Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
The apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, last night accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of deliberate plan to disfranchise Igbo people in the 2019 general election.
President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief John Nnia Nwodo, made the allegation in Enugu when the state INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr. Emeka Ononamadu, paid him a courtesy visit.
Nwodo said the shortage of registration materials in virtually all the states in the South-east zone in the on going Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise was part of a deliberate plot by the election management body.
Nwodo said he had visited many of the registration centres and had come to the conclusion that the South-east is shortchanged.
“I am of the conclusion that INEC has deliberately denied this area of registration materials in other to ensure that we are under registered. I say this not because I am the PG of Ohanaeze Ndigbo but I say this as a lawyer who respects evidence,” he said.
The President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, who said the machines deployed to Southeast for the CRV exercises were slow and not enough, noted that the machines he saw INEC deployed in the northern Nigeria for the same exercise were modern and efficient.
According to him, “Let me use my home as example: I come from Ukehe in Igbo-Etiti Local Government Area. Last week I went home to check what was going on; first I went to confirm whether my own voter’s card was valid, I was told that it is valid. But my local government area had the presence of INEC in less than three polling units. In my ward, INEC was present in only one polling unit in my village and luckily, it was my polling booth.
“That booth has between 18 and 20 polling booths which are registration booths. Now there was only one machine in my ward; that machine is in my registration area and unlike the machines I saw in the North when I went there which captures five fingers instantaneously. The machine in my registration area can only capture one finger at a time and there two polling booths in one side and therefore, it should be two registration centre but there was only one registration machine.
“They had run out of laminating sheet and therefore everyone given a temporary voters card didn’t have it laminated and villagers who deal with palm oil and all sources of charcoal and firewood would have tendencies to mutilate the temporary voter card before the election if they don’t get a permanent one before the election, and it may even be difficult to recognise their face or their thumbprint or signatures.
“Secondly, your staff were very hardworking, but the maximum registration they can achieve in a day was 48 people and there were twice the number of people waiting who were not registered. My projection is that in two days they were able to register 96 voters against over 500.
“If you want us to pay to hire more machines, we are ready to do so. If you want us to pay for staff that you may not have enough to deploy to our places, we are prepared to raise money from Igbos people, but we feel shortchanged.
“And information from the chairman of my local government area is that this kind of thing is happpening in other places where there are skeletal registration. My question is if there are enough machines to deploy to all the polling booths on the day of election why is it difficult to deploy many for the registrations? If you have logistic problems we are prepared to help. The local government is prepared to help, the state government is prepared to help. I am willing to offer myself as conduit pipe between them and your organisation to ensure that we have proper registrations.”
The president general equally lamented that while Igbos were being disenfranchised in the South east; over 11.6 million Igbo people in northern Nigeria are equally being discriminated against from registration of voters, which he said is an inalienable constitutional right of all Nigerians.
“Our people in the North told me that in the queues, the indigenes are treated before them. And I like to use this opportunity in your presence to ask that you send this message to your headquarters. This kind of discrimination against Igbo in the registration is not good and healthy for our national polity,” he said.
Earlier in his address, the REC, Ononamadu, said the visit was part of its outreach to critical stakeholders in election process which Ohanaeze Ndigbo was one of.
“We need a lot of opportunities to do more before 2019 elections. One of our major objectives is to begin to build trust among critical stakeholders and also to create that openness of sharing of information so that every stakeholder can be on the same page before, during and after election. This we have tried to do using the party structures, the traditional leaderships, and the president generals of which we held numerous meetings before now to enable us understand what the key problems are, and the challenges that will confront us now and in 2019 so that we begin to work on them as early as possible.”