Voter register rose by 50% in 20 years

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More Nigerians may vote in this year’s general elections than they did anytime in the last 20 years when the country returned to democratic rule.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday revealed that 84 million Nigerians have been registered to vote in the general elections starting on February 16. This represents an increase of 27 million over the 57 million that were registered in 1999.

INEC yesterday made available to each political party, a copy of the entire national register of voters in fulfilment of the legal requirement.

The INEC National Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, who performed the task at the regular quarterly meeting with political parties in Abuja, said the final register for the 2019 general elections stood at 84,004,084 voters after the mandatory display of the register in all polling units nationwide for claims and objections from 6th- 12th November 2018.

Card reader sacrosanct, abolished incident form

Professor Yakubu also yesterday re-emphasized the commission’s policy that the Smart Card Readers (SMR) would be used for the 2019 general elections for accreditation to confirm, verify and authenticate the voter.

“The Card Reader shall be used to authenticate the fingerprint of the voter as an additional confirmatory procedure. If the fingerprint is not authenticated by the card reader but the PVC is confirmed as genuine and the voter’s personal details are consistent with the manual register, he/she shall be allowed to vote,” he said.

“However, where the biometric authentication fails, the voter will be required to thumbprint a box next to his/her picture on the register and to enter his/her mobile telephone number before proceeding to vote.

“The Commission has modified the register of voters for the 2019 general elections accordingly. Consequently, the separate Incident Form used in previous elections which is only completed by the Presiding Officer without the involvement of the voter is now abolished.

“Similarly, the claim that the card reader has been enhanced to recapture voters’ fingerprints at polling units and automatically overwrite the biometric record on our database is untrue and should be disregarded,” he added.

But some political parties at the event expressed reservations over the alleged “smuggling” of new rules with regard to the use of incident form, alleging that the commission did not consult them before making changes to the rules.

They also insisted that Mrs. Amina Zakari must be removed as the chairman of the INEC Committee on Collation of presidential results.

Earlier, the INEC chairman who said the commission had printed and delivered the Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs) to the states urged all registered voters who had not collected theirs to do so at any local government area office and other designated collection centres nationwide.

Campaign finances/Vote buying

Professor Yakubu also told various political parties that the commission would keep a close watch on their campaign finance. He also assured them that that there was no change in the number of polling units and voting points used for the 2015 general elections and the 2016 Area Council elections in the FCT.

The INEC boss, who added that there was a new method of vote buying being devised despite the mechanism already put in place to stop the menace, said the electoral body would work with security agencies to deal with the violators.

“We have received credible information that some partisan actors are now going round buying up PVCs from voters or financially inducing them to collect the Voter Identification Numbers (VIN) on their PVCs. In some instances, telephone numbers and details of bank accounts of voters have been collected. By collecting the PVCs, their intention may be to deprive the voters of voting since no one can vote without the PVC.

“By collecting their phone numbers and bank details, the intention is to induce voters by electronic transfer of funds to their accounts since it will be difficult to buy votes at polling units. By collecting the VINs, they may be acting on the mistaken notion that our system can be hacked into and the Card Readers somehow preloaded ahead of election and compromised. “We want to reassure Nigerians that we are aware of the new tricks. It is a futile effort. We will work with the security agencies to deal with the violators of our electoral laws, including those who may be trying to compromise our staff responsible for making the PVCs available for collection by legitimate voters,” he added.