Exclusive: How INEC tracked over four million ghost voters

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The Advance Automatic Finger Identification System, AAFIS, is what the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, is deploying to ensure that it gets a ‘CLEAN’ Voter Register, VR.   But the process is slow and painstaking. Yet, the Commission is going ahead because it remains its surest way of providing Nigerians with a Valid Voter Register, VVR.

Already, over four million ghosts have been removed from the register; and still counting.   This report explains the details of how INEC is going about its ghost-bursting venture; and also asks whether the slash in the Commission’s 2014 budget from N93billion to N45billion would not be a spanner in the works.   The report is revealing.

By Jide Ajani

VOTERSSome of those hunting for votes illegally are now being hunted down.

Professor Attahiru Jega, the National Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has promised Nigerians that he would deliver a successful election in 2015.   He has already engaged the crucial first steps towards achieving that.   This is by way of ensuring that the Voter Register, VR, for the general election of next year is clean, very clean.

And already, INEC has identified and exorcised over four million ghosts from the register.
INEC is achieving this through the instrumentality of the Advance Automatic Finger Identification System, AAFIS.

At  the time of going to press, Sunday Vanguard gathered that the exercise is all but completed at the INEC headquarters in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.

Indeed, for all the states of the federation and Abuja, there has been a wiping out of names on the system.
And whereas states have lost names on the VR in thousands, that is a mere reflection of the level of multiple registrations done by some individuals, especially in collusion with unscrupulous politicians.

WHAT IS AAFIS
To have a clear understanding of the enormity of having a clean and valid register, this is how it works:
The over 119,000 polling units in Nigeria are the primary cells grouped into clusters – and that is the very point where it all starts. These clusters are what make up the various wards in the country.

When prospective voters engage the registration exercise, each is expected to provide data made up of but not limited to names, date of birth, residential address and the like.
The persons faces are  also captured.

For full-proof personalization and to give effect to the one-man-one-vote system, the biometrics of each person is captured – because it has been proved that no two individuals have the same biometrics configuration in the world (some wonder of science).

Mind you, at this stage, some individuals, out of a genuine fear that their data may not have been properly captured owing to the familiar glitches that characterize the registration exercise, may move to another polling unit to get registered again.

Yet, there are those who, doing the bidding of crooked politicians, could move round up to 20 polling units to register 20 times.
In some instances, some disgruntled and corrupt INEC officials, too, may elect to compromise the exercise by feeding multiple entries for a single person.

The objective of this cocktail of vices is just so that multiple voter cards, VCs ,would be issued in the name of different persons but all geared towards empowering a politician with access to many cards – just imagine 1,000 individuals registering in 20 places and being issued with cards (1,000 x 20 = 20,000).

All these are done at the polling unit level and are then brought together to create a register for wards, local governments, states and then the bulk VR itself for the country.

But before the final valid register is produced, another grueling though scientific process is engaged.
It is at this next stage that all the data for each registered person would be fed into a central system. This is where science demystifies criminality.

The raw data that is fed into the system creates a register of all that has happened in the field.
But that is not the register that Nigeria desires for a free and fair election.
Indeed, over the years, and as a consequence on relying on this type of raw data collection and compilation, Nigeria has never had a clean, valid VR.

What the system being put in place does is to clean the compiled data.
So, how does it work?
Simple!

And this is where AAFIS comes in.
Mind you, we already have a register.
But the register we have is just the result of the compilation of all that happened in the field – including, ridiculously, of course, the putative genetically engineered 20,000 prospective voters by just 1,000 people.

And whereas the process of AAFIS is slow (and should be), it is the surest way to ensure that Nigeria gets a clean and valid VR.
This is not the first time it would be attempted.

But it is the first time that it would be moving to this stage where it is now because of the massive investment in the acquisition of cutting edge scientific equipment.
Once the AAFIS process is engaged using a cluster of computer systems, polling unit by polling unit, each registered voter’s data is presented and mapped – face, biometrics and all.

Because science has succeeded in putting a lie to crookedness, individuals who had tried to be smart by doing multiple registration would have their names popping up in the system separately (assuming they chose to use fake names).

But the science of AAFIS is that fake biometrics cannot be used.
And herein lies the catch:   No matter how many times an individual registers, the systems have been designed in such a way that even having registered 20 times, all the registration inputs would all fall into on single registration because the biometrics is one and one alone.

So, the product of this exercise is what is known as the Valid Voter Register, VVR.
Therefore, whereas the first outcome may have produced an over bloated register, the outcome from the AAFIS programme would have succeeded in cleaning the first product.

At the INEC headquarters on Zambezi Street, Maitama, Abuja, this exercise is at its completion stage.
Very interesting revelations are emerging as a result of the AAFIS programme.

However, the reduction in the budgetary proposal sent in by INEC for the 2014 year may create the seemingly unintended consequence of compromising this process.
This, sources say, is because the procurement and issuance of the Permanent Voter Cards, PVC, is tied to the programme.

SO FAR SO SCANDALOUS
Consequent upon further investigations by Sunday Vanguard regarding Jega’s move against electoral fraud with the full complement of AAFIS, it was discovered that another 3,600,397  names were deleted from the Voter Register, VR, in another 10 states of the federation – these figures are not connected with the earlier published deletion of 504,818 names from the register in respect of Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States.

The 10 states involved are Kebbi, Zamfara, Taraba, Gombe, Benue, Kogi, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Enugu and Abia.
The total names deleted from the Voter Register in the 13 states are 4,105,215.

The latest figures between 2011 and now are as follows:
Kebbi -1,638,308 but now 1,306,405
Zamfara – 2,045,131 but now 1,130,245
Taraba – 1,357,551 but now 1,184,950
Gombe – 1,318,377 but now 988,043
Benue – 2,390,884 but now 1,657,266
Kogi – 1,358,049 but now 1,234,074
Bayelsa – 640,372 but now 503,837
Akwa Ibom – 1,656,595 but now 1,443,227
Enugu – 1,374,583 but now 1,005,585
Abia – 1,536,264 but now 1,252,085

Sunday Vanguard  also learned that the distribution of the Permanent Voter Card, PVC, for these states would commence on May 23 to May 25; while the Continued Voter Registration, CVR, is expected to hold between May 28 and June 1.

It would be recalled that 108,529 voters were deleted from the VR  for Ekiti State.
The governorship election in the state holds on June 21, 2014.
In addition, the governorship election in Osun State, which holds on August 9, 2014, would witness the use of a voter register that has lost some 98,824 voters.

In fact, Anambra State, which reportedly had 2,011,746, in 2011, has now dropped to 1,714,290. What this means is that 297,456 names have been removed from the  state VR by virtue of the detection of irregular or double registration or the absence of fingerprints, a basic hallmark of the biometric registration.

OBASANJO’S INEC
Unfortunately, however, a poisoned cocktail of Nigeria’s political leadership, the electoral umpire and the perpetually intemperate aspiration and expectation on the part of the aggressive and agitated populace, all conspired in 2007 to ensure that the exercise was not carried out to the letter.

For instance, just before the general elections of 2007, INEC, under Professor Maurice Iwu, demonstrated to Nigerians that the electoral body was ready to ensure that the collation of results of that year’s election was done in real time.

This, it was hoped, would ensure that the perennial snatching of ballot boxes and the declaration of wrong figures would be avoided.

Therefore, Iwu, against all odds, succeeded in installing satellite facilities in the 774 LGs for the purpose of real-time results compilation from all parts of the country to complement the Electronic Voting System, EVS.
But this was scuttled by the leadership in the country at that time.

In fact, as part of preparations for and the need to show Nigerians that Iwu’s INEC was ready, the Commission pleaded with and got the support of some prominent Nigerian leaders to conduct a facility tour of the equipment.

Upon inspection of the Control Centre in Abuja, leading politicians, including General Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the then All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, as well  as a  former military head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, praised the efforts of INEC.

Unfortunately, the politicians ensured that  the EVS was not used.
Today, there is a fresh anxiety in some quarters that the ghost of truncation is once again in the air, especially with the slashing of the budget of INEC from N93billion to N45billion.

Mercifully, when Sunday Vanguard asked President Goodluck Jonathan,.during penultimate Sunday’s Presidential Media Chat, about this issue and its implication  for ensuring the conduct of a free and fair election, the latter explained that everything  would be done to ensure that INEC gets all the funding it requires.

IF EVS FAILS AGAIN
The consequences of the short fall in budgetary provision are manifold.
Firstly, the Commission may not have the funds it requires this year.

Secondly, it would have to prioritize and dump some projects it would have undertaken had the funds been approved as requested.

Add to this the challenge associated with release of funds; in the event that the funds are released late.
For an institution like INEC, there are some activities that are time-bound and cannot be left to the destructive vagaries of delay in release of funds.

That is not all.
The most critical project that INEC plans to embark on this year preparatory to the general elections of next year is the engagement of the full complement of the EVS.

This, as a matter of necessity, implies the compulsion of the acquisition of the Card Reader.
Another integral component of this is the PVC.

Some of the facilities required for the prosecution of these  are not on the shelf for INEC to pick whenever funds are made available.
These are equipment that are country-specific, to be ordered for specifically and customized to suit the needs of the electoral umpire in Nigeria, taking into cognizance the peculiarity of the nation’s voting arrangement.

The primacy of the conclusion of the EVS can be located in the provision of an authentic and clean Voter Register, VR.
Therefore, the AAFIS programme of INEC needs to be carried through.
Also, Professor Jega needs the encouragement and support of Nigerians.

Already, Jonathan has enlisted his support – at least judging from his response to Sunday Vanguard’s question at the Media Chat.

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