Monday, 17 March 2014
Ekiti State Commissioner assaults NYSC Corps Member in Moba LGA, Ekiti State during INEC Continuous Voter Registration Exercise.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is saddled with the responsibility of conducting elections at Federal and State levels in Nigeria. In order to conduct elections, it is germane for INEC to develop a robust and representative voters’ register. One of the ways INEC does this is to conduct Continuous Voter Registration (CVR).
According to the Nigerian Electoral Act,
"The Commission shall compile, maintain, and update on a continuous basis, a National Register of Voters, in this Act referred to as the “Register of Voters” which shall include the names of all persons entitled to vote in any Federal, State or Local Government or Area Council elections."
This CVR exercise is designed to enable voters who fall into the following categories, the opportunity to vote.
i. Citizens who were not upto 18 years of age as of the last time Voter Registration was conducted. The most recent voter registration exercise was conducted in January 2011.
ii. Citizens older than 18 years (as at January 2011) but who were not able to register for one reason or the other as of the time of the last Voter Registration Exercise.
iii. Citizens who registered in the last Voter Registration Exercise, but who had issues with their registration (such as incomplete finger prints). Since INEC has publicly stated that it will not make use of the addendum register used in 2011, all those on the addendum register will need to also get registered through the CVR.
It is common knowledge that INEC will be conducting two governorship elections in 2014. These are for Ekiti and Osun States. The Ekiti Governorship Election is slated to hold on the 21st of June while that of Osun State is fixed for the 9th of August. In order to provide an opportunity for Nigerian Citizens who belong to the above mentioned categories the opportunity to vote, INEC decided in accordance to the Electoral Act to conduct a Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) Exercise in Ekiti and Osun States. The CVR exercise commenced on the 12th March in both states and is expected to end on the 17th March.
There have been a number of challenges which civil society organizations have noted which have
plagued the ongoing exercise. Some of these challenges are itemised below:
i. Faulty equipment (this includes Direct Data Capture Machines (DDCM), Finger print scanners and printers).
ii. Inadequate logistics arrangement for a number for adhoc personnel. Some adhoc personnel stated that they had to use their own money to get transportation to and fro their places of deployment.
iii. Interruption of the registration process by political parties. Several wards visited clearly showed that politicians and members of political parties were influencing the registration process. In some cases these representatives of political parties would determine how the queue is formed, who should register first and in some cases give directives to the INEC registration officials.
iv. Double registration. It was very clear that some people would register in one ward and go to another ward the next day to re-register. Some registration officials explained that this was quite rampant.
v. Underaged voters. In some cases underaged voters could easily be seen being registered by INEC registration officers. However some other INEC officials would demand the presentation of a birth certificate from citizens who clearly look underaged.
Ilapeju/Ibariba Hall - Ward 8 - Ikere Ekiti 13/10/08
Iyin-Ekiti - Irepodun/Ifelodun LGA Ward 013/013/11
vii. Lackadaisical attitude of security officials. Security personnel were seen in most of the wards visited. The majority of wards had two or more security agents each. However it was very unfortunate that in cases where there was fighting amongst voters or assault on electoral officials, the security agents turned a blind eye while these circumstances went unabated.
The following video shows voters fighting in a registration area centre.
viii. Inadequate number of INEC personnel. The registration centers had just two INEC officials each which proved grossly inadequate for the huge crowds that were seen in a number of Registration Centres. In some cases political party officials provided support to the INEC officials and a couple of cases the security personnel helped the registration officials.
The pictures below are taken from a single Registration Centre with just two INEC officials attending to the mammoth crowd.
ix. Registration Centres should have been at polling units. INEC decided to conduct its registration exercise at Wards instead of Polling Units. Obviously it is cheaper to conduct CVR at wards because there are only 177 wards in Ekiti State for example, whereas there are 2195 polling units. However cost should be measured with effectiveness. Clearly the CVR exercise at Ward level is overbearing for the Adhoc personnel as earlier stated. Secondly, many voters participating in the CVR may not be too familiar with their Polling Units since they are being registered at their wards.
x. Movement of Registration Centres. There were some cases of movement of registration centers which seemed somewhat strange. For example, a polling unit 13/05/02/013 (Oja Omo/Near Oja Omo II in ILAWE II) was shifted from St. Michael Primary School (13/05/02/006) (which is the Registration Centre) to a tree adjacent to the house of the Chief of Staff to the Ekiti State Government. Another case is in Moba Local Government Area where the Registration Centre (13/15/01) was moved from Moba Grammar School to Moba Local Government Library / Oke Imope, Imoje, Ile Aarin (13/05/01/004). This seemed strange because the latter location is very small and congested while Moba Grammar School is very large and spacious.
The picture below shows that Moba Grammar School should be the registration area centre for Ward 1 in Moba LGA.
xi. Poor Publicity of the CVR exercise. INEC made a very small hand flyer which could be found with some adhoc personnel. However the Ekiti State Government and the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) were the only ones who made large posters which were pasted across the state. Fortunately, a large turnout of citizens was witnessed at Registration Centres probably from word of mouth and publicity from the aforementioned organizations.
The above mentioned challenges do not mean that it has all been gloom and doom in the CVR Exercise. INEC has made concerted efforts at ensuring that the exercise is successful and it is clear that the Commission endeavours to make the CVR exercise effective. For example a number of the INEC officials who stated that they had problems with their machines (after subsequent visits) stated that repairs were made in some cases and registration proceeded smoothly. INEC officials seemed well trained and knowledgeable of their tasks. There was relatively good deployment of security operatives (in terms of numbers per ward). Effectiveness of these security agents as earlier stated was of some concern.
It is however extremely unsettling that in the midst of the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration Exercise in Ekiti State acts inconsistent with the Electoral Act are being committed. An example is the overbearing actions of some representatives of political parties. An example of this is when party representatives try to prevent some people from being registered claiming that such people are not from that community or when party representatives exercise control over INEC registration officers. For example there are cases where observers will be asking questions from INEC officials with some representatives of political parties choosing to answer thus preventing the INEC registration officers from responding.
The most despicable act reported so far was committed by the Commisisioner of Youth and Sports, Ekiti State, Mr. Kayode Olaosebikan at Ward One Registartion Centre (13/15/01) in Moba LGA. On Saturday 15th March 2014 at 13/15/01 registration area, a Youth Corper ( Mr. Thompson, Itorobong Enobong with NYSC State Registration Code EK/13C/1859) was slapped twice by the Ekiti State Commissioner of Youth and Sports and some thugs released to assault the young man. The offense of this youth corper who also happens to be an INEC adhoc official was to point out to the registration officials in Ward One that a particular lady who wanted to get registered had been registered previously in his own ward (i.e. 13/15/02) the day before. According to the Youth Corp member the Commissioner stated that the lady must be allowed to register. The Youth Corper in question only made it known to his colleague that he should not register the woman because it would be double registration. According to the NYSC corp member, the Commissioner then slapped him saying to him that he, the Commissioner was his boss. Though the Youth Corper was assigned to Ward II (13/15/02) he was present at Ward I (13/15/01) at the time because the vehicle transporting the INEC officials carried officials for more than one ward. In this case those assigned to work at Ward One were dropped first. The assault of the Corper by suspected thugs on the instruction of the Commissioner lead the corper to take to his heels. The Youth Corper stated that he has reported the matter to the relevant security officials and even his administrative superiors in INEC. When the Electoral Officer of Moba LGA was engaged on this issue by some civil society observers on Sunday 16th March 2014, he confirmed knowledge of the incident.
Registration Area Centre where the Youth Corper was assaulted by Ekiti State Commissioner of Youth and Sports in Moba LGA - Moba Local Government Library / Oke Imope, Imoje, Ile Aarin (13/05/01/004)
Firstly, based on the serious and precarious nature of politics in Nigeria it is clear that INEC needs to take urgent and drastic actions concerning this incident. INEC should consider redeploying the affected corp member to another LGA to ensure his safety. In 2011 several NYSC Corp Members lost their lives due to the activities of desperate politicians. By this stage, security for election officials should be guaranteed. It is unfortunate that the security officials assigned to the ward could not even prevent the manhandling of a corper who left his parents and family to dutifully serve his nation.
Secondly the Commissioner of Youth and Sports, Ekiti State should be prosecuted in accordance with the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which does not permit anybody (no matter how highly placed) to manhandle an innocent citizen carrying out his official duties.
Thirdly, INEC should ensure that political parties and political office holders are cautioned and prevented from intimidating voters and especially INEC Registration Officers.
It is extremely urgent that INEC attends to this matter immediately as it could cause disaffection amongst adhoc personnel thus affecting Corper recruitment for the actual election scheduled for the 21st June this year. No NYSC Corp member will be happy if he or she is assaulted and nothing is done about it. Just last week, the INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega restated the Commission's commitment to the security of corp members saying that the 2011 experience would not be repeated. Details of this can be found at http://www.punchng.com/news/inec-promises-security-for-corps-members.
It is hoped that INEC will come to the rescue of this young man who is a victim of the desperation of Nigerian politicians.