Voter registration: Shortage of manpower, faulty equipment mar exercise
Residents decry delay in Lagos, Ondo, Enugu, Taraba
Exercise without a hitch in Niger and Katsina
Come back in May, INEC officials tell FCT residents
Inadequate manpower and faulty equipment are affecting voter registration in many states, Saturday PUNCH’s investigations have revealed.
Visits by our correspondents to some Independent National Electoral Commission registration centres across the country showed that while some residents couldn’t register due to unavailability and/or shortage of INEC personnel, others couldn’t because of inadequate and/or malfunctioning machines such as laptop computers and printers.
Investigations this week showed that while residents of states including Lagos, Ondo, Enugu, Ogun and Taraba complained about voter registration, their counterparts in Kastina and Minna said it was hitch-free.
INEC had announced the commencement of the Continuous Voter Registration on April 27, 2017, at designated centres, adding that the exercise would end in December 2018.
However, while some centres lacked the adequate personnel to attend to the residents, some other centres had issues with their equipment, thereby making it difficult for the capturing of voters’ data.
Only two laptops for each of Enugu LGs
For instance, in Enugu State, only two laptop computers were available in each of the 17 local government areas. Also, only two INEC staff members were assigned to conduct the registration in each local government area. There is also only one registration centre in each local government area.
During a visit by one of our correspondents to the registration centre in Enugu North Local Government Area at the Prison Club Hall, Enugu, it was observed that the pace of the registration was very slow, a development which frustrated both the officials and the residents, who turned out in a large number to register.
Some of the residents said they had been to the registration centre on several occasions but had gone home without registering.
Besides inadequate staffing of the registration centres, it was also learnt that the data capturing machines were not always functional, mostly due to lack of power supply.
At other registration centres, it was equally observed that the printers were not functional, hence, those who were able to register were unable to collect their voter cards.
INEC officials unavailable in some Ondo centres
Some residents in Ondo State also expressed dissatisfaction over the registration exercise in the state.
At some of the registration centres visited by one of our correspondents, INEC officials were not available even though many people were waiting to register.
Some of the residents complained bitterly that they had been going to the centres but that INEC officials had not been showing up.
Voters stranded in A’Ibom
Saturday PUNCH also observed as several residents were stranded at the INEC registration centres in Akwa Ibom State, with some of them complaining that even though they arrived at the centres as early as 7 am, they still couldn’t register.
INEC Publication Relations Officer, Akwa Ibom State, Mr. John Etukudo, said the situation was so because the commission did not have enough resources to be at all the wards at the same time, hence the need to rotate the equipment at registration centres.
Poor electricity in Kwara
In Kwara State, poor electricity had been identified as the main issue being encountered during the ongoing voter registration.
One of our correspondents who visited some registration centres observed that while some of them had an epileptic public power supply, some had faulty generators, while some centres with functioning generators did not have petrol to run them.
Due to these challenges, frustrated residents were being asked by INEC officials to return for registration at a later date.
Oyo: INEC officials not always available
In Oyo State, residents faced a huge task of registering because the electoral officers were not always available at the designated centres.
Some residents complained that even though they were told that their Permanent Voter Cards were ready, they were told to go and collect them elsewhere.
A resident, Mrs. Iyabo Alagbe, said, “They showed us more than 300 voter cards, but our own were not there. They couldn’t give us any reason because it seemed they were powerless. I almost quarrelled with them when I went there last time, but an official explained to me that everything was controlled in Abuja.
INEC spokesperson in the state, Ayodele Folami, said that the commission had been moving from ward to ward to reach the people, noting that there were more than 600,000 unclaimed Permanent Voter Cards.
Faulty machines in Lagos
In Lagos State, one of our correspondents who visited the INEC registration centre at the Ketu Primary Health Centre, observed as residents complained due to the faulty printer.
A resident, Kunle Dada, said he had hoped to collect his voter card on Thursday after registering the previous day, only to be told to come back at a later day.
Ogun: Residents not attended to
It was complaints galore at the INEC registration centres in Ogun State as residents complained of long hours of delay, lack of proper coordination and breakdown of registration machines.
For instance, at INEC’s centre situated within the premises of the Ado Odo/Ota Local Government secretariat at Ota, Ogun State, several residents who wanted to do fresh registration, inter-state transfer of voter cards and those who had lost their permanent voter cards, had issues with the process.
Some of them claimed to have been coming for days without success.
A member of staff of the Covenant University, Ota, Dr. Olusola Oyero, who spoke with one of our correspondents on Friday said he had gone to the centre on Thursday but was asked to return on Friday.
He said when he was at the centre on Friday by 7 am, a list had been prepared and that he was number 198 on the list. He said by 8 am, another list had surfaced and he was number 163 on it.
Expressing disappointment, he said by 10 am, one of the INEC officials announced that some of the machines had developed a fault and that only two were working.
Another resident who came to do fresh registration, Fatimah Ibrahim, said she had arrived the centre as early as 5.30 am, but as of 11 am, she was still in the queue yet to be attended to.
But the Administrative Secretary, INEC, Ogun State, Mr. Kayode Oladimeji, said there was no cause for alarm, promising that the exercise would accommodate all those who wanted to register.
Edo: Faulty machines
It was also gathered that the exercise in many of the registration centres in Edo State was being marred due to the faulty machines and irregular power supply.
It was also learnt that some of the centres were overwhelmed by a large number of eligible voters who turned out for the exercise.
Some residents, Gift Clifford and Samuel Muhammed, lamented that they were directed by one of the registration officers to return on Monday, after spending more than four hours to get registered.
Return in May to register, INEC officials tell FCT residents
Hundreds of eligible voters, who came out on Friday to register at the LEA Primary School Kubwa 2, Abuja, were told to return on May 10, 2017, before they could be registered by INEC.
Officials of INEC also told voters, who came to request for the transfer of their permanent voter cards from where they had registered to Abuja that it could take up to six months before the cards would be delivered to their respective owners in the Federal Capital Territory.
No reason was given as to why it would take up to six months before the voter cards would get to Abuja from where the cards were being transferred from.
However, on why eligible voters who wish to register were to return in May after writing their names on a list on Friday, an official of the commission who pleaded not to be named, said, “Hundreds, if not thousands of people have written their names and they have not been registered.
“What we are doing is that we follow the list and right now, many people who wrote their names on this booklet last month or two months ago are being considered and are registering now. So those coming now will have to wait till it gets to their turn to register.”
Some of those who came to register at the Kubwa centre on Friday told Saturday PUNCH that the registration process was discouraging.
A resident who only gave his name as Aminu said, “There have been so many campaigns urging people to go out and register in order to vote in 2019, but seeing what is happening here and the long procedure that it takes to just get the card is highly discouraging”
Another resident, Mrs. Stella Odinaka, said she wrote her name on the list provided by the INEC officials early last month but had yet to be registered.
One registration and data capturing equipment was sighted at the Kubwa centre as about 15 persons were seated behind the INEC official who was operating the machine, while over 60 people were seen struggling to either write their names on the list or get assess into the registration room.
Bribery allegation in Kubwa
There were allegations of bribery and impropriety in the centre at the Model Primary School, Kubwa II, in Bwari Area Council on Friday.
Some of those who went to register complained about the fact that only one laptop computer was being used for the exercise, while close to 100 people were waiting to be registered.
Narrating his ordeal, Mr. Franklin Ibe said he was at the venue of the exercise at 6 am but that the registration officials did not arrive until 10:30 am.
He said, “I was waiting for my turn when one man came with four women; I don’t know what he went in to tell the people inside.
“Suddenly, he took the women inside, that was when I started to make trouble and I brought out my phone to record, the place became rowdy.
“One of them (registration officers) came out to take me inside before I was registered and given my temporary voter card. It was after that I heard that some people paid N500 to be registered. The officers here said the machine could only register 30 people a day.”
Kano residents complain
In Kano State, some residents lamented that they encountered challenges in their efforts to register.
One of such eligible voters, identified as Mrs. Alice John of First Baptist Church, Sabon Gari, Kano, told Saturday PUNCH that she tried in vain to register.
When contacted, INEC spokesman in Kano, Garba Lawan, dismissed the woman’s claims, stressing that it was strange for him to learn that she encountered any challenge.
INEC creates more centres in Niger
INEC said it had not experienced any challenge in Niger State. It was learnt that the commission had so far registered, 95, 434 eligible voters who were waiting for the final production and collection of their permanent voter cards.
A member of staff of INEC in charge of operations, Martins Boris, said that in April 2017, INEC had 33 centres in Niger State before the approval of 10 additional ones.
Complaints in Taraba
But there were complaints in Taraba State. At some of the registration centres in Jalingo and other towns, residents complained of the difficulties they faced while trying to obtain their voter cards.
At the Mile Six Primary School, Jalingo, over 400 people were waiting to register. They said that they had written their names on the instruction of the INEC officials, who promised to attend to them based on the time of their arrival. They said they had been waiting in vain.
Mr. Ushahemba Terkimbi said many of them had spent days coming to the Mile Six primary School, Jalingo without being registered.
In Takum Local Government, Mr. Yakubu Tikon, said only one registration machine was functional as of the time of filing this report.
In Zing Local Government Area, Mr. Tavoro Sholanko, said the Direct Digital Capture machine brought to the area had not been functioning properly, making it difficult for people to register.
Sholanko called on INEC to replace the DDC machines for effective voter registration.
Exercise hitch-free in Kastina
In Katsina State, 118,525 people have been registered so far. The figure is made up of 74,894 males and 43,631 females.
The INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for Katsina, Alhaji Jibril Zarewa, confirmed the development.
Report corrupt officers – INEC
In his reaction, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi, urged members of the pubic to report any official extorting money from anyone.
Oyekanmi said there were phone numbers and emails through which complaints could be lodged.
He said, “We encourage Nigerians to report any INEC official extorting money. No employee should collect money and it will never be tolerated. If that allegation is found to be true, that official will be dealt with.
“On our website there are about eight to 10 phone numbers through which you can report cases of extortion. Just indicate the registration centre where money is being extorted and we will handle the rest.”
The INEC official said the commission had supplied new computers to some of the registration centres to ensure that the pace of registration moved faster.
Oyekanmi also urged prospective voters not to be in a haste to register as the Continuous Voter Registration exercise would remain open until 60 days before election .
He added, “I appeal to all Nigerians to bear with us. We are sorry for the challenges they face when they go to register. We are aware that there are hiccups in some areas due to lack of equipment. We are currently addressing these issues.”
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