Friday 21 January 2011

Nigeria: INEC Voter Registration Review III

Over the last 7 days

A complete 7-day review of the Nigerian INEC Voter’s Registration campaign brings mixed results, there have been many successes, people in pictures holding up their voter’s registration cards, some completing the activity well under 10 minutes and closer to home my father and siblings having a hitch free registration experience within the first few days.

However, in this hugely logistical national exercise where INEC has called on resources that it assumed it could rely on without adequate checks and controls, there were going to be many failings and those threatened to derail the whole exercise, exacerbate residual apathy, frustrate many and allow for all sorts of nefarious activity.

Rugged fingers cannot linger

Soon we discovered that the scanning equipment had been over-calibrated in such a way that it could not clearly distinguish the whorls of the fingerprints, this required a software patch, we also learnt hands had to be washed clean, some even cleaned with methylated spirit and then the illogical idea of passing the hands through sand before the fingerprint scans – it was like any crazy idea would do.

The frustration with the fingerprint scans lead to some polling units short-circuiting the workflow by registering people without the requisite fingerprint scans. Rumours were rife about all sorts of unconfirmed directives but with the force of social networking we were able to get a definitive answer of the INEC chairman when he appeared on the BBC Africa Have Your Say programme.

All voter registration cards issued without the requisite 10-fingerprint scans were grossly deficient and considered VIOD. Such persons with deficient registrations were advised to return to their polling unit to effect a correction to their registration status.

A battery of failing ink-jets

Beyond that once the patches sped up the registration process the Digital Data Capture machines sometimes froze requiring a reboot, in certain other cases the data was lost but the more serious issue centred around presumably fully-charged batteries running out of power for the laptop and printers – some polling units enjoyed the goodwill of the citizens with the provision of power generators but many other polling units had to close for the day.

Where some did get their data on the systems, the printers had run out of ink or there wasn’t sufficient power to run both the laptop and the printer, they people had to return at another time to collect their registration cards.

The INEC Chairman said the area centres managing the polling unit regions had recharging facilities for the batteries, one would have expected there would be spare batteries and ink cartridges but the proper management of those components seemed to be lacking, in some cases the INEC personnel who mainly consisted of members of the National Youth Corps Service (NYSC) lost some components and the lax security also meant batteries went missing.

No pay and bad days

Sadly, in what is typical of the Nigerian labour market, the NYSC members were part of the critical resource that could celebrate the success of the INEC project, but INEC was rather grudging in encouraging them, first by blaming them for failings that were clearly the poor planning of INEC who also should have worked with the banking sector to expedite the tedious banking processes that held up payments to these industrious and enthusiastic Nigerians for up to 6-days into the registration exercise.

In settings like this, some Nigerians defaulted to electoral criminality; one instance had machines stolen only to reappear with 2,000 registrants with seemingly matching fingerprints. Some machines were stolen but the thieves were soon apprehended.

Dooms to the hoodlums

The more worrisome parts of the criminality were party agents commandeering positions at the polling units to get their members registered first, again, the technological constraints of power, batteries and ink running out could have made some people want to get in first.

Certain INEC personnel got beaten up by irate crowds, a few others might have come to an untimely death leading to a shoot-to-kill policy being adopted in Jos to deal with people who fail to be law abiding and conforming to the order required to facilitate a smooth registration.

When certain party agents seized the registration documents to copy the names and addresses of the registrants that would have been the time to bring on the cavalry and march the culprits down to secure lockups for an indeterminate period of time.

Some NYSC members protested going on strike, this was certainly avoidable but unfortunate but even after a full week of registrations it is sad to learn that some areas in Nigeria still have not caught sight of any INEC personnel or prospect of registration.

Nigerian logistics and planning

With about 132,000 DDC machines deployed nationwide and another 12,000 going out this weekend, there is hope that everyone who needs to be registered will get registered.

With all the issues that have dogged the initial registration process, there is a prospect of extending the registration period; it should not stop Nigerians from crowding out the polling units to show the enthusiasm and willingness to embrace change and the readiness to perform their civic duty.

We should not leave it all to the last minute, there is much to do and the early we go out to get registered the surer we can be that it would be done eventually and more importantly successfully.

Hope on the ropes of networking

On the whole, the take up has been good, the response has been enthusiastic, people are encourage and persuaded, the week has been a qualified success and looking into the next week, there sure is a lot more that can be done to make it even better.

Twitter has been a useful resource with the exercise bearing the #INECRegistration hashtag and well over 3,000 tweets have been posted.

The #RSVP project have logged issues around the country on the website a sample of the relevant tweets appear below along with the Nigerian #INECRegistration BiDaily that I published and a rival daily that aggregates similar material.

We look forward to the next 8 days with great expectations and the opportunity to make Nigeria become the country of our dreams.

Sample Twitter Feeds

forakin Find your local #INECRegistration centre here - Zoom in the GoogleMap to your Nigerian Polling Unit (INEC) -

eolutosin RT @dfasoro: Mobile Booth Finder: @Possicon@eolutosin @theglobalchild @wumidiji #INECregistration #RSVP #IfNaijaVotes

forakin It is imperative your #INECRegistration includes your 10-fingerprint scans or it is VOID. Return to your centre to correct the situation.

RT @bubusn #INECRegistration BIG weekend. This weekend. Help where you can. Let show community spirit. Something good can come out of Naija.

eolutosin no battery and therefore no work today.#INECRegistration officials just relaxing n enjoying d moment. Centre is M

bubusn My #EiENigeria #INECregistration interview with BBC Network Africa: (from 22:12 mins).

Possicon #inecregistration An ACN member just provided Generator to power the machines here

Possicon If u don’t know ur polling booth, check here: #inecregistration

gbengasesan #INECregistration tip: If you're posting a picture of your Voter's Card, please cover your home address. Except it's not where you live :)

eolutosin Well, they are being paid the allowance now. One of the#INECRegistration corps members just came. RT @rosanwo: @eolutosin any remedy?

forakin Can't understand how #INECRegistration don't realise the Youth Corpers are critical to the success of this exercise and not pay them yet.

forakin RT @bubusn @Sadiq_Hamid It's harder to rig elections with a massive voter turnout & all political parties running #RSVP#INECRegistration

forakin @OtobiBABA Go and do your #INECRegistration & if you believe the person you want to vote for should have a chance, get out and campaign too.

EiENigeria #INECRegistration. Its day 7 and its Friday, do something right today, go get Registered so you can vote in April!

forakin @Sadeeqabdul I doubt God wants to be thanked for your choosing not to do your civic duty (#INECRegistration).

TruthHuntr Hmmm... RT @NigeriaNewsdesk NEXT — Government may extend voter registration period #INECregistration #RSVP

dozenhost #INECRegistration Tip, Have your address written down on a sheet of paper too, that can quicken the registration process too.

purefoyCNN Not many people registering in Mushin today, but despite recent wahalla (Wazobia said 10 ten dead) not many problems with #INECregistration

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