Iheanacho Nwosu, Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
A consortium of Civil Society Organizations, under the auspices of Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDMG), have accused the leadership of Nigerian political parties of complicity in alleged underage voting during elections in the country.
Reacting to the massive outcry that greeted the 2018 Kano Local Government election, the group claimed that the response from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from its FOI request revealed that the electoral body has been issuing copies of voters’ register to political parties.
Reading a prepared address, the Executive Director of the group, Dr Chima Amadi said:
“Issuing voters’ register to the parties has been done since 2011 and as recently as February 2018. Our FOI request included availing us of the evidence of such presentation of copies to the political parties.
“We are astonished to learn that all opposition parties in Kano State, and indeed all other states where allegations of underage voters, aliens and other unqualified persons have ever been made, that no political party in the country has ever reached out to INEC with any objection from the copies of the register which they hold.
“Political parties have a role to play in the duty of INEC to maintain a credible voters’ register, and this informed why the law allows the electoral commission to issue copies of the updated registers to them. Could their silence be that they were also explicating to benefit from the ill?” the group asked rhetorically.
ISDMG further noted that:
“There is no doubt that political parties remain an integral part of the process aimed at achieving the desired reforms of institutionalizing a credible electoral process. If they are failing in their responsibilities, it falls on civil society to remind and reawaken them to their responsibility.
“Crying after the milk is spilt when there was ample opportunity to ensure the milk did not spill is reactionary and not in the interest of our democracy, and particularly fee and fair elections.
“As part of general procedures for entertaining complaints and objections, the Electoral Act 2010 (as Amended) in section 19 refers to the display of the voters list for a period not less than five days and not exceeding 14 days for public scrutiny, and during that period any objection and complaints in relation to the register can be raised.
“We have evidence that the Commission has been consistent with the provision, and at the end of every registration cycle appoints two Assistant Revision Officers for each centre with appropriate forms to collate objections and complaints.
“Unfortunately, no political party or indeed any person, has utilised this beautiful provision the law and presented any objection to the Commission in the two election cycles of 2011 and 2015 since this procedure commenced. All aliens, underage persons and indeed all unqualified, must have their names expunged from the voters register,” ISDMG demanded.
“This INEC has introduced simultaneous accreditation and voting, has suspended the use of incident forms because of penchant for politicians to abuse it and have acquired new enhanced card readers which will read ginger prints a lot more easily and also register finger prints on the spot where the card is read as authentic and the face of the biter is cross checked and verified from the register at the polling unit.
“The new card readers were used in the Anambra governorship elections and only recorded 0.01 per cent failure and 90 per cent of these failures were rectified there in the field. The Ekiti and Osun governorship elections will provide ample opportunities for further tests and improvements to these innovations,” the group noted.
Similarly, one of the co-conveners of the Coalition, Ezenwa Nwagwu, argued that the biggest challenge facing elections in Nigeria was what he described as “citizens conspiracy”, urging Nigerians to take elections from the deal-making process.