Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja
The Independent Service Delivery Monitoring Group (ISDMG), an election observer group, has frowned on the non-participation of political parties in the country in the clean-up of votersâ€™ register since 2011.
It said the existence of credible votersâ€™ register is pivotal to having a free, fair and credible election, adding that reactionary approach of crying after the milk was spilt was not in the interest of the country’s democracy and particularly free and fair election.
The Executive Director of the group, Dr. Chima Amadi disclosed this at a press conference in Abuja, where he said the need to highlight and bring to the fore the status of the countryâ€™s votersâ€™ register became imperative following the massive outcry that trailed the 2018 Kano state local government elections that was characterised by underage voters.
The outrage, he noted, prompted the group to send FoI request to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to find out if it has been complying with its statutory powers to compile, maintain and update voters’ register has provided in Section 9 of the Electoral Act 2010 as amended.
Amadi said: â€œThe Electoral Management Body in response to FoI request we sent to them responded that since last two election cycles that they have been issuing copies of the register to political parties, there was no record of any of the political party ever approaching the commission with any claims and objections as per the contents of the register.
â€œOur FoI request included availing us with evidence of such presentation of copies to the political parties and we hereby furnish you with them.
â€œWe were astonished to learn that all opposition parties in Kano State and indeed all other states where allegations of underage voters, aliens and other unqualified persons have ever been made, no political party in the country has ever reached out to INEC with any objection to the copies of the register which they hold.
â€œThere is no doubt that political parties remain an integral part of the process aimed at achieving the desired reforms of institutionalising a credible electoral process. If they are failing in their responsibilities, it falls in the civil society to remind and reawaken them to their responsibilities,
â€œCrying after the milk is spilt when there was ample opportunity to ensure the milk did not spill is reactionary and not in the interest of democracy and particularly free and fair election,â€ Amadi stated.
On his part, Comrade Ezenwa Nwangwu said it was not possible to input anything in the votersâ€™ register without the knowledge of the community, party and the complicity if the security agents.
He said the lies that amenities are accorded to communities according to their voting strength has made communities desperate, hence another reason of having underage voters.
Nwangwu stated that all stakeholders are sleeping on their responsibilities to ensure that the country has a clean voter register, saying there was need to make 2019 election the election of the people and that every inch of the process must be followed by the citizens.
â€œWe need to put constant attention on the activities of INEC, if we sleep on that function, we will pay dearly for it. The biggest challenge we have in the electoral integrity in our country is conspiracy; community conspiracy, citizensâ€™ conspiracy, and security agentsâ€™ conspiracy. We need to deal with those issues as we go forward, otherwise we will wait until after the election and as usual we will begin to apportion blamesâ€, he added.