Catholic Bishops Demand Probe of Alleged Plot to Manipulate Voters’ Register

•Insist on free, fair process by INEC

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Catholic Church in Nigeria has asked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to investigate alleged plot to manipulate the electoral register in different parts of Nigeria.

The church urged the federal government and security agencies to work with the commission to deliver a free, fair and credible general election.

The Secretary General of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria,

while addressing journalists during the 2023 Media Parley organised by the Church in Abuja, yesterday,  Very Reverend Fr Zacharia Samjumi charged political parties and their candidates to understand that elections are not do or die affair.

Speaking on the issues being raised ahead of the election, Samjumi said INEC should ensure that it clears any doubt about the efficient use of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the santity of the voters’ register.

He said: “In order to guarantee a level field of participation for all voters, INEC has a huge burden to guarantee that BVAS will work on election day in all the 176,846 polling units across the country, as well as the efficient electronic transmission of results from the polling units.

“This will engender transparency and ensure trust in the electoral process. We are aware of credible allegations of manipulating the electoral register in different parts of Nigeria.

“We implore INEC to investigate these allegations diligently and to ensure that to the extent that they are well-founded, anyone implicated is brought to account in a timely fashion.

“Furthermore, it has been discovered that multiple registrations happened alongside willful and incorrect entries of voters’ information; we implore the Commission to ensure that the necessary due diligence is observed in the accurate documentation and cleaning up the voters’ register”, he added.

Samjumi said the church had observed that rather than marketing a party’s agenda and a candidate’s manifesto through issue-based campaigns and discipline of language, some political parties’ campaigns were often characterised by the use of intemperate language, the issuance of threats, character assassination and the spread of misinformation.

“We urge all Nigerians, especially politicians and their agents, to be civil, decent, and respectful in their utterances as they canvass for votes and debate the country’s future.

“The political parties and candidates should understand that elections are not a do-or-die affair and remember that no one is so good enough to lead another without his/her consent.

“The candidates should stick to their signed peace accord and call on their followers to shun violence and thuggery. Only a peaceful election can guarantee the peaceful Nigeria we desire to live in”, the Catholic church said.

Father Samjumi also told Nigerians that the election was an opportune moment that must be properly used.

 He said better life awaits Nigerians if they do the right thing in the forthcoming election.

“To this end, the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria has released a Pastoral letter on the 2023 General Elections in Nigeria, focusing on the decorum and discipline required for the free, fair and credible conduct of these elections.

“In their document, the Bishops remind all men and women of goodwill in Nigeria that Democracy cannot thrive in any society where the rule of law is frequently breached.

“We, therefore, call on all Nigerians, irrespective of creed or tribe, who are of voting age and have registered, to fully participate in the electoral process, which includes registering, collecting their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC), voting and protecting their votes to ensure they count”, he stated.

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