VOTER REGISTRATION: WE’LL NEED N6.6BN FOR SEVEN DAYS EXTENSION – INEC
It will cost the Independent National Electoral Commission an extra N6.6bn to fund the ongoing voter registration for an additional week.
The Chairman of the commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, made this known when he appeared before the Senate in Abuja on Wednesday.
He told the Senate which had on Monday summoned him over the hiccups resulting from the voter registration that the amount (N6.6bn) would be needed for payment of allowances, lamination of cards as well as the purchase of ink and papers.
The allowances, according to him, will be paid to 240 electoral personnel and 9,000 registration officers.
Jega told the lawmakers, who had thought that the electoral body needed more than an addition one week that INEC was registering an average of 4.3 million people per day.
He explained that going by the figure, between 43 million and 45 million people would have been registered by the time the deadline for the exercise runs out on Saturday.
An extra one week, he said, would afford the commission to register up 65 million voters and not 70 million people he had said would be registered by the commission.
Explaining that INEC had found out after streamlining the figure (70 million) that it was less, he appealed to the Senate to amend the Electoral Act in such a way that the commission could continue registration beyond January 29.
He said, “From our own projection as I speak with you now sir, if the electoral act is properly amended, we believe that if we have an extension of one week from January 29 to February 5, we will be able to register every registrable Nigerian.
“The constraints we have, as the provision of the Act stands now, is that we have to finish all registrations latest 60 days to the election which is latest by the second week of February. So as it stands now, unless there is an amendment to the Act, we cannot do much extension beyond four days. That is between January 29 and February 5.
“If we have an extension of an additional one week, we believe that we will be able to finish this exercise very successfully. We have all the projection.”
According to the INEC chairman, it would not require more than seven days as further extension would make it uncomfortably too close to the election.
“We will be happier with 10 days of more extension, but we will be uncomfortably closed to the elections and also considering the cost,” Jega said.
He also admitted that there were problems such as the failure of some of the machines, and officials not following the rules and instructions.
Jega also conceded that the Direct Data Capturing machines had just arrived in some centres in Kwara and Enugu states.
He said one of the contractors failed to deliver at the agreed time, creating problems for INEC in its effort to commence registration simultaneously across the country.
According to him, about 1,000 of the machines have been reported broken down nationwide, while about 500 of them have been replaced by the concerned contractors.
He denied that the machines were substandard, arguing that their quality was ascertained and due processes followed in procuring them.
Jega said, “I am not underestimating the challenges. There are serious challenges and some of them are human. These problems are normal and we are responding quickly to the problems as they come.”
The INEC chairman also said that many people were still involved in double registration even though it had been made clear that those involved would be arrested and prosecuted.
On the possibility of falling back to the old voter register should the present exercise fail, Jega said that the commission would not contemplate such.
According to him, no matter how imperfect the current exercise would be, it would still be far better than the last register that had been rejected.
He said while most members of the National Youth Service Corps had done exceptionally well, about 15 of them had been arrested for alleged “criminal activities.”
Senators used the opportunity to relive their experiences in their respective constituencies, saying that Jega’s optimism was not replicated at the various registration centres across the country.
The President of the Senate, Mr. David Mark, in his comments said it was not the responsibility of Jega to determine the number of days that voter registration should last.
He said that the National Assembly would decide that through the amendment of the Electoral Act.
Turning to Jega, he said, “You have to deal more with what is going on in the field rather than depend only on what your staff is telling you. They may not be telling you the truth; if they tell you that registration is not taking place then it would be self- indictment.