INEC’s First Big Test


The release of the 2011 general elections timetable by the Independent National Electoral  Commission, INEC, has increased the tempo of political activities but most voters are  apprehensive of the two weeks allowed for the compilation of a new voters’ register.

Their apprehension stems from past experience when voters were disenfranchised through no  fault of theirs. Prior to the 1999 elections, a similar exercise was carried out and at  the end of the day, there were several unsavoury tales of inability of the electorate to  register. In some cases, it was the fault of the officials drafted to conduct the  registration, but in several others, it was due to voter apathy. Whatever the cause, we  must guide against the same problems. Materials for registration must arrive in good time  while voters should be sensitised at least two weeks before the commencement of the  exercise. Registration centres too must be adequate to avoid people going to register ten  streets away from where they reside, which in the past, turned off potential voters who  did not want to face such hassles just to register to vote.

It should also be noted that in the past, voters could not find where to vote. We believe  that voting centres should not be too far from where voters had registered to vote. The  inability to find where to vote had in the past made voters turn back and go home. Such  cases are often not helped by INEC officials who act as if they don’t care if one votes  or not. This  cavalier attitude by INEC officials must be avoided. INEC should also  reconsider the time-frame for registration as we believe the two-week period may not be  enough for the exercise.

INEC’s first big assignment under Prof. Attahiru Jega will be the registration of voters  for the January elections. Not a few Nigerians want INEC to get it right but the greater  fear is: does Jega have competent and honest staff to prosecute the job?

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Many times logistics had been more of a problem than corruption but when both are  combined, we have an impossible situation which ends up with all sides blaming one  another.

Already, controversy is trailing the award of contract for the supply of Direct Data  Capture Machines. Nigerians are asking what criteria was used to award the contract to  Hailer, Arante and Zinox when world-class manufacturers like Samsung, HP, Acer, Dell and  Toshiba also bid for the contract.

The greater fear now is that the machines may not be delivered on time to meet INEC’s  registration time table. But Prof. Jega on Saturday in Calabar, while speaking with  Resident Electoral Commissioners, REC, said “INEC has almost concluded the procurement of  sophisticated machines and equipment required for the registration exercise. We have also  commenced the recruitment of over 360,000 staff that are needed for the voter  registration and the development of new software.”

All sounds very well but we all need to play our part towards the success of the next  elections. It is heartening that non-government organisations have taken the lead in  sensitising Nigerians on the need to register, vote and make sure their votes count.  Government at all levels , NGOs, churches, mosques, schools and other social groups must  begin to sensitise their members on the need to be part of the registration which begins  on 1 November, 2010. The success of this exercise will lay the foundation for a free,  fair, credible and peaceful elections in  2011.

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