Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Nigeria: INEC Chairman Jega on BBC Africa Have Your Say

The INEC chairman airs his views

The chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Professor Attahiru Jega was on the BBC Africa Have Your Say programme [1] on January 18, 2011 at 16:00 GMT to answer questions posed to him about the current electoral process which centres around the voter registration and other related issues.

He fielded a number of questions and answered to some satisfaction the critical matters affecting the registration process.

Quality kit deployed

He made it clear that the equipment was of the highest standard and not deficient in any way, he challenged us to review the tenders [2] of the equipment on the INEC website.

On the matter of power, he suggested all the kit were provided with two 10-hour capacity batteries that could be fully charged overnight at the area centres and this should not have been an issue today though in the previous days it is possible that these batteries were not fully charged before deployment.

The area centres are equipped with generators thereby fully addressing the power issues we are so well aware of in Nigeria.

All fingers or bust

My question on the legal status was first jumbled up with a whole range of statements that he cherry-picked his way with unrelated answers but another direct question about it nailed the issue.

On the matter of the fingerprint scanners, their default factory settings were calibrated for too high a sensitivity that patches have been sent out to all the 120,000 polling units to fix the problem.

He was categorical about the fingerprint issue stating Voter’s Registration cards issued without the fingerprint scans were grossly deficient.

He buttressed that point by saying “No Nigerian should allow themselves to be registered without the fingerprint capture.” In other words, that registration is both null and void and the registrant should return to the polling centre to be properly registered.

He did not give any ground on the matter of numbers of fingers, all 10 need to be in the system and since the fingerprint scanning process is working better, and it should not more be an issue.

He did say that all polling units should have facilities for washing hands and advised strongly against using methylated spirit to clean the surface of the scanning device.

No party but secure

Other matters he addressed were the fact that he is politically impartial and not a card carrying member of any party, he vouch for the professionalism of the state electoral commissioners over whatever partisan affiliation they might have.

There are security conferences and meetings taking place to ensure that electoral process is free of interference and those who attempt to subvert the process would be subjected to the full force of the law. In his words, impunity is a thing of the past.

He’ll be back

I cannot say after the exchanges I was fully convinced that that whole exercise would be successful, but the particular issues we were concerned about were addressed without equivocation and it is now left to Nigerians to go out and be registered, the whole system is beginning to work as it should.

There was no opportunity to address that matter of the denigration of the members of the youth corps who by all means deserver both an apology and encouragement from the chairman but I believe that would happen.

He has offered to return before the main elections in April for another conversation tuned to answering questions that hopefully will increase our confidence in the possibility of free and fair National elections in Nigeria in April 2011.

Many questions were posed on the hashtag #ASKINEC a commentary on the interview was on the hashtag #INECRegistration, the program was monitored on Twiitter with @BBCAfricaHYS and their Facebook group BBC Africa Have Your Say.

Sources

[1] BBC - Africa Have Your Say: What do you want to ask Nigeria's INEC chairman?

[2] News > INEC News >INEC signs contracts for DDC machines

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