except for the 190,767 new registrants added to the voter register in Anambra State, the new registrants are just about to be added to the national Register.”
“It is important to remind us that this National Register of Voters has been used to conduct the 2011 and 2015 general elections, as well as several re-run, off-season and by-elections. Most of these elections have not only been adjudged to meet international standards but have also produced varied outcomes for different political parties at different times. Indeed, the Register used in the Kano Local Government election of 10th February 2018 was the one compiled in 2011, updated in 2014 and used for the 2015 general elections. This Commission did not add a single name to the voter register. As with all elections, some political parties have won and some have lost using the same Register. In fact, many constituencies have changed from one political party to another between elections on the basis of the same Register. Therefore, for anyone to suggest that the same register, on the basis of which political parties have won and lost elections at different times, is suddenly unreliable is curious to say the least.”
“Let me reiterate that this Commission is convinced that we now have a dependable register, even if it is not perfect. We believe that it is a huge national asset, easily the largest database of Nigerians in existence today containing over 70 million entries of names, addresses, photographs, ten fingerprints, telephone numbers etc. I implore all Nigerians to see the value of this national asset and work with the Commission to continue to improve it. Considering that there are few if any perfect voters roll anywhere, we can continue to work together with stakeholders and indeed all citizens to ensure that all ineligible registrants and entries are removed from the register and that eligible voters who have not registered take advantage of the ongoing CVR.”
On what they are doing to update the register, the INEC chairman said: “First, we have made registration more continuous than ever before, starting from April 2017. We regularly display the provisional register after each CVR exercise for claims and objections, as required by law. This usually lasts between 5 and 14 days. We appeal to Nigerians to always use the opportunity of this display to alert the Commission about ineligible registrants, including underaged persons and aliens, as well as incorrect details of registrants.”
“Second, also as required by law, we have consistently given political parties copies of the register for each year and ahead of general elections as well as Governorship off-season elections. Only recently, on 28th February 2018, we gave each of the 68 political parties a copy of the register containing names of the 3.9 million new voters registered in 2017. We urged them to use the register not only to reach out to voters, but also to check whether there are ineligible persons on the list and draw the attention of the Commission to them. Unfortunately, since this Commission was inaugurated in 2015, there has not been a single report from any political party of ineligible voters on the Register.”
“Third, we have been working with the Nigerian Immigration Service to eliminate aliens from the Register by confiscating PVCs from aliens who are not entitled to vote, thereby identifying them for removal from the Register. Furthermore, the Immigration Service has promised to post their officials to registration centres during CVR to check the incidence of alien registrants. We shall continue to explore collaboration with other agencies wherever possible.”
“Fourth, we intend through our Registration Area Officers (RAOs) to engage communities in all our 8,809 Registration Areas or Wards on a continuous basis to identify deceased persons and other ineligible registrants for removal from the Register. We have developed a RAOs Log Book specifically for this engagement. We appeal to Nigerians to cooperate with them in identifying ineligible registrants for removal.”
“Fifth, we intend to include major civil society groups and the media in the publication of the Register of Voters in future. Section 20 of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) provides that the Register be published 30 days before a general election. In addition to political parties, we intend to include other categories of stakeholders by making available copies of the register to them. Of course, this is without prejudice to the right of every Nigerian to apply for and receive the Register on the payment of the necessary fees as enshrined in the Electoral Act. We hope that CSOs and the media will also join in identifying ineligible registrants for removal.”
“Sixth, after the ongoing CVR, which as the law provides will end not later than 60 days to the forthcoming general elections on 16th February 2019 – please note that the law says not later than 60 days, which means that the CVR must end on or before the 60th day to the election – we intend to display not only the provisional register, but the entire Register at all the Registration Areas/Wards across the country. This again will provide a good opportunity for all citizens to interrogate the Register and identify ineligible registrants, including underaged persons, for removal.”