Thursday, 27 January 2011

Nigeria: INEC Voter Registration Review IV

There is much to be done

With two days left for the voters’ registration it is becoming evident that everyone who needs to register might not get that opportunity.

The past weekend offered the opportunity for many to turn up and register but the process was fraught with many reports of printing problems as a result of exhausted ink cartridges.

The sadder aspect of this was that INEC in most cases did not have stocks of spare ink cartridges that the registered voters had to wait for days to collect their registration cards. Some more resourceful Nigerians paid for ink cartridges themselves.

The power issues do not seem to have dominated the news wires anymore because the same resourceful Nigerians have provided power through generators or extension cables to help keep the process moving.

A probable extension looms

The queues are however getting longer and though the process of registration is easier and faster, it is unlikely that those who have left it so late would gain a reprieve without an extension of the voters’ registration exercise.

To this end, the legislative houses have tentatively agreed to an extension having met with the INEC Chairman who said he needs another week and NGN 6.6 billion extra to do this.

One is taken aback that INEC could have exhausted their budget without contingencies that they have to return cap-in-hand to seek more funding.

The figures bandied around indicate that less than 50% of the expected populace that fall within voting age are registered; it would in the long run lead to questions about the credibility of the elections whilst allowing for opportunities to rig the elections.

Fingered errors

At the meeting of the legislators we learnt that the original registration of the president at his hometown did not include his fingerprints and that he had to do it again.

Amelioration processes for entering fingerprints for those registered without then in the first place seem to have problems, you can check of all your fingerprints have been captured on your card by checking is the 5 small squares on either side of your photograph on your voter’s card are black or hollow squares. They need to be dark for your registration to be valid.

The Chairman also volunteered after having stated on BBC Africa Have Your Say; that amputees and those with special needs would be catered for that there really was no provision for them, which is sad.

Another issue that has raised concern is that of Muslim women in religious garb that includes the covering of the face. Some are advocating their right to be registered which is inalienable but how do you recognise the face of someone behind a veil? There is a need for common-sense and reasonableness in terms of religious adherence and the understanding ones civics responsibilities which invite some compromise.

Security issues were prevalent, some machine were stolen and found in the strangest of places, Youth Corps members were attacked by agree crowds and some INEC personnel have lost their lives, which is unfortunate.

Security issues were prevalent, some machine were stolen and found in the strangest of places, Youth Corps members were attacked by agree crowds and some INEC personnel have lost their lives, which is unfortunate.

Reconstituting an extension

However, the most critical matter has to be the one of the extension of the voters’ registration exercise beyond Saturday the 29th of January 2011. Some had irresponsibly announced on Twitter that it had been extended for 4 weeks when that was not the case.

There are serious constitutional provisions for the extension, INEC was running this exercise on a very tight schedule, and the registration as far as the Electoral Act 2010 is concerned expects that the exercise be completed no later than 60 days before the election that utilises the register putting the last possible date at the 2nd of February 2011.

The legislature would either have had to shorten that duration between registration and elections or reschedule the election timetable after which INEC can announce the extension.

Government 101 and Project Management

The issue of the closed schools also came up since in most cases school premises were not in use and professional teachers were not engaged in the registration process. There are reasons why the schools have remained closed but for the Senate to order the Minister of Education to open to the schools rather than advise her of the need to smacked of an overreach of the Separation of Powers.

The infancy of our democratic process is so evident with poor appreciation of the rule of law, the egress of the lack of understanding of the Separation of Powers and feeling that grandstanding equals due process.

If this INEC Voter Registration process fails it would clearly be a case of atrocious Project Management on an appalling scale, there probably is a way to redeem this exercise but it requires that Nigerians who have not registered turn out in droves to register showing there is much to be done, that they will not be disenfranchised and forcing the necessary extension to capture the majority of the voting population to act for choosing the government they want and deserve.

References with developing stories

Nigerian #INECRegistration BiDaily – Published AM & PM with an average of 150 contributions

Reps amend Electoral Act to allow more time for registration | 234Next.com

Voter Registration: INEC Has No Right To Extend Time

Voter registration: Jega wants N6.6bn for extension | Tribune Nigeria

» Voters’ Registration: Lagos suspends restriction of movement on sanitation day - Vanguard (Nigeria)

If #INECRegistration should stop no longer than 60 days before elections, it cannot be extended beyond 02/02/2011 http://j.mp/fBcPUi Page 3

#INECRegistration Has No Right To Extend Time http://bit.ly/eB4D5M Constitutional issue could include changing election timetable.

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