For engaging in multiple registrations of voters during the last voters’ listing exercise, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has commenced the in-house sanctioning of 23 officials.

The records of the commission showed that some of the 23 officials attempted to register some fake voters 40 times, INEC National Chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, disclosed yesterday during the third quarterly meeting with political parties, in Abuja.

Ahead of next year’s general election, the electoral umpire also declared that no fewer than 93.5 million Nigerians are eligible to participate in the exercise as voters, noting that 12.29 million Nigerians successfully completed their registrations as new voters in the just concluded Continuous Voter Registration CVR.

Yakubu added that after a rigorous clean-up of the data using the Automated Biometric Identification System, ABIS, over 2.78 million were identified and removed as ineligible registrants.

Consequently, he said the commission has identified 23 of its registration officers for severe sanctions having attempted to engage in multiple registrations of Nigerians.

Yakubu’s disclosures came as the Inter-Party Advisory Council IPAC passed a vote of confidence on him for his innovations to reshape the electoral process.

The political parties specifically hailed the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, and the INEC Result Viewing IReV Portal in the recently concluded elections in the country and for next year’s general election.

23 officials for punishment

Speaking at the meeting, the INEC chairman said: “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. The 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’ registers. 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.”

No going back on BVAS, IReV

Yakubu again declared that the decision to deploy BVAS and IReV for the forthcoming polls is cast in stone.

He said only last week, the INEC commenced the training of master trainers on election technology to ensure a seamless process, adding that from Thursday, INEC will commence the same training at the zonal level and subsequently train all its ad-hoc staff for the 176,846 polling units nationwide.

“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 stated.

New voters

Yakubu also disclosed that at the end of the recent CVR, 12,298,944 Nigerians successfully completed the registration as new voters and that 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 those whose registrations were invalidated were double/multiple registrants, under-aged persons and outright fake registrations that failed to meet INEC’s business rules.

“Consequently, the number of valid registrations (post-ABIS) is 9,518,188.

“In terms of demographic distribution, 7.2 million new voters or 76.5% are young people between 18-34 years while there is a slightly higher number of females (4.8 million or 50.82%) than males (4.6 million or 49.18%) voters. In terms of occupation, 3.8 million (40.8%) are students.

“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,” he stated.

Accordingly, Yakubu said in the next few days, the Commission will print 9,352,228 pages of the register, while the hard copy will be displayed for each of the 8,809 Registration Areas (Wards) and 774 Local Government Areas nationwide. Also, the entire register will be published on INEC’s website for claims and objections as required by law.

“The display of the physical register will take place at the designated centres from Saturday 12th – Friday 25th November 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.

“The Commission is also working hard to ensure the completion of printing of remaining PVCs for new voters as well as those that applied to transfer or the replacement of their lost or damaged cards. In the coming days, we will also inform Nigerians of the detailed plan to ensure a seamless collection of the PVCs. We are aware that Nigerians expect an improvement in the procedure for PVC collection,” he stated.

Vote of confidence

IPAC Chairman, Engr. Yabagi Yusuf Sani, who spoke on behalf of the political parties, said the INEC leadership is well on track for the elections

“I want to use this occasion to also reaffirm the confidence of IPAC in the leadership of INEC for its consistent demonstration of diligence, uncommon zeal and patriotism in the pursuit of the agency’s statutory mandate”, he stated and condemned attacks on the INEC chairman by shadowy figures because of his commitment to the introduction of technologies to improve the electoral process.

He said: “On the basis of our evaluation that INEC has been well on track, the leadership of IPAC additionally, wishes to use this occasion to condemn the emerging antics and smear campaign by certain shadowy and cowardly figures who clearly have embarked on the treacherous and unpatriotic conspiracy of reversing the outstanding landmarks the INEC has recorded in recent years in the annals of the nation’s electoral history.

“To us in IPAC, the real object of the darts of venom being directed at the person of the chairman and the institution of the INEC are merely a decoy. The real target of the machinations is the circumvention of the deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, the Electronic Transfer of results and the other security devices INEC has deftly and painstakingly put in place to enhance the integrity of the electoral process.

“The spurious allegations they are orchestrating especially in the online platforms 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 Professor Mahmoud 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.”

IPAC also expressed concern on the emerging negative signals against peaceful and credible conduct of the 2023 general elections which Sani said include the brazen breach of the provisions of the Electoral Act and other extant laws on the use of money with impunity, during the last off-season governorship elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states.

He said the IPAC leadership also noted the spike in the use of divisive languages and hate speeches by several chieftains and spokespersons of some political parties in the mass media and at political rallies.

“We want to assure you that the reprehensible, irresponsible and reckless utterances which are already heating up the polity with the potential of leading to the even more dangerous dimension of igniting mutual hate, animosity and violence along the nation’s existing tenuous fault lines are being addressed by IPAC.

“Sooner than later, our effort in ensuring decency and issue-based campaigns will manifest in the conduct of our members; the political registered parties’ candidates and their spokespersons,” he added.