After one month of CVR, logistic challenges persist
• Only Six Registration Centres In Kano Metropolis
• Three Biometric Kits For Obio-Akpo With 600,000 Voter Strength
• Failure Of Machines Frustrate Enugu Residents
One month after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) commenced the ongoing nationwide Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), the exercise is still bogged down by a litany of complaints from affected members of the public.
Despite the electoral body’s assurances that it had perfected necessary logistics to ensure a seamless enrollment of newly qualified voters and others, a groundswell of complaints have continued to trail the exercise from different parts of the country.
INEC’s Director of Voter Education and Publicity, Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, ahead of the exercise assured that necessary logistics had been put in place, but the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), countered him shortly after the exercise took off, alleging that some INEC officials had perfected plans to deny qualified Igbo the opportunity of getting registered.
The group in a statement in Owerri, endorsed by its National Secretary, Comrade Ugwuoke Ibem Ugwuoke said: “The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra MASSOB raises grave concerns over the ongoing voter registration exercise in Igbo land where Ndigbo are being frustrated and disfranchised by staff of INEC.
It added: “Last week at Aguata, MASSOB witnessed indiscriminate criminal acts of INEC officials at Aguata registration centre, at a remote location in Ekwuluobia, where youths were denied registration by INEC staff on grounds that they were 18 years old at the point of the last registration in 2014, but they failed to get registered.”
In Rivers State, prospective voters are clamouring for the decentralisation of the exercise. This clamour stems from INEC’s failure to deploy enough personnel and equipment for the exercise in areas like Obio-Akpor and Port Harcourt local councils. Consequently, persons willing to be registered are constrained to queue for lengthy hours before being attended to.
Since the exercise commenced, a throng of prospective voters have, on daily basis, besieged the INEC office along East-West Road, Eligbolo in Obio-Akpor Local Council. Despite being the council with highest number of registered voters in the state, only three biometric voter registration machines are deployed there.
Dan Akachukwu, like some other prospective voters had to travel to Obio-Akpo from Choba as early as 5.00am in order to be attended to in good time, having tried twice earlier since the registration started without success.
He argued that it was preposterous for INEC to centralise the registration exercise bearing in mind, the massive voting strength of Obio-Akpor.
“It is disheartening for INEC to deploy only three biometric voter registration kits in Obio-Akpor Local Council estimated to have over 600, 000 registered voters. In order not to disenfranchise prospective voters, INEC should urgently revert to the unit registration,” he said.
At the INEC registration centre in Port Harcourt, youths lamented the slow pace of registration as only four machines were in use.
Donald Alaye of the Concerned Nigerian Group, which is monitoring the exercise, observed that the exercise had been slow because of INEC insistence on centralising it.
He said people in the riverine areas might not be enthusiastic to travel to their local council headquarters to be registered, especially, when they have to wait for hours before they are attended to.
Due to the slow pace of registration, some persons who are not keen about voting, but merely need the voter card for identification purposes are going to neigbouring councils such as Oyigbo, Emohua, Eleme and Okrika to get registered.
The state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Aniedi Ikoiwak, said those who want the exercise taken to polling units are perhaps unaware that the exercise will last till 2019.
He added that the Electoral Act stipulates that, “continuous voter registration should be held in INEC local government headquarters.”
In Enugu State, the exercise is seriously challenged by constant failure of data capturing machines and the far-flung nature of registration centres.
At some centres that The Guardian visited, eligible voters who turned up for the exercise were asked to return the following day after writing down their names. Those who had registered a day earlier lamented that they spent over four hours before they were registered due to the slow pace of registration, and the large turnout of persons.
At Enugu South Local Council, the exercise was moved from the secretariat to INEC office in Amechi-Awkunanaw, and prospective voters were only informed of the centre relocation upon getting to the council secretariat. For over two weeks, only one capturing machine has been working at the INEC office in Amechi-Awkunanaw.
It was gathered that one of the machines went bad penultimate Thursday and that the development was reported to the INEC headquarters in Enugu same day, but an alternative machine had not been provided at the time of filing this report.
Some eligible voters said they had to queue for several hours, or return the next day to continue with the process, as only 40 persons maximum were attended to daily.
An INEC official, who craved anonymity said the location of the office also affected the turnout of prospective voters.
“This place is too lonely and surrounded by bushes. So I believe it is hindering the exercise. The police come in from time to time to check what is happening and power supply here is very unstable. We try as much as possible to capture at least 40 persons per day according to the names we have on the list. Those we cannot capture are asked to return the next day.”
INEC’s Administrative Secretary for Enugu State, Dr. Hyacinth Aniemena, however, assured that the commission would overcome its challenges and capture more people while the exercise lasts, adding that it has continued to replace faulty machines and send support staff to areas with large turnout in order to save the situation.
Large-scale irregularities amidst shortfall of critical logistics is bedeviling the exercise taking place in all 44 INEC local council offices in Kano State.
Aminu Nuhu, a legal practitioner, deplored the restriction of the exercise to local council headquarters, adding that this will deny many the opportunity to register.
He equally wondered why the registration was not done on weekends and public holidays when some people are slightly free.
“Even though INEC says it is a continuous exercise, it still needs to create an atmosphere where people can register with ease. For instance, it is only in six centres that you can register within Kano metropolis, and hundreds of thousands of prospective voters reside in the metropolis. I think they need to create more centres,” Aminu stated.
At the INEC office in Nassarawa Local Council, activities grinded to a halt after the team exhausted its fuel supply for the day, and that forced many to return home last week.
The situation was not different at Municipal, Gwale and Kumbotso centres, where INEC staff revealed that the exercise was halted due to poor electricity supply as fuel supply for powering generating sets was limited.
“We have limited provision for fuel to power our generating sets because public power supply is very poor. We have to rely on power generating sets, which running them costs a lot of money daily. That is why we shut down for the day once we run out of fuel,” one of the officers explained.
Director of Public Affairs at INEC Headquarters in the state, Muhammad Garba Lawan, who dismissed claims of poor turnout, explained that creating additional centres may not be necessary since the exercise will continue throughout the year.
Things appear a bit smooth in Edo State as far as the exercise is concerned. At Igueben, Edo Central Senatorial District, the turnout has remained impressive. An INEC official, Mrs. Priscillia Imoudu-Sule said: “So far, the registration has been going on smoothly. We have not experienced hitches as the commission has made provision for alternative power supply.
However, a visit to some registration centres in Oredo, Egor and Ikpoba-Okha local councils indicated low turnout of prospective voters.
One of the would-be voters said: “For now, we have not experienced any problem and as you see we are very few waiting to be registered.
Meanwhile, the Area Electoral Officer (administration) in Oredo Local Council, David Anwadike, said: “Since the exercise commenced, the turnout has been very encouraging and we have not experienced any challenge. For now we don’t have any issues.”
In Akoko-Edo, qualified persons are coming out to register, but INEC officials always show up from 10.00am for an exercise that is supposed to take-off at 8.00am. There is also shortage of manpower in the area.
“Our people are ready for the exercise and are coming out in their numbers everyday, but there appears to be shortage of manpower on the part of INEC,” Ajibogun Johnson told The Guardian in Igarra, Headquarters of the local council.
Head of Department, Voter Education and Publicity, Francis Ikpefua, said INEC is prepared for the exercise and would do all it takes to ensure that it succeeds.