The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has disclosed that it has identified and commenced disciplinary actions against 23 Registration Officers behind the attempt to register fake voters ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) had raised alarms recently about plans by certain members of a political party to manipulate voters’ registers with fake names.
Reacting formally to the allegation, the chairman of the commission, Mahmood Yakubu, admitted that the 23 Registration Officers involved in fictitious registrations made as many as 40 attempts or more to register one fake voter.
He also disclosed that an estimated 93.5 million voters will, tentatively, be participating in next year’s elections, adding that the final figure of voters will be confirmed after the display of the voters’ registers for claims and objections.
Giving updates on the continuous voters’ registration exercise, he said: “At the end of the exercise, 12,298,944 Nigerians successfully completed the registration as new voters. All along, we have repeatedly assured Nigerians that our process of cleaning up the register is robust. After a rigorous cleaning-up of the data using the Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS), a total of 2,780,756 (22.6%) were identified as ineligible registrants and invalidated from the record, among them double/multiple registrants, underaged persons and outrightly fake registrations that fail to meet our business rules. Consequently, the number of valid registrations (post-ABIS) is 9,518,188.
“The commission deployed thousands of diligent staff for the CVR exercise and the vast majority of them discharged their duties conscientiously. Unfortunately, a few of them did not. Fictitious registrations were carried out by some of our Registration Officers involved in the field exercise and could easily be traced. Each registration machine is operated using an access code tied to a dedicated e-mail assigned to staff.
“There is therefore an audit trail that gives the total number of persons registered by each official involved in the registration exercise. In some cases, some of them made as many as 40 attempts or more to register one fake voter. As a result, the commission has so far identified 23 Registration Officers involved in this unethical conduct and disciplinary action has commenced.
“We shall continue to protect the integrity of our voters’ register. It is pivotal to credible elections. It is also a national asset and easily the largest database of citizens in Africa and one of the largest in the world.
“The 9,518,188 new voters have been added to the existing register of 84,004,084 voters. The PRELIMINARY register of voters in Nigeria now stands at 93,522,272. It is preliminary because Section 19(1) and (2) of the Electoral Act 2022 requires the Commission to display the hard copies of the register of voters for each Registration Area (Ward) and Local Government Area (and simultaneously publish the entire register on the commission’s website) for a period of two weeks for scrutiny, claims and objections by citizens not later than 90 days to a general election.
“Accordingly, in the next few days, the commission will print 9,352,228 pages of the register. The hard copy will be displayed for each of the 8,809 Registration Areas (Wards) and 774 Local Government Areas nationwide while the entire register will be published on our website for claims and objections as required by law. The display of the physical register will take place at the designated centres from Saturday – Friday, November 12-25, 2022.
“Further details, including the procedure for filing claims and objections, will be released by the Commission next week. I would like to appeal to all Nigerians to seize the opportunity of the display to scrutinize the list and help us to clean it up further so that the final register of voters for the 2023 General Election can be compiled and published,” he appealed.
He also revealed that: “we are also making steady progress in other critical areas of preparation for the election, including the provision of sensitive and non-sensitive materials, the recruitment of staff and planning for the movement of personnel and materials for the election.
“Let me once again reassure Nigerians that there is no going back on the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for voter accreditation. There is no going back on the transmission of results to the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) in real-time on election day.
“There will be no Incident Form that enables ineligible persons to vote using other people’s Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) during elections. We are committed to ensuring that the 2023 general election is transparent and credible, reflecting the will of the Nigerian people,” he said.
Issues fresh threats to prosecute perpetrators of campaign violence, the commission’s boss said that the commission will continue to track the campaigns and will not hesitate to initiate the prosecution of violators as provided by law.
“The campaigns have just begun. As party leaders, you should remain committed to peaceful electioneering. We will continue to work together to remove encumbrances to the right of parties and candidates to freely canvass for the support of the electorate. The commission will continue to track the campaigns and will not hesitate to initiate the prosecution of violators as provided by law.
“It is clear to the commission that as the general election approaches, there will be a need to meet more frequently with leaders of political parties. We plan to invite you very soon for a discussion on political rallies and the issue of campaign finance, including the limits on expenses set by the Com
Dismissing the plans to sack the electoral umpire, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), declared solid solidarity with him, promising to deploy every machinery to resist such moves.
IPAC National Chairman Yabagi Yusuf Sani, who made the promise, said: “The spurious allegations they are orchestrating are part of the strategies to prepare the grounds for their planned onslaught to achieve their nefarious goal within legal frameworks. It is also aimed at blackmailing and intimidating Yakubu to surrender by compromising the stance of the commission on the strident, airtight security measures against the maladies of rigging and other electoral malpractices that had perennially tarnished the integrity of elections in the country in the past.
“However, we believe that they will not have their way no matter their desperation and whatever their pranks and machinations. The use of technology in the conduct of elections in Nigeria has become sacrosanct and fait accompli. Every player in the country’s power game must come to terms with the new reality that, they can no longer rig elections brazenly and with impunity.
“Mr Chairman, you can count on the usual support of IPAC, and as it is, the goodwill and backing of most citizens of the country in the present circumstance. We urge you to remain steadfast and strong in the consciousness that, you have your hard-earned reputation to protect; that the eyes of the entire nation and indeed, the wider global community are keenly focused on you,” they promised.