BY TORDUE SALEM
ABUJA—Inspite of hitches in the on-going voter registration in the country, Project 2011 Swift Count, a group of civil society, has scored the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, performance so far above 90%.
The independent monitoring group, however, added that the process had, in part, been marred by the malfunctioning of some Direct Data Capture, DDC, machines and shortages, as well as the inadequacy of essential materials in some areas, also called on INEC to release daily statistics of registrants per state and local government.
Project 2011 Swift Count is a joint initiative of the Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria, FOMWAN, Justice, Development and Peace/ Caritas Nigeria, JDPC, Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, and Transition Monitoring Group, TMG, to promote free, fair, peaceful, credible and legitimate elections for all Nigerians.
The National Steering Committee of the Project, co-chaired by Dafe Akpedeye, SAN, and Mashood Erubami, in its interim report released yesterday on the exercise, said despite the shortcomings, there was significant improvement by INEC from what was recorded during the first week of the exercise.
The report read by Dafe Akpedeye said: “Over all, as of Saturday January 29, the originally scheduled end for the exercise, we are encouraged by the reports of our observers on the registration process.
“As is widely known, voter registration started extremely poorly, but has significantly improved.
While it has not been perfect, INEC has recognized these challenges and has acted promptly to address the shortcomings.
“However, there are still problems with registration centres not opening, with the functioning of DDC systems and shortages of essential materials.
“In two specific areas-opening times and the functioning of the DDC systems, we saw dramatic improvement over time. Only 18 percent of centres opened by noon on the first day, but this increased to over 93 percent by the end of the first week and has remained at that level.
“Similarly, DDC systems went from operating properly throughout the day at 46 percent of centre’s at the start of registration to 79 percent of centres by the end of the second week”
The group said reports from its observers in all local governments across the country by the end of second week showed that 93 percent of registration centres were opened by noon; 86 percent had two registration officials present, while 82 percent had complete DDC systems.
“Similarly, 79 percent of centres had the DDC systems functioning throughout the day; 66 had all essential registration materials; 65 had sufficient materials throughout the day with 86 percent of centres opened throughout the day.
According to the group, only 44 percent of the centres had security personnel throughout the country, with the North east having the lowest of 34 percent.
It further explained that there were instances of attempts to disrupt the process in some areas, observing also that 11 percent of registration centres witnessed underage registration, while only 36 percent of the centres had party agents present to represent the interest of their political parties, except in the South West where 66 percent of centres had one or more party agent present.
Akpedeye explained that to arrive at the interim report, Project 2011 Swift Count deployed 958 trained and accredited observers to every local government area of the country.
“They arrived at centres at 7.30 in the morning and remained there until closing. Throughout the day, they sent observation reports via coded text messages to a National Information Centre, NIC, domiciled in Abuja.
“These real time reports captured precise and comprehensive information on whether the centres were equipped and operating, whether registration procedures were being carried out, and whether there were attempts to subvert the process”.
Besides, the project has called on INEC to ensure that all centres open and operate properly on the first day because unlike voter registration, there won’t be another opportunity to correct any problems.
It also charged INEC to make the process more transparent as possible by taking advantage of every opportunity to share information with voters, political parties and civil society groups. It called on the electoral body to publicly commit itself to releasing not only aggregate result, but also polling station results for all elections.