BusinessDay

Nigerians react to INEC’s call to cleanup voters’ register

Some Nigerians have expressed varying opinions about the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) call for assistance in cleaning up the voter’s register.

This call from the electoral umpire came after pictures surfaced online of children as young as 10 registering for their Permanent Voter Card (PVC), an exercise that would enable them to cast their vote in next year’s election. An exercise that is in clear violation of the electoral laws of the country.

Festus Okoye, INEC’s Commissioner for Information and Voter Education, acknowledged the lapses that resulted in underage voters during an interview with Channels TV on Monday but pleaded with Nigerians to assist with the cleanup process of the voters’ register.

Okoye had said during the interview that the commission was trying to make the effort to file complaints easy for Nigerians. All that was expected was for Nigerians to go to their website and register their complaints if they found individuals suspected of being underage on the register.

He said that the moment the person raises an objection or makes a claim, the person will be given a slip and given an indication of where these claims and objections will be heard because that is what Section 19 of the Electoral Act provides.

Read also: Underage voters: INEC solicits Nigerians help in cleaning up voters’ register

He promised that with a collective effort, the commission and Nigerians could wipe out the issue of underage voting in our electoral system and make our system “authentic, robust, and a register Nigerians can be proud of.”

Manipulating the electoral system by resorting to underage voters had been used as an effective tool by some politicians in the north to gain an unfair advantage in the voting process, many political analysts had argued.

As part of the strategy, Okoye had said that the commission was going to merge the two registers.

“The point I am making is that what we have to do is integrate two registers.

“The one resulting from the continuous voter registration exercise that occurred between June 28th, 2021, and July 31st, 2022, with the register originating in 2011.

“So what we have done is integrate both of them and put the entire thing out for people to take a look at,” he said.

However, some Nigerians have expressed mixed feelings about the electoral body via their Twitter accounts.

Inibehe Effoing, a public interest and human rights lawyer with an active Twitter handle of @InibeheEffoing that has over 103,000 followers, wants political parties to engage the services of forensic experts to carry out a nationwide comprehensive audit of the Voters’ Register.

“I call on political parties to engage the services of forensic experts to do a nationwide comprehensive audit of the Voters’ Register,” he Twitted. “It’s clear that INEC is either compromised or incompetent on the issue of expunging the names of underage persons from the Voters’ Register.”

He went on to say that after the audit was completed, the report should be used to file claims and objections with the goal of cleaning up the register.

He feared that the road to getting a credible, reliable, and incorruptible electoral system is long and arduous. “Nigeria has a long way to go in attaining a credible electoral system,” he noted.

He argued that the political class has never meant well for the country. According to him, all “they just want is access to power or a connection of some sort (which may be direct, indirect, partisan, ethnic, or religious) with those in power. They do not care if the country burns to ashes. This is the sad reality of our country today.”

Another prominent individual, Oluseun Onigbinde (@seunonigbinde), who is a director at BudgIT and has over 82,000 followers on Twitter, disagreed with INEC, insisting that it is the job of the commission to clean up its mess, not his.

“Why is the cleanup of the national register meant to be my work?” he asked. “What really stops Nigeria from having an organised single citizen database where voters are drawn from?” he probed further. “Why can’t we just be a modern society that values data?”

A follower of his (@i_amintegrity) responded and sacratically asked, “Lolssss…We can’t data sir, it will expose the North, there population is a fraud use for political gains.”

Another respondent, @iamhajisulu, agreed with him, saying, “The constitution says so, Sir. As a matter of fact, it’s so powerful that we dare not seek to make it better even with new realities and technological advancements absent when the constitution was first made.”

On some radio talk shows in Lagos where the issue was discussed, some respondents have questioned the rationale behind the citizens’ call to help clean up the voters’ register. Some even argued that if the electoral body, which is supposed to be alive to its constitutional mandate, had done the needful, especially after the clear cases of underage voters in the 2015 and 2019 elections, this shouldn’t have resurfaced.

However, some respondents stated that the call was justified and that it was the civic responsibility of all Nigerians to assist in saving the country from impending collapse