The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), yesterday, vowed that the alleged incident of underage voting during the recent local government elections in Kano State would be fully investigated.
Also yesterday, former President Goodluck Jonathan expressed support for moves by the National Assembly to re-order the 2019 general election’s sequence as contained in the recent amendment to the Electoral Act.
The commission’s position was contained in a speech delivered by its Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu at an “Election Project Plan Implementation Workshop” held in Lagos.
Yakubu, who described the Kano incident as “deeply disturbing”, said a National Commissioner from INEC would lead a team to Kano next week to probe the incident.
He said that technical staff of the commission drawn from the Voter Registry, Information and Communications Technology and the Electoral Operations departments, would join the National Commissioner in the immediate and comprehensive investigation of the Kano State debacle.
Yakubu said that the commission would share the findings of the investigation with Nigerians, adding that it would also “interrogate the voter register nationwide in order to purge it of any possible ineligible registrants”.
INEC had earlier distanced itself from any culpability over the alleged participation of underage voters in the Kano local council election, saying the exercise was not conducted or supervised by it.
However, Yakubu confirmed yesterday that the Kano state Independent Election Commission requested and was given a soft copy of the INEC voter register.
Yakubu said: “Recent reports of violations by underage persons following the local government elections in Kano State are 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 underage 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?
The INEC boss also disclosed that the commission had concluded all actions relating to the 2019 election budget and that it would submit its budget estimates to the National Assembly next week.
“With the validation of the EPP at this workshop, and having concluded and validated the Strategic Plan and Strategic Plan of Action, work on the 2019 Election budget will be concluded next week. Immediately, thereafter, the budget will be presented to the approving authority for consideration and funding,” he said.
On the Commission’s position on the sequence of elections contained in the bill currently before the National Assembly, Yakubu said INEC’s position at the moment is that the current timetable and schedule of activities released on 9th January 2018 is consistent with the powers of the Commission under existing laws.
“We will study any amendments to the existing legal framework and take appropriate action within the ambit of the law,” he said.
On the controversies trailing the Continuous Voter exercise (CVR), especially the complaint about limited number of registration centres and infiltration by ineligible voters, the INEC boss assured that measures were in place to address them.
“We wish to assure Nigerians that all prospective registrants are carefully screened. Only legally eligible citizens will be registered. There are 1,446 registration centres nationwide. We are aware of the challenges citizens are facing at some of the centres. We have responded by deploying additional machines, staff and resources nationwide and already the queues are easing off in many of the congested centres,” he said.
According to Yakubu, “between July and December 2017, some 3,978,682 citizens were registered afresh nationwide; 135,127 unclaimed Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) were collected; while 166,073 requests for transfers and 334,086 requests for replacements of PVCs were recorded.”
He said, “For the new fresh registrants, the gender statistics distribution shows 58% male and 42% female.”
Also, in terms of the distribution by States, Rivers State recorded the highest number of new registrants with 248, 831, followed by Delta and Lagos, 237,172 and 225,949 respectively, while Kwara, Gombe and Ondo recorded the lowest with 69,423 and 47,097.
Jonathan Backs Re-ordering of Election Sequence
In a related development, former President Goodluck Jonathan has expressed support for the move by the National Assembly to re-order the 2019 general elections as contained in the recent amendment to the Electoral Act.
Jonathan stated this when he received the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, who led members of the National Working Committee, NWC, on a courtesy visit to the Headquarters of the Jonathan Foundation in Yenogoa, Bayelsa State.
The former president said that it would help improve on the quality of persons elected into positions.
A statement issued yesterday by the PDP National Chairman’s spokesman, Ike Abonyi, quoted the former President as having said that what the National Assembly did would help in the election of quality persons into various positions.
“Holding Presidential Election first will affect the quality of persons that will emerge in other polls because of the bandwagon effect.
“The ruling party the APC should see it from national and patriotic interests since laws are not meant for persons in power at a particular time,” the former president was quoted to have said.
He also charged his party PDP to support and commend the National Assembly for the patriotic act.
“I believe that PDP will return to power in 2019 if we continue to build confidence, especially as the ruling party has failed to meet up their promises and give hope to the people.
“Propaganda may help you win election but can’t help you govern and that is what APC has seen in the last 32 months.