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Outrage over multiple registration, underage voters in INEC register

After the 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.

By Claire Mom

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has come under heavy criticism over discrepancies in data across its voters’ register.

On Saturday, the commission published on its website the preliminary register of voters’ polling units for the 2023 elections.

According to INEC, the register was displayed so eligible voters can confirm their details and report ineligible voters who might have been captured.

Following the register’s release, some Nigerians on social media have displayed snapshots of voters who appeared to have been registered multiple times. In some cases, a couple of names had no pictures. 

Checks by The Cable revealed multiple registrations in states like Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.

Social media users have also reported cases of voters who seem to be underage, with seemingly falsified dates of birth.

The outrage from Nigerians has been intense since INEC said it carried out a “robust” clean-up of its register.

Speaking at the commission’s 2022 third quarterly meeting with political parties, Mahmood Yakubu, INEC’s chairman, said using its automated biometric identification system (ABIS), the number of newly registered voters was filtered after millions of fake voters were identified.

“At the end of the [CVR] 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,” he said.

“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 INEC chairman also said identified officials involved in invalid registrations would face disciplinary actions.

Reacting to the fury of Nigerians, Festus Okoye, INEC’s commissioner for information and voter education, said the essence of the preliminary voters’ register was for citizens to make claims, raise objections, and identify biodata errors.

“We want people to look at the register and assist the commission to check whether their names have been properly spelt; whether their personal particulars have been properly captured; whether some pictures are not upside down; whether there are still names of deceased persons on the register; whether there are obviously underage persons on the register, so that we can correct them.”

“We use our automated biometric identification system to remove multiple and double registrations and then we did what we called manual adjudication to remove obviously underage persons.

“Apparently, there are still obviously underage persons on the voters’ register and we expect Nigerians to take a look at the voters’ register, both the ones we displayed at the various registration centres and LGAs and also on the website and assist the commission to point out these things so that the commission can further clean up the register.”

With less than 100 days to the 2023 general elections, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has called for actions against noticed infractions in the preliminary display of voter register and inciting statements by presidential campaign spokesman.

The CDD Director, Idayat Hassan, made the call on Saturday in a statement.

She noted that while preparations appeared to be in line with the pre-determined electoral timetable, there are concerns about the manner in which campaigns are being carried out nationwide.

According to her, there have been repeated incidents of violence, especially against facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and irresponsible rhetoric by candidates.

“We note that the recent attacks in Ogun and Osun states have prompted security agencies to develop clear plans of action to mitigate against subsequent incidents but are concerned that these incidents can be damaging to popular confidence in the democratic process.

“Technological advancements in the electoral process, such as the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV) have been well received in the recently conducted Ekiti and Osun states off-cycle elections.

“But we note the concerns about voter duplication and underage voters appearing on the voter register that undermine its credibility,” Hassan said.

She said that where substantiated, these should be grounds for strict sanctions of the erring individuals and the officials responsible for registering and accrediting such individuals.

She also commended the increased engagement that different stakeholders and groups had embarked on to ensure that the elections are well conducted.

She said, “From international observers and missions, to domestic judiciary and civil society sectors, we are encouraged by the desire of these groups to be better prepared and informed before the election period.”

She urged all actors to take advantage of the period leading up to the election to support sensitization efforts and to work on ways that the process can be managed in a sensitive and responsible manner.

“However, we are aware of ongoing reports emphasizing the importance of electing leaders along ethnic and religious lines.

“Statements attributed to spokespersons of candidates, and their parties, should be focused on the important issues that affect the country and how to ensure that these are effectively addressed.

“Resorting to identity politics will only serve to inflame an already sensitive political environment and risk, potentially violent, clashes,” she added.

The CDD boss also reminded all stakeholders of the need to seek clarity and confirmation around news items as they are shared during the election cycle.

She said that fact-checking during the recent presidential townhalls and debates had revealed the necessity of ensuring that candidates are held to account.

“This does not aim to denigrate their campaigns, after all no human is immune from erring. But it is important that we do so to ensure that political campaigns are driven by facts.

“This will help citizens make informed decisions concerning their leaders for the next four years.

“While CDD remains cautiously optimistic that ongoing engagement with the process by all key stakeholders will result in a well-conducted election next year,” Hassan said.

Source: The Cable/Daily Trust

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