Sunday, 20 February 2011

Nigeria: INEC Voter Registration Review VI

Still a logistical nightmare

This wraps up the long overdue final review of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) voter registration exercise.

For three weeks in most places people assembled to register in participate in the elections scheduled for April 2011, in the last few days, those who had left it late having been poorly served by the faltering technology of the Digital Data Capture (DDC) computer machines, poor logistics and scanty material suddenly had the reprieve of another 2 day extension in 13 states of the federation.

Many will still be disenfranchised because up till the very last day, INEC was still hiring volunteers to man the registration process and that still did not get all the prospective registrants through, in the end out of the proposed 70 million eligible voters projected an estimated 64 million were captured by all these discrete systems.

Defensive opinions and offensive facts

The Chief Press Secretary of the INEC Chairman attempted what he called a “Contextual Review”[1] of the registration exercise and given that it was a humongous logistical exercise fraught with all sorts of issues that many activist highlight and in ways helped alleviate, his assessment was hardly the kind of independent and objective review one would have expected as the context seemed to rail against the cynics, sceptics and the concerned who picked out the flaws in the whole exercise.

The review was as defensive as anyone could get about what a participant might have involved themselves in whilst pretending to great success that many observers would have qualified closer to a barely passed grade but he is entitled to his opinion but not to his own facts.

Voters’ List review

The week beginning the 14th of February 2011 saw the 5-day review of the voters’ list where corrections, objections and collections were the themes according to INEC guidelines [2].

Despite the biometric acquisition of the data, none of it appeared online and many polling unit centres did not get to display the said lists and very few did get to see any list according to news reports [3] and such displays [Picture of a list displayed a at Polling Unit in Lagos State] did not engender confidence.

What was more alarming about where people found the lists displayed was exemplified in the following Tweets.

StanVito Now this is strange. The #INECRegistration list displayed in in my estate can't be real. My name isn't on the list? Some1 got 2 b shitting me

StanVito This #INECRegistration Voter list shows only those registered in Feb. No one registered in Jan is on this list.

This highlights a number of issues, if the lists displayed are those for their respective Polling Units, where they are if the said lists do have all that registered or those whose registration was considered valid that includes the 10-fingerprint scan and if corrections were made for situations where data might have been lost and no remediation made for lost registrations.

Concerns about lists

One can only wonder about those who had not bothered to take the verification exercise seriously and check that their names were on the lists and that their data was correct before checking for other kinds of errors considering INEC had stated it would not extend [4] the list verification exercise whilst we take into account that this was a working week, apart from the religious holiday on the Tuesday.

Meanwhile, INEC also released the list of candidates for political office to the public but that exercise was hardly decisive [5] with the INEC constantly reviewing its opinions about eligibility and the incessant haranguing from the courts that the risk of the electorate having choices out of a bad lot because of a botched eligibility process presaged a rotten representative democracy.

INEC intends to have compiled a usable voters’ register [6] by the 2nd of March 2011 having eliminated duplicate registrations and other irregularities borne from flawed registrations through to criminality that included the impounding of a DDC machine in the home of member of the House of Representatives long after the registration exercise had ended.

An exorbitant democracy

The cost of this exercise [7] is estimated at $580 million with a unit cost of almost $9 per voter and this does not guarantee a free and fair election, in fact, it does not guarantee a credible voters’ register and INEC is already suggesting that it does not have sufficient funds [8] to conduct the elections.

In the midst of this apparent squander for democracy is the positive news relayed in a video news report [9] by the Al Jazeera English network about an ex-Google executive who single-handed coded the software used for the registration exercise with the use of volunteers.

What Nigeria has tried to do is squeeze into three months what normally takes a year and at one time had Nigeria’s short-term demand for DDC equipment exceed the global supply (PDF file) [10].

Our revolution

The first hurdle of the Register | Select | Vote | Protect process [11] has barely been sterling however one would hope that those who did register would not find to their shock in April that they cannot vote.

However, Nigerians need to begin assessing the people who seek to represent them and make informed decisions about who they will be voting for whilst keeping others around them enthusiastic about the revolution that is before us, the opportunity to have free and fair elections in April 2011 with the promise of good government.

Sources

[1] Voter Registration: A Contextual Review by Kayode Idowu

[2] INEC Releases Guidelines for Display of Preliminary Register of Voters

[3] Voter verification lists hard to find in Nigeria - Yahoo! News

[4] » Voter verification: INEC says no extension of deadline - Vanguard (Nigeria)

[5] INEC, courts make ‘fast’ money from candidates’ list

[6] » Voters’ register ready March 2- Jega - Vanguard (Nigeria)

[7] Nigeria's elections: A list a mile long | The Economist

[8] » INEC budget: N45bn not enough – Jega - Vanguard (Nigeria)

[9] YouTube - Millions register for Nigeria vote

[10] INEC Account of Acquisition Process

[11] Good governance and Public accountability : Enough is Enough Nigeria (EiE)

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