The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday said it would send a high powered team from its headquarters to investigate the alleged involvement of underage persons in last Saturday’s local government election in Kano State.
The commission also said it would study the new amendment on the sequence of elections recently passed by the National Assembly, notwithstanding the release of the 2019 election timetable last January.
INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, while speaking at an election project plan implementation workshop in Lagos yesterday, said the commission was not unaware of the concern of Nigerians on possible presence of ineligible persons on the voters’ register.
Yakubu said INEC was disturbed about incidences of ineligible voters,’ adding that the commission will interrogate all voters’ register across the country before the 2019 election.
According to him, INEC is in doubt whether the Kano State Electoral Commission used the 2015 voters’ register given to it by the Commission, saying that the national commissioners of INEC and technical officials of INEC will be dispatched to Kano next week to investigate the issue.
“I wish to state that the commission is aware of the discussion around the voter’s register and the concern expressed in certain quarters on the possible prevalence of ineligible registrants on the voters’ register. The Commission is equally concerned for the simple reason that the credibility of an election draws from the credibility of the voter’s register.
“The eligibility for registration as a voter in Nigeria is clearly defined in Section 12 (1) of the Electoral Act. A recent report of violations by underaged persons following the local government elections in Kano State is deeply disturbing. It is true that the State Independent Electoral Commission had requested from INEC a copy of the voters’ register.
“The commission is equally concerned for the simple reason that the credibility of an election draws from the credibility of the voter register. The eligibility for registration as a voter in Nigeria is clearly defined in Section 12 (1) of the Electoral Act,” Yakubu noted.
The investigation team, which will move to Kano State next week, according to the INEC chairman, will include technical staff of the commission drawn from the Voter Registry (VR), Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and the Electoral Operations (EOps) Departments.
Continuing, he assured Nigerians that: “We will share the findings of the investigation with Nigerians. I wish to assure Nigerians that going forward, we will interrogate the voters’ register nationwide in order to purge it of any possible ineligible registrants.”
Yakubu, while admitting that the Kano State Independent Electoral Commission had requested from INEC a copy of the voters’ register, which it used to conduct the election, said: “I can confirm also that a soft copy of the register was made available to the state. The voters’ register in Kano State is the one used for the 2015 general election.
“In July 2016, INEC used the same register to conduct a state Assembly bye-election in Minjibir Constituency which has 78,210 registered voters spread across 126 polling units clustered in 11 Registration Areas (wards).
“In that election conducted by INEC, no single incidence of underage voter was recorded. What therefore happened in the last local government election conducted by the State Electoral Commission? Was the voter register actually used or not?” he asked.
The INEC chairman also disclosed that the sequence of elections released on January 9 was consistent with the powers of the commission under existing laws but said INEC would study the new amendment to the existing legal framework and take appropriate action within the ambit of the law.
He stated that the commission had registered about 3,978,682 citizens nationwide between July and December last year while 135,127 permanent voter cards (PVCs) were still not collected.
“In terms of the distribution by states, Rivers State recorded the highest number of new registrants, followed by Delta and Lagos while Kwara, Gombe and Ondo states recorded the lowest,” he added.