We’re Not Liable for Underage Voting, Says INEC


• PPA urges scrapping of SIEC
Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said it has no legal control or responsibility whatsoever over the conduct of elections at the local government level.

 Against the outcry over alleged participation of children and under-aged voters in the just concluded local council elections in Kano State, the National Chairman of the People’s Progressives Alliance (PPA), Peter Ameh, said a law should be made to scrap the state Independent National Electoral Commission.

 Regarding the concern over under-aged voters, INEC said it’s not culpable, adding that it cannot be held directly responsible or vicariously liable for an exercise outside its legal purview.

 In a statement issued yesterday by the Director, Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze Uzzi, the commission said the images contained in the videos being circulated did not relate in any way to any election organised, conducted or superintended by INEC.

 “It should be pointed out here that local government elections are exclusively the constitutional responsibility of the respective state electoral commissions, which are in no way under the control or supervision of INEC. On our part, INEC assures the public that we are doing all we  can to ensure a credible election as was once again demonstrated in the Mashi/Dutsi federal constituency election in Katsina State on Saturday,” he stated.
The commission said while it  remains resolute in its commitment to sanitise the country’s electoral process and deliver free, fair and credible elections, “we cannot be held directly or vicariously liable for an exercise outside our legal purview.”

 The statement read: “The attention of the INEC has been drawn to videos and pictures purportedly showing some under-aged thumb printing ballot papers in a recent election. These images have been circulating online since last Saturday.
“The commission wishes to inform the public that the images do not relate in any way to any election organised, conducted or superintended by INEC. As far as the commission can ascertain,  they relate to a local government election conducted at the weekend, and over which we have no legal control or responsibility whatsoever.”

With regard to the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, the INEC said it is not unaware of the challenges some citizens have encountered in trying to get registered at some of the centres.

According to it, “Steps have been taken to ameliorate these, including the deployment of additional Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines for registration, with the more populated centres getting priority attention.
“In addition, the number of registration centres has been increased to 1,446 nationwide. While thanking Nigerians for their patience and understanding, we believe that with the measures taken so far, the queues and other identified challenges will soon abate.

“We once again appeal to those who registered in the previous exercises not to do so again. This is not a fresh registration exercise but an opportunity for those who turned 18 years and those who didn’t register in the past to register as voters.”

Meanwhile, the leadership of the PPA has urged the scrapping of the state Independent Electoral Commission and granting of autonomy to local councils in the country to check the abuse of the third tier governance.
He said political leaders in the northern part of the country have a duty to assist INEC in checkmating incidence of child-voters.
Speaking to journalists at the headquarters of the party in Abuja after the National Working Committee meeting of the party, Ameh said the NWC also took wide-ranging resolutions, including the approval for negotiation of alliance pact with other like-minded political parties.

As part of the decisions reached at the meeting, Ameh said the NWC has approved the sack of its state executives in Anambra State and its replacement with a caretaker committee.
According to the party chairman, the leadership of the state chapter was found guilty of surrendering its structure to the incumbent Governor, Chief Willie Obiano during the last governorship election in the state.