‘Be Guided…We’ve Not Violated Electoral Act’ — INEC Chairman Warns CSO Over Claim

Professor Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has asked civil society organizations monitoring the commission’s activities to do so responsibly so as not to raise false alarms.

Yakubu issued the caution against the backdrop of a claim by the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room that INEC has violated Section 19 (1) of the 2022 Electoral Act by failing to comply fully with the requirement to display the names of registered voters across the country.

The Section provides that INEC must set aside “a period of seven days during which a copy of the voters’ register for each Local Government, Area Council or Ward shall be displayed or published for public scrutiny at every registration area and on its official website or any website established by the Commission for that purpose.”

But in a statement issued by its conveners – Ene Obi, Asmau’u Joda and James Ugochuckwu, on Monday, the Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room accused the electoral body of displaying the voters’ register at Local Government Areas and not at voter registration centres as stipulated in the Act.

Reacting however during a meeting with stakeholders on the validation of the revised framework and regulations for voting by internally displaced persons (IDPs), Yakubu said the group’s claim is incorrect.

“While we always appreciate our collaboration with all stakeholders, it has become necessary to make an important clarification in respect of a statement attributed to a section of the civil society organisations. At a media briefing yesterday, the Commission was accused of failure to display the voters’ register as provided by Section 19(1) of the Electoral Act 2022. This claim is incorrect.

“What the Commission displayed for claims and objections in our Local Government Area offices nationwide for a period of one week, from 15th – 21st August 2022, was not the entire register of voters but the list of fresh registrants at the end of the Fourth and last quarter of the Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) exercise covering the period from 11th April – 31st July 2022. This has been the practice for several years. Earlier, the Commission had displayed the register three times: 24th – 30th September 2021 (First Quarter), 24th – 30th December 2021 (Second Quarter) and 26th March – 1st April 2022 (Third Quarter). A comprehensive schedule of the CVR exercise and the display of the register was shared with stakeholders at our quarterly meeting just before the inception of the exercise in June last year.

“We wish to assure Nigerians that the Commission will display the comprehensive register in all the 8,809 Wards and 774 Local Government Areas/Area Councils nationwide as envisaged in Section 19(1) of the Electoral Act 2022. This will integrate fresh voters registered under the last CVR exercise to the existing register of over 84 million voters. The date will be announced as soon the Commission completes the ongoing Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) to weed out all double/multiple as well as ineligible registrants. We appeal to some of our friends in civil society to be guided accordingly,” the INEC chairman clarified.

Meanwhile, Yakubu at the meeting presented a draft of the revised framework and regulations for the IDPs voting to the stakeholders for input.

He recalled that the idea of IDP voting was first introduced in 2015 ahead of the general election, after which the framework and regulations were designed by the commission.

He said the document underwent a revision and validation in 2018 preparatory to the 2019 general election.

“Today, the same policy has been revised and is being presented to stakeholders for review and validation in preparation for the 2023 General Election.

“The idea is to ensure that no eligible Nigerian is left out of the electoral process on account of displacement, disability, or other circumstances that may limit citizens’ participation in the electoral process. What is presented to stakeholders today has taken into consideration several developments since the last review and validation exercise in 2018. First, is the increased number of IDPs as a result of widespread insecurity nationwide. Secondly, to incorporate not only the displaced citizens arising from armed conflicts but also natural emergencies such as flooding. Thirdly, to align the framework with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, specifically Section 24(1) which empowers the Commission to ensure that, as far as practicable, no Nigerian is disenfranchised on account of displacement by emergency situations. Finally, to align the framework with the national policy on internally displaced persons 2021,” he said.

Yakubu added, “We look forward to your input so that working together, we can enrich the framework as well as the regulations for voting by IDPs. Beyond the validation of the document, we also look forward to a robust collaboration with stakeholders for voter education and sensitisation of IDPs.”

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