The display of the national voter register was worth it

Ahead of the 2019 general election and in the spirit of the law, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) last week displayed the National Voter Registrar which would ensure citizens participation in the democratic process. The list contains 84.3 million prospective voters made up of 69.7million from the last exercise in 2015 and the14.6 million freshly registered. It was displayed across the 120 polling units across the nation.

The exercise was designed to avail eligible voters and other Nigerians the opportunity to raise claims and objections concerning the names, details and particulars of voters, all aimed at dispelling doubts that the electioneering process is clean and transparent. “By cross checking the list, the voters wittingly would have begun the battle to frustrate rigging of the election,” said Ike Abonyi, spokesman to the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Even though the exercise was just within a week, it was worth it. Across the states, many prospective voters who made it to the registration booths discovered to their dismay that their names were either misspelled, missing or found in wrong places – at units and wards far from their places of residence. Other complaints ranged from the omission of photographs, inaccurate dates of births to the appearance of names of dead people and foreigners on the register. In Lagos State for instance, some nationals of Cameroon, Chad, Niger, among others, were found in the register. Indeed, the Chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu said that the commission also discovered during its in-house cleaning exercise some 300,000 extraneous names through its Automatic Fingerprints Identification System (AFIS), a system used by the electoral body to check for multiple registrations.

The impunity recorded during the last local government election in Kano State where underage voting was allegedly widespread had stirred concerns among Nigerians about the reliability of the National Voter Register. This is because the credibility of the next election, as in any other, is contingent on a credible voter register. Fortunately, the display of the register by INEC had ensured that all the relevant stakeholders were given opportunity in accordance with the law, to read, scrutinise and make complaints to the electoral body when necessary.

Based on INEC schedule of activities, the electoral empire would on 7th January 2019 publish the official register of voters for the general election after corrections must have been made. We urge all the stakeholders to do their bit, compile the complaints and help the electoral body in a compelling assignment of aiding and improving representative government. That is the only way to safeguard the credibility of the registration process.

Besides, INEC has the additional urgent duty of ensuring that many prospective voters pick up their permanent voter cards (PVCs) lying fallow across the states. About 10 million PVCs are reportedly still idle. According to reports, Lagos for instance, has in excess of 1.4 million voter cards yet to be collected. They need to in order to bolster confidence in the democratic process. Nigerians can only influence the direction of government if they possess their voter cards. The INEC has to address this huge challenge by perhaps deploying more resources in terms of manpower and materials to the centres to ease the cumbersome distribution process. There is therefore the need to step up the awareness campaign for those who have not been able, for one reason or the other, to go pick up their PVCs.

It is apparent that the task will be an uneasy one, particularly in times of paucity of funds. But these are things that must be accomplished before February 2019 so as to create a level playing field for all candidates, all political parties and to conduct the general election in accordance with global professional standards.

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