By Emma Amaize
WARRI—CROSS River State Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mr. Mike Igini, weekend, gave an insight into the new measures by the Prof. Attahiru Jega_led Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to counter election fraudsters in the 2011 polls.
He said that INEC will, in the next few weeks, “roll out comprehensive activities for the voters’ registration exercise, which is key to a successful election anywhere in the world,” adding that Nigerians should participate fully in the exercise.
Speaking at a reception for him by the Urhobo For Free and Fair Elections, 2011 Forum, led by Chief Love Ohwevwo at his country_home, Kokori in Delta State, Saturday, Igini, who is representing Delta State in INEC said the 120,000 Direct Data Capture, DDC, machines ordered by the commission would be specially configured to serve only the 120,000 registration centres in the country, adding that they would not be moved to other registration units.
The occasion which was presided over by the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin, UNIBEN, Prof. Andrew Onokerhoraye, OON, was attended by politicians from across the political parties, including Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, who was represented by the Commissioner for Water Resources, Dr. Chris Oghenechovwe.
Others were Chairman of Delta Elders, Leaders and Stakeholders Forum, Chief Godwin Ogbetuo and gubernatorial aspirant, Chief Ovie Omo-Agege, represented by his top aide, Mr. Egbo Jaro.
Igini who spoke on “Free, Fair and Credible Elections, 2011: Processes and Procedure” revealed that in 2006, INEC had only 23,000 DDC machines, and that paved way for some highly placed politicians to conspire with some dishonest officials of the commission to divert the machines to their homes/ hideouts for thumb-printing and fake registration with palm kernels and other things.
Branding of DDC machines
Igini said that under the new dispensation, a DDC machine for a particular polling unit cannot be used in another location because it has been branded for each registration centre/polling unit, ward, each of the 774 local government areas in the country, senatorial district and state.
His words: “The DDC machines coming to Delta State will be configured for the state, the ones coming to the senatorial districts in the state will also be configured, so is the one for the wards. You cannot carry one from one ward to the other. The one for Orerokpe, for instance, cannot be taken to Orogun; it will have code for each ward, and this is part of the measures being put in place.”
He said that INEC took the decision despite the whopping $240 million cost of the 120,000 DDC machines to the country because from its study, it knew that rigging starts with the registration exercise, not on the actual day of election. He added that if the commission failed to get the voters’ registration right, the whole thing would be flawed ab initio.
Igini noted that any politician, political party or thugs who snatched ballot box (es) on Election Day to stuff it with fake voting papers should forget it because once such a thing happened, votes from the affected area or areas would be automatically nullified and anybody caught in the act would become a candidate for prison.
The REC asserted that sale and purchase of voter’s identity card was punishable with a two-year jail term under the new Electoral Act and noted that the ballot paper for the election would be generated on the spot on the day of voting only on the presentation of the card by the valid owner.
He said: “In Delta State, where we have 25 local governments with 3,635 polling units, we also refer to them as registration centres. Delta Central Senatorial district has 1, 263 registration centres located in the 23 kingdoms of Urhobo land, you are going to have DDC machines in each of the registration centres. So, expectedly, you will have 1,263 DDC machines.”
He added that nobody had the right to take the machine elsewhere other than the approved centres for registration of voters.
Igini said same rules in Delta State were applicable in Cross River and other states of the country but lamented that INEC officials contributed in the past to the anomalies due to greed.
The REC stressed that as far as INEC was concerned, Nigerians had to take their destiny in their hands by coming out to register during the voters’ registration exercise and using their power as the electorate to vote those they consider as their right choices into office.
He said it was not the duty of INEC to tell them who to vote for and that they should register in order to perform their democratic responsibility, noting: “Those who will matter in 2011 are those that will cast the votes, not those of us who will count the votes.”