By Tunde Oguntola, Abuja and Isaiah Benjamin, Kaduna
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said yesterday that the National Identification Number (NIN) will not be a requirement for voter registration.
The minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, last week announced that NIN will be compulsory for most government transactions, including opening of bank accounts, payment of taxes and voter registration.
Pantami also said that the policy is backed by law. But speaking exclusively with LEADERSHIP yesterday in Abuja, the chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi said while INEC does not oppose the use of NIN for government transactions, the commission does not require its use for voters registration.
Oyekanmi said INEC cannot ask voters to produce NIN before they will be registered because the law did not say so.
He said, ‘’INEC did not oppose NIN for government transactions, including opening of bank accounts and payment of taxes, but what we are saying is that it is not stated in the 1999 Constitution
or Electoral Act which are the two official documents which guides the activities of the commission.
‘’What we are saying is that no government organisation can ask us to use NIN for voter’s registration when the law does not say so.
‘’The two legal documents guiding INEC activities is the 1999 constitution and Electoral Act as amended. So as far as we are concerned, the two documents said INEC should register voters and the
criteria in these document did not say INEC must ask voters or prospective voters to provide NIN for their registration,” he said.
Speaking further, he said INEC will continue to register voters according to the laws guiding the conduct of the commission.
‘’We are not going to ask voters to produce NIN as our requirement. We are not ready to join issues with the minister but what we are saying is based on our mandate, there is no where NIN was mentioned,” he said.
Meanwhile, the pan northern socio-cultural organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has urged INEC to convert existing voting points and voting point settlements into polling units.
ACF said this measure will enable practical and immediate measures to decongest and expand voters access to polling units.
The secretary-general of ACF, Murtala Aliyu (Mutawallen Gombe), stated this during a consultative meeting between INEC and the social-cultural organisation on the proposed framework for expanding voter access to polling Units (PU) through creation of additional Polling Units. The meeting held in Kaduna.
Aliyu said ACF members were unanimous that the commission should use its powers in Section 42 of the Electoral Act (as amended) to create polling units.
The INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu who led the commission’s delegation, argued that creating polling units in the past by fiat and without sufficient consultations resulted in debacles and controversies which the commission wanted to avoid.
He said: “This is a democracy and there is a place for consultation in a democracy.”
Yakubu however informed ACF that the commission is on a national wide consultations to seek support and possible inputs and view from
sociocultural groups, religious and traditional leaders, Community leaders, party leaders on the matter.
The INEC boss added that the current configuration of 119,973 polling units was established by the defunct National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (NECON) in 1996 and has not been reviewed or reconfigured since then.
He said polling units were used for the 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011,2015 and 2019 general elections, adding that the polling units as of 1996 was projected to serve about 50 million registered voters.
He said the current population of the country which is over 200 million does not makes it difficult for the commission to manage elections effectively.
Yakubu disclosed that INEC has received 9, 777 requests for creation of additional polling units as of February 15, 2021.