By Chinwe Ogbuka, Assistant Director, Publicity
Following the issue of alleged underage voters during the Kano State Local Government Election conducted by Kano State Independent Electoral Commission (KANSIEC) on February 10, 2018, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is to subject nationwide register of voters to scrutiny by all citizens of Nigeria before the 2019 general elections.
The exercise will involve the display of all register of voters nationwide in all the 8,809 Registration Areas to afford Nigerians the opportunity to scrutinize the register with a view to identifying ineligible registrants especially underage registrants for removal.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu announced this on 4th May at a Press Conference on the Kano State Local Government Election, where there had been reports that underage persons voted in the election.
The Chairman said that allegations of underage voters in Kano State Local Government Area election have provided the Commission an opportunity to take another look at the Register and engage with stakeholders on how to continue to update and improve it, particularly through the removal of ineligible registrants.
Prof. Yakubu said that as part of the efforts to remove ineligible registrants from Register of Voter to be used for 2019 General Elections, the Commission “intends 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 underage persons, for removal,” he added.
While exonerating the Commission from the trending video of the Kano State Local Government Election, Prof. Yakubu emphasised that INEC was not in any way involved in organising that election beyond the legal requirement that the register of voters compiled by INEC should be used in all Local Government elections nationwide.
The Chairman explained that Kano State Independent Electoral Commission requested for and received from INEC the Kano Sate Register of Voters for the election. 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,” the Chairman said.
The INEC boss stated that since 2011 general elections, the Commission has been updating the register in accordance with the law along three lines; addition of new registrants from the Continuous Voter Registration, (CVR), running of the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) to identify multiple registrants and remove them and updating incomplete records.
Prof. Yakubu said that under the present Commission, only 432,233 new registrants have been added to the national Voter Register, which represents 0.9 percent increase on the Register used in the 2015 general elections.
These additions, the Chairman said, came essentially from CVR of 2015 and 2016 in states the Commission had conducted off-season governorship elections, namely Bayelsa, Kogi, Edo, Ondo as well as FCT Area Council elections.
He said that from April 2017 when the Commission 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.
The Chairman reminded the journalists that the National Register of Voters had been used to conduct the 2011 and 2015 general elections, as well as several re-run and by-elections. He said most of those elections were not only adjudged to meet international standards but had also produced varied outcomes for different political parties at different times.
He further explained that 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, adding that the Commission did not add a single name to the voter register.
Prof Yakubu said: “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.”
The Chairman said, “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.”
He therefore implored all Nigerians to see the value of this national asset and work with the Commission to continue to improve it saying, “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.”