By Omeiza Ajayi
ABUJA – In spite of the fact that it did not conduct last Saturday’s local government election in Kano state, the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC has promised to launch a probe into the circumstances surrounding the incidences of underage voting across the 44 local councils in the state.
Though the election was conducted by the Kano State Independent National Electoral Commission SIEC, the federal electoral umpire, INEC had provided SIEC with the voter register used for the elections.
But speaking Friday in Lagos at a workshop on the implementation of the Election Project Plan, INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu said the commission could not ascertain whether or not the voter register it gave the Kano SIEC was used or discarded.
He said; “By way of clarification, I wish to state that the Commission is aware of the discussion around the Voter Register and the concern expressed in certain quarters on the possible prevalence of ineligible registrants on the voter register. The Commission is equally concerned for the simple reason that the credibility of an election draws from the credibility of the voter register. The eligibility for registration as a voter in Nigeria is clearly defined in Section 12 (1) of the Electoral Act. This includes citizenship, residence and the attainment of the mandatory age of 18 years. Recent reports of violations by underage persons following the Local government elections in Kano State is deeply disturbing.
“It is true that the State Independent Electoral Commission had requested INEC for a copy of the voter register. I can confirm also that a soft copy of the register was made available to the State. The voter register in Kano State is the one used for the 2015 General Election. In July 2016, INEC used the same register to conduct a State Assembly bye-election in Minjibir Constituency which has 78,210 registered voters spread across 126 polling units clustered in 11 Registration Areas (Wards). In that election conducted by INEC, no single incidence of underaged voter was recorded. What therefore happened in the last Local Government election conducted by the State Electoral Commission? Was the voter register actually used or not?
“We wish to assure Nigerians that the matter will be fully investigated. A National Commissioner from INEC will lead a team to Kano next week involving technical staff of the Commission drawn from the Voter Registry (VR), Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and the Electoral Operations (EOps) Departments for an immediate and comprehensive investigation. We will share the findings of the investigation with Nigerians. I wish to assure Nigerians that going forward, we will interrogate the voter register nationwide in order to purge it of any possible ineligible registrants.
“Turning to the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise, I am glad to report that from July to December 2017, some 3,978,682 citizens were registered afresh nationwide; 135,127 unclaimed Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) were collected; and 166,073 requests for transfers and 334,086 requests for replacements of PVCs were recorded. For the new fresh registrants, the gender distribution shows 58% male and 42% female. In terms of the distribution by States, Rivers State recorded the highest number of new registrants, followed by Delta and Lagos while Kwara, Gombe and Ondo recorded the lowest. The Commission will be posting detailed information and analysis of the ongoing CVR on our website on a continuous basis for public information from next week”.