By NBF News
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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has arrested six persons for diverting the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines in Bayelsa State. The suspects including two corps members were arrested by the Police at two different locations in Yenagoa when INEC officials uncovered the diversion of the machines.

According to the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Mr. Edwin Nwantalari, those arrested include Ige Emmanuel Muyiwa, a youth corps member with registration number, BY/10A/0349, Mrs Cecila Brigidi, Kenneth Bonny, Ayaware Gesi and Igwe Nnamdi.

He said INEC acted on a tip off that some machines meant for southern Ijaw Local Government Area were taken to unauthorized places where people were registered.

Nwantalari said Ige was arrested at Chief Jarius Job's compound in Kpansia area, Yenagoa Local Government Area of the state, while the remaining four suspects were caught with two DDC machines at the premises of former Senator, David Brigidi along Bay Bridge road.

He disclosed that the machine recovered from Ige was for Ingbele Compound, Enewari town, East Bono 1 ward, Southern Ijaw Local Government Area. Nwantalari said those arrested had been handed over to the State Security Service (SSS) for interrogation. While noting that movement of the DDC machines outside the authorized places as exercise in futility, he said any data collected could not be programmed into the INEC database.

Nwantalari warned that anybody caught would be made to face the full wrath of law and urged security operatives to promptly prosecute those already in their custody.

Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole has declared Friday, January 28, 2011 as a work-free day. 

In a statement in Benin City, signed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Pally Iriase, this is to enable all public servants in the state to register in the ongoing voters' registration.

The SSG advised all public servants to utilize this period of grace granted by the governor to acquire a voters' card, stressing that production of such card might be a requirement for certain services in Edo State in future.

The Nigeria Christian Graduate Fellowship (NCGF) has appealed to the clergy and Christian leaders to mobilize members of their congregation and all eligible voters for effective participation in the ongoing registration. In a statement issued in Benin and signed by the fellowship's National President and National Publicity Secretary, Revd Prof. Vincent Iyawe and Mr Dan Aigbavboa respectively, the fellowship noted that participation in the voters' registration was a civic responsibility which must be exercised by every adult citizen for good governance and overall growth of the nation's democracy.

It called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to extend the period for the registration, to guard against disenfranchising some citizens, as the first week of the exercise was marred by unavailability and malfunctioning of the Direct Data Capture machines.

According to the NCGF, reports from different parts of the country showed that some areas even received their equipment this week, few days to the end of the exercise. It therefore, enjoined INEC to urgently rectify all faulty machines to ensure a successful exercise, while eligible voters should not be discouraged by the hitches observed so far.

On the conduct of politicians, the fellowship charged all players in the political arena to play the game according to the rules, as desperation had in the past led to violence and malpractices. The success of the electoral process was largely dependent on the conduct of Nigerian politicians.

It further appealed to the electorate to support only credible candidates who had the fear of God and were capable of rendering quality service, as the quest for good governance was non-negotiable in the present day Nigeria.

The fellowship is a non-denominational and evangelical body, which, amongst others, is out to offer and assert the Christian position on critical national issues and to encourage members to uphold the principles of the Christian home, stewardship, leadership and probity.

Imo State Government yesterday declared Thursday and Friday as public holidays to enable the state civil servants participate in the ongoing nationwide voters' registration exercise. In a statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prince Victor Ibeye-Ugbala said the two-day public holidays excluded banks operating in the state. But, however, he directed the bank management to ensure that adequate arrangement was made to enable their staff to participate in the exercise.

Meanwhile, some of registration centres visited by Daily Sun, showed that prospective voter's, who turned out in their large numbers complained about slow pace of the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machine and employment of those who were not computer literate. Despite the frustration, people still converged at various registration centres as early as 5am to enable them secure number for their turn.

As part of efforts to effectively mobilize its members to participate fully in the ongoing registration exercise, the Lagos State Council of National Union of Road Transport workers (NURTW) has directed its members to stay off road on Saturday.

The Chairman of Lagos council of the union, Alhaji Akanni Olohunwa disclosed this to newsmen in Lagos, while briefing journalists on the activities of the union towards mobilizing members to participate fully in the exercise. According to the chairman, all public transportation vehicles had been directed to stay off road on Saturday, January 29 from 8am to 2pm.

He explained that it became imperative for the union to take the step because its members had not been able to participate in the voters' registration exercise due to the nature of their work and teething problems people had been encountering since the commencement of the exercise. 'We therefore crave the support of the motoring public to bear with the union members so as to fulfill their civic responsibility. We are highly disappointed that the logistics put in place by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) have fallen short of people's expectation,' he said.

The union also joined the call for the extension of the period for the registration exercise in view of the frustration being experienced by those who had been going for the registration. Towards this end, the union demanded for at least two weeks extension of the period.

A socio-political organisation, Coalition of Oodua Self Determination Group (COSEG) has alleged that the Independence National Electoral Commission (INEC) deliberately planned to under register Lagos voters for ulterior motives. The group made the allegation yesterday during a rally in Ajegunle area of Lagos, where the INEC boss was accused of deliberately under registering Lagos voters so that his home state, Kano would have the highest number of registered voters in the coming election.

The National Chairman of the group, Dayo Ogunlana and its Secretary, Razaq Oloko-Oba, who addressed the rally, wondered why only 1.2 million voters, out of about 20 million Lagos population were registered in the state in ten days.

While insisting that extension of the exercise was imperatives, the COSEG leaders blamed mal-functional Direct Data Capture (DDC) machine, incompetent staff of the INEC and slow response of the populace at the commencement of the exercise on some of the inadequacies of the INEC performance. The COSEG leaders, who supported the National Assembly's amendment of the relevant law to allow for the extension of the exercise, therefore, called on Lagos residents to seize the opportunity to turn out in large number to register 'because of the importance of the exercise.'

They also urged INEC to ensure that all its gadgets were functioning well and their staff given training to stop the hiccups experienced so far, warning that 'we will resist any attempt to under register Lagos voters with all legal, democratic and constitutional means within our disposal.'

Wife of Ondo State Governor, Olukemi Mimiko has advised women in the state to go all out to participate in the voters' registration. Mrs. Mimiko, who gave the advice yesterday during this month's edition of her meeting with women groups in the state at Odigbo town, headquarters of Odigbo Local Government Area of the state, enjoined them to endeavour to go out and register so as to ensure that they were not disenfranchised at the end of the day in voting for a candidate of their choice.

She said: 'Let me urge you to be patient despite the technical and logistics problems so far experienced since the commencement of the exercise, you should not be discouraged but be determined to get registered.'

She noted that if they failed to register, based on the hitches they encountered, they might lose the right to vote for a candidate of their choice.

Mrs. Mimiko added: 'I also want to reiterate my usual call on you to religiously monitor your children and wards. We should warn them against being used as political thugs. The Bible says 'train your child in the way he or she should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.' 'I pray that Almighty God will sustain the peace that is reigning in the state and allow us to have hitch free elections in the state and in the country at large.'

Mrs. Mimiko, who thanked the people of the state for their support, however, solicited their continued prayers and cooperation, saying that this administration counts so much on their involvement and positive contributions to succeed. Earlier in her speech, the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Development, Mrs Bukola Tenabe commended the state Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko for the various programmes put in place and targeted at improving the welfare of women and children in the state.

She enjoined women in the state to cooperate with one another in their endeavour to have one voice to fight for their rights as a practical demonstration of the adage which says 'united we stand, divided we fall.'

The Godswill 2011 Campaign Organization has strongly condemned the reports making the rounds that the officials and agents of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), working for its gubernatorial candidate, Senator John Akpanudoedehe were allegedly going round the state to molest innocent and law-abiding natives of the state during the ongoing voters' registration exercise.

Monitors of the registration exercise have reported that in a desperate move to garner registered voters, agents of the party had gone round some communities in the state, especially in the Uyo area to intimidate prospective voters into parting with their voters' registration card. Reports also have it that there had been serious attempts to rig the voters' registration exercise through the hijack and diversion of the Direct Data Capture machines in some areas.

A press statement by the Director of Media and Publicity of the campaign organization, Mr. Anietie Ekong, described the actions of officials and agents of the ACN as barbaric, undemocratic and condemnable. 'We are shocked at this desperate and undemocratic move whose ignoble intention is to disenfranchise the mass of Akwa Ibom people and prevent them from exercising their democratic rights.

'We hasten to remind the ACN, its officials and agents that Nigeria is in democracy where citizens are free to exercise their right to freedom of association and choice without fear of intimidation. We advice them to desist forthwith from their undemocratic tactics of coercing and inducing prospective voters, as such a move would be an ill-wind that would blow the ACN and its contestants no good. The ACN and its officials should embrace the universal principle of democracy which allows people to freely choose their leaders,' he said.

The campaign organization reminded the people that the voters' card was their only tool to elect their leaders and advised the people not to mortgage it, no matter the inducement.

As the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC continues to battle the challenges arising from the voters' registration exercise across the country, the Primate of the Christ True Mission Church of Nigeria, the Most Revd Dr. Stephen Ufoh has tasked the commission to act fast in the interest of the nation. Bishop Ufoh, who seemed infuriated over the snail pace of the exercise across the Federation noted that if urgent measures were not put in place, the dream of having a credible election would be truncated.

The cleric observed that considering the huge budgetary allocation made to INEC for the purpose of the elections, the commission could not afford to fail Nigerians. He was of the view that if Nigerians were denied the power to vote, the much talked about,one man, one vote might have been aborted at the nursery stage.

'It is sad that about one week into the exercise, the materials are yet to arrive in so many places. The whole thing looks as if the commission was taken unawares.