By Ogalah Ibrahim
The Katsina State Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Alhaji Jibril Zarewa has blamed the initial low number of registered voters in Katsina State on the suspension of telecommunications services in 17 Local Government Areas (LGAs) due to insecurity.
Zarewa made the claim why addressing journalists in the state at the INEC office on Thursday.
The shutdown of the telecommunication services, he said was part of moves by security operatives to clampdown on bandits in the state following the incessant attacks recorded in the area.
Zarewa noted that as a result of the suspension of telecommunication services in the 17 LGAs, over half of the state’s population could not access the continued voters registration exercise.
“Like some other sister states, Niger, Kaduna, Zamfara, and sokoto, we (Katsina) had our own share of security challenges, particularly, in the frontline LGAs and some more.
“The state government at a time found it necessary to suspend telecommunication network. Therefore we had to suspend voters registration for the duration of that suspension.
“That’s why we suspended the registration of voters in those 17 LGAs out of 34, which means at a time, we were not doing registration for half of the state, made up of the Local Governments of Jibia, Batsari, Kurfi, Dutsinma, Danmusa, Safana, Matazu, Musawa Kafur Malumfashi, Danja, Bakori, Sabuwa, Funtua, Dandume, Faskari and Kankara. These mentioned areas are in the outskirts of Rugu forest where most of the bandits are alleged to be hiding.
“That was why at a time, we were moving with states that has lesser population or lesser number of registered voters. Because if you check, Katsina State is number 4 by population in Nigeria; after Kano, Lagos, Kaduna, then is Katsina. It was also number 4 for voters registration after Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina.
“Then later another reason, people were rarely coming out after the suspension was lifted.”
However, Zarewa noted that recently, the state has been witnessing a surge in the registration of voters in the state.
“I want to say and put on record that the Katsina Emirate Council last week did something very robustly, by engaging the relevant stakeholders and putting more impetus with district and village ward heads to go round and mobilize people to come out for registration.
“As a result, from Friday last week and even this week, we have seen the jump over what we use to experience in the past. We have seen a lot of people turning out for the registration.
“If you look at the review of the records of registration done within the week, you can see that Katsina is now number 23 in registration. So we believe that we will do better these few days that remains before closing.”