- Last Updated on 29 November 2012
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Sir: The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has read the Editorial piece in your newspaper issue for Monday, November 26, 2012 titled ‘ Voter Registration Drive ’.
Much as the Commission appreciates your newspaper’s concern for the success of the Nigerian electoral processes and desire for the enthronement of global best practices, it has noticed that your piece is underpinned by misconceptions and misinformation about the issues, and would like to provide the following clarification – for your information and that of your readers.
First, the Commission (which you erroneously personalised as the Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega) has not defaulted on its promise to make voter registration a continuous and routine exercise in Nigeria . For your information, what happened in January-February 2011 was a large scale registration that the Commission hopes the country would have no reason to ever undertake again. The data of voters captured during the 2011 registration have been placed in a data base which will only require periodic updating, by registering those who either did not register in 2011 or have turned 18 since then. To that end, by next year (2013), INEC will roll out the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) programme whereby any Nigeria who turns 18, or who had missed registration in the last comprehensive exercise, can walk into a designated centre at the Ward level – notice: not even the Local Government as your Editorial argued for – to get registered. This will be done periodically on a sustainable basis. The process of the CVR is presently being refined so that it can be launched early in 2013.
Indeed, as a pilot test, INEC conducted CVR in Kogi, Adamawa and Bayelsa before the governorship elections held in those states in December 2011, January 2012 and February 2012 respectively. While the updated register was used in Kogi and Adamawa states for the said elections, it could not be used in Bayelsa due to the abridgement of time occasioned by the Supreme Court verdict on the tenure of five Governors in January 2012. (Section 20 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, stipulate a 30-day limit for publication of the voter’s list to be used in an election). Similarly, due to time constraint, the Commission could not conduct CVR in Sokoto and Cross River states before the governorship elections there in March and April 2012, respectively. The Commission tried to undertake CVR in Edo State before the July 14, 2012 election, but had to suspend the exercise because of the brinksmanship, mutual suspicion and fear exhibited by the stakeholders who opted to go for the poll with the old register. Taking a cue from this, the Commission suspended its plan for CVR in Ondo State ahead of the October 20, 2012 governorship election and decided to await the general launch of the exercise nationwide in 2013.
Therefore, INEC has not abandoned the CVR process. And the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines are not rotting away as your Editorial piece alleged. The equipment are only in storage and will be deployed for CVR as the need arises. For avoidance of doubt, the Commission has not asked for, and has no intention of “asking for more money” for procurement of DDC machines.
There is no doubt that the civic registration system of births and deaths in this country leaves much to be desired. But calling out persons of eligible age to register as voters is not peculiar to Nigeria ; most advanced democracies of the world do that. Indeed, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) designated the whole of 2012 as the ‘Year of Enrolment’ – outlining a programme of events targeted at reminding Australians of their electoral rights and obligations and, principally, mobilising those who haven’t done so to get on the list as voters. Similarly, the Election Commission of India designates a particular day in January of every year for mobilising eligible voters to get on the voter’s list.
Meanwhile, INEC has commenced the process of issuing Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) that are chip-based to ensure that only authentic holders of the cards will be able to use them to vote in the 2015 General Elections. The use of the PVCs will remarkably enhance the credibility of the electoral procedure by ensuring 100 per cent authentication and verification of prospective voters and preventing the abuse or misuse of voter cards by illegitimate holders. For avoidance of doubt, sir, INEC is not dithering on the issuance of the PVCs as your Editorial piece suggests – not in the least! The production of the first batch of 40million cards is fully on course, and the processes for the production of the second batch has already commenced.
The issue of delimitation of constituencies is both a legal requirement and a matter of practical necessity for the present Commission. The last delimitation was done in 1996, on the basis of the national census figures of 1991. Although a national census was held in 2006, no constituency delimitation was done by INEC even though the law provides that the exercise should hold at 10-year intervals or after a census has been conducted. With the graphic reality of acute demographic shifts in most areas nationwide, the present Commission is confronting the challenge of the complex exercise of delimitation in order to build on the modest strides it has recorded since 2010, expand the democratic space and deepen the credibility of the system ahead of the 2015 elections.
I hope you will find these explanations helpful in clarifying the issues.
Kayode R. Idowu
Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman