Underage Voting: PDP Asks INEC Chairman to Sanitise Voter Register or Quit

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Party alleges plot by APC, FG to lie on achievements

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to immediately carry out an open review of the country’s voter register in order restore confidence on the electorate ahead of the 2019 general election.

The party frowned at the statement credited to an INEC official to the effect that staff of the commission were forced to register under-aged persons, adding that the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, should either stand firm and ensure the integrity of the electoral process or quit his job.

In the wake of concerns over video clips showing under-aged kids lining up to cast their votes during election in Kano State, INEC said last week that it had dispatched a team of officials to the state to commence investigation.
However, the country’s main opposition party has accused the commission of being reluctant to take decisive step on the issue of under-age voters.

The party also came down heavily on the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration, accusing it of mobilising its agents to commence the falsification of economic and development indices across all sectors, with a view to creating a false sense of performance.

PDP’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, who addressed a press conference in Abuja yesterday, said the recent revelation had shown that a substantial part of millions of voters registered in Kano and Katsina States were mostly under-aged persons
He said the report on the prevalence of large number of underaged voters in states like Kano and Katsina has greatly affected the credibility of the INEC voters’ register and indirectly cast doubt on the ability of the commission to conduct free and fair election in 2019.

The PDP spokesman said it took its outcry and other concerned Nigerians before the commission reluctantly accepted responsibility for what he called ‘illegality’.
However, he said INEC has refused to take decisive steps to restore the sanctity of its register, particularly in Kano and Katsina States.

According to him, “As you are aware, the INEC has been indicted for registering and issuing permanent voters card (PVCs) to millions of under-age persons, particularly in Kano and Katsina States respectively.”
He stated that PDP is also concerned about the statement made by the INEC Chairman, Yakubu, that the commission would ask the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to monitor politicians and political parties’ compliance over campaign expenditure.
Ologbodiyan said the move by INEC amounted to delegating the constitutionally assigned duty of the commission to another agency.

“Nigerians have completely lost confidence in INEC under
Yakubu, and we urge him to take the path of honour and do the needful before it becomes too late,” he said.
While demanding the revalidation of voters’ register in Kano and Katsina States, Ologbondiyan said the incidence of under-aged voting has caused loss of credibility of the electoral process under the current INEC.

The party spokesman said: “By this alarming and unpatriotic statement, INEC, under Yakubu, has completely discredited and disqualified itself, and cannot be trusted to conduct a credible, free and fair general election in 2019.

“The import of this statement is that INEC under Yakubu is not firm in its acts and will consequently cave in and accept any form of irregularities once it is put under pressure by members of a voting community. It goes to say that this INEC can readily announce false results, cancel elections, alter polling procedures and allow any irregularities during the 2019 general election once it is threatened by the APC or any other group for that matter.

“If INEC is afraid of a voting community so much that after registering minors, it still went ahead to process their data and issue them with valid voters’ card, then there is no way it can withstand the pressure and threat that we all know will be exerted by desperate APC forces, whose electoral strength, particularly in Kano and Katsina
States, is now exposed to be based on under-age voters.

“Consequently, the PDP demands an immediate review of voters’ register, particularly in Kano and Katsina States; we demand the revalidating of the voters’ register to eliminate all the minors, and insist that no election must hold in these states until the register is sanitised.

“In order to achieve this, we demand that the revalidation/sanitisation by INEC must be carried out under the supervision of all political parties, credible associations, reputable NGOs as well as the international community.”
Also, the PDP spokesman said he party is suspicious of the plan by INEC asking EFCC to help them monitor campaign funds, adding that such a move “is clearly an illegal and Machiavellian way of suppressing opposition’s financial contribution and spending.”
He said the PDP suspects that the INEC’s move is part of APC-led administration’s plot to detain, defame, intimidate and illegally block bank accounts of opposition members under the pretext that they have been mandated by INEC to monitor campaign funds.

“It is trite law that ‘delegatus non potest delegare’. INEC, and only it has the statutory duty to monitor campaign funds. The commission cannot delegate this function to any other government agency.
As part of strategies for the 2019 general election, PDP further accused the APC administration of plot to manipulate performance indices and use it to deceive Nigerian electorate.

Ologbodiyan spoke of the act of intolerance being exhibited by APC and its government in some states where they are now demolishing property belonging to opposition, members and perceived opponents of their 2019 re-election bid.
“We want to alert Nigerians and the international community of a heinous design now hatched by the desperate
APC-controlled federal government to delude Nigerians on the true state of affairs of our country, particularly on security and the comatose economy.

“We have information that forces at the presidency and the leadership of the APC, having failed to record any meaningful achievement in their three years of failed governance, and having realised that they have nothing on which to anchor their ill-lucked 2019 re-election bid, have mobilised their agents to commence the falsification of economic and development indices across all sectors, with a view to create a false sense of performance.

“We are also privy to clandestine meetings and the engagement of certain unscrupulous Nigerians and foreign profiling firms, who have bee
heavily paid to fabricate, dish out and saturate our polity with fake performance indices and contrived polls in favour of the failed and incompetent President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government.
“This face-saving stunt is being coordinated by a member of the cabal in the presidency alongside two prominent cabinet ministers and a top member of the APC,” the party alleged.

PDP claimed that APC agents have infiltrated federal ministries and agencies with a view to inject fake performance figures, while the cabal is mounting pressure on statistics-based organisations to manipulate performance indices in favour of the failed presidency.

“We however wish to use this opportunity to alert the media, all
Nigerians and the international community to, in the interest of our people, crosscheck all figures and indices coming from the presidency, the APC and uncertified profiling agencies, who are being used by the federal government in this new attempt to deceive the people,” he warned.

However, INEC has said it would take action to investigate the allegations.
The spokesman of the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, told journalists yesterday that the commission shares the same concerns as other stakeholders, including PDP on the matter, adding that it has decided to look into all the complaints about the voter register.

He also denied the charge that the commission’s move to involve the EFCC in monitoring election expenses by parties and politicians was to undermine them.

Oyekanmi said: “We appreciate the concern of the PDP and the danger In the narrative of the underage voting.
“We want to assure them PDP and all Nigerians INEC is determined to get to the root of the matter. You will recalled that following the commission meeting held in Lagos, the Chairman announced that a committee to be chaired by a national commissioners and other management staff of the commission including the Voter Register Department will investigate the matter.

“The question is that did the Kano State Electoral Commission use our Voter Register, this and many other concerns will be investigated.
“We think PDP should exercise patience to see how the issue will be handled.
“Since the new commission under Yakubu came in we have been improving on the electoral processes.
“As far as reviewing voter register and handling the raised issue we are in the same page with PDP and concerned Nigerians,” he said.

On the issue of EFCC monitoring of parties campaign fund, Oyekanmi said that the call by the electoral empire was not targeted at any political parties or Politicans.
He said that the collaboration of INEC and EFCC started when some staff of the commission were accused of corruption after the 2015.
The staff were investigated by the antigraft agency without any interference, INEC gave the needed support and some of the staff were interdicted.

“When the chairman make the statement he did not mention a specific political party or politician.
“The call was made out the concerns about INEC not monitoring finances of parties and infractions that it is part of EFCC mandate and it will do well with that.
“It was never targeted at any politician or PDP. It was borne out of the question that people were asking and the refusal of political parties to submit their campaign funds report to the commission.”