Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has finally set up an eight-man investigation panel to ascertain the veracity of the report that persons below the statutory age of 18 years voted during the recently conducted Kano State Local Government election.
Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu, announced the composition of the committee during a meeting with the executive members of the Forum of State Independent Electoral Commission of Nigeria (FOSIECON).
He urged the committee to submit report within two weeks.
Members of the committee include National Commissioner, Engr. Abubakar Nahuche, chairman; another National Commissioner, Mrs. May Agbamuche-Mbu, Akwa-Ibom state Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC); Barr. Mike Igini; and Adamawa State REC, Barr. Kassim G Geidam.
Others include: Yakubu M. Duku from Electoral Operations Department; Mrs. Rukayat Bunmi Bello from Voter Registry Department; Mr. Paul Omokore from the ICT Department; while Jude Chikezie Okwonu from the P&M Department will serve as the committee secretary.
Listing the terms of reference, the Commission chairman said:
“The Commission, which has two weeks to submit its report, shall be guided by the following: Ascertain if the voter register requested by the Kano State Independent Electoral Commission was actually used in the Local Government election.
“Investigate the widespread report that persons below the statutory age of 18 years voted using INEC’s register. Engage with stakeholders on issues related your the use of the voter register in the election and make any other recommendations which in the opinion of the committee are relevant to its assignment.”
Speaking further, Prof Yakubu said:
“INEC will continue to improve on our procedures. We are totally committed to the task of strengthening our electoral process. Where we have cause to to review aspects of our collaboration, we will not hesitate to do so. One of such area is the alleged incidence of underage voting in the recent Local Government election in Kano state.
“We promised Nigerians that the matter will be fully investigated and a committee will be set up for this purpose headed by a National Commissioner with Resident Electoral Commissioners and staff from the technical department of the commission as members.
“For the purpose of clarification, the Committee is not investigating the conduct or outcome of the Local Government election by the Kano State Independent Electoral Commission. These are outside the constitutional and legal responsibilities of INEC. Rather, the committee shall focus solely on the allegations of underage persons on the voter register.”
Addressing FOSIECON members, the INEC boss said:
“Unfortunately, the cooperation envisaged under the terms of the 2012 Memorandum of Understanding could not be fully and consistently implemented. The main reason is the ugh rate of turnover of SIECs chairmen and commission members.
“In addition, funding for many SIECs is tied to elections which make short to medium-term collaboration difficult. We believe that consistent collaboration with SIECs and the knowledge gained through the regular conduct of Local Government elections are invaluable to enhancing the quality o elections at that level.
“I want to reassure you that INEC is always ready to partner with SIECs. The existing Memorandum of Understanding needs to be reviewed as a matter of utmost urgency. New areas of cooperation need to be explored, including ways of strengthening the Independence of the SIECs and systematically building the capacity of Election Management Bodies (EMBs) in Nigeria to conduct elections that meet national and international standards of acceptability and credibility.
“As an immediate step going forward, the joint INEC/SIECs Interactive Committee will be reconstituted immediately and shall henceforth be meeting regularly. Similarly, the quarterly meeting between INEC and SIECs shall be reactivated immediately. The first meeting for this year will take place next month,” he promised.