Anambra Voters’ Register & Related Issues: Where INEC Failed & Why Obiano Is Electoral Law Compliant
(A Joint Statement, Onitsha-Nigeria, 19th of October, 2013)- We, the leaderships of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety), the National Secretariat of the Civil Liberties Organization, Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy, Human Rights Club of the LRRDC, Anambra State Branch, Society Watch (a membership project of Intersociety-Nigeria), the Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization, Global Rights & Development International and Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), known as Southeast Group 8 Rights Coalition, have resolved to speak on the underlined subject matter with a view to guiding the Anambra electorates and other Nigerians and putting the records straight.
Final Release Of Voters' Register:
It is recalled that we had on 15th day of October, 2013, addressed a joint letter to the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Anambra State on its planned release of the final list of registered voters who will vote in the November 16, 2013 governorship election in the State; and need for the Electoral Residency to address before the release, a number of demographic anomalies complained of. On 16th of October, 2013, the Anambra Electoral Residency of INEC made public through the 23 participating political parties, the voters' list as scheduled. The exercise was carried out through a press briefing in which the political parties were given soft copies of the revised and updated registered voters.
According to Section 20 of the Nigeria's Electoral Act of 2010, the final list of registered voters is composed of the main voters' register and supplementary voters' list, which includes transferred voters' list (for those who relocated from their previous polling areas). The Section directs the exercise to be carried 30 days before the date of an election. Section 34 of the Act also directs INEC to release or publish same day through online and offline full names and addresses of all candidates standing nominated. Anambra State is the 10th most populated State in Nigeria with the 2006 census of 4.18million people (the current population is estimated to be up to 6million). The State measures about 4, 416 square kilometers of landmass with 21 LGAs, 326 electoral wards and 4,608 polling units.
Where Anambra Electoral Residency Of INEC Failed:
Though, the Anambra Electoral Residency of INEC released the list as legally required, but the anomalies complained of, and sought to be addressed, have remained unaddressed. From the Electoral Residency's accounts as released, the total number of registered voters in Anambra State tentatively rose to 2, 011, 746 in 2011 and decreased to 1, 711, 061 voters in July 2013. It increased again to 1, 784, 536 voters in October 2013. This simply means that only 73, 475 new voters were captured during the continuous voters' registration and revalidation exercise that took place between 19th and 25th of August, 2013. The Electoral Residency further said that the 18-35 registered voting age bracket constitutes 52%; 36-59 25%; 51-69 18%; and 70 years and above 5%. According to the Commission, the total number of female registered voters in Anambra State is 900,701 or 52%, while the number of male registered voters is 883,000 or 49%. Ogbaru LGA has the highest voting population of 139, 000 registered voters. The number of double registrants in the Anambra Voters' Register was put at 93, 354. In all, the total numbers of registered voters who will vote in the November 16, 2013 governorship poll is 1, 784, 536 (one million, seven hundred & eighty four thousand, five hundred & thirty six).
Other than the foregoing, the Anambra Electoral Residency of INEC did not disclose whether the 53 missing polling units in nine LGAs of Awka South (34), Ayamelum (1), Anambra East (2), Ihiala (2), Idemmili North (1), Nnewi South (4), Nnewi North (5), etc, have been found and restored or not and the fate of the affected registered voters in the areas. The public did not know whether the 93, 354 double registrants have been deleted from the voters' register. The number of dead and fictitious voters that were possibly deleted was not disclosed, so also the number of voters registered during the continuous registration and revalidation exercise and number transferred into the Transferred Voters' List.
No information was given with respect to the alleged discovery of illegal polling centers in Ogbaru, Onitsha North and Oyi LGAs as well as those malicious citizens imported by criminal politicians from neighboring States during the continuous voters' registration and revalidation exercise. Whether the “evil forest and shrine” bound polling units still exist or not was not disclosed. Information about issuance or otherwise of a certified true copy of voters' register to the ANSIEC for the purpose of conducting the December 14, 2013 LGA poll was also not made available.
Why Obiano Is Electoral Law Compliant:
Our in-depth investigation into an allegation that the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, Mr. William Obiano was involved in double registration as a registered voter in Nigeria clearly shows that he acted within the law. While double registration as a voter in Nigeria contravenes Section 12 (2) of the Electoral Act of 2010 with a fine on conviction of N100, 000 or one year imprisonment or both, unlawful possession of voters' card, buying or offers to buy same or selling of it is a contravention of Section 23 of the Act and attracts on conviction two years imprisonment or a fine of N500, 000 or both. The exceptions to Section 12 (2) of the Act are clearly provided in Section 13 (1) (2) (3) & (4) of the said Electoral Act (of 2010). These exceptions can be clearly understood in the context of “Citizen's Voters' Card/Data Transfer”.
Section 13 (1) of the Electoral Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2010, states: “Any person who before an election is resident in another polling constituency other than the one in which he was registered may apply to the Resident Electoral Commissioner of the State where he is currently residing for his name to be entered on the Transferred Voters' List of the constituency”. Section 13 (2): “An application under subsection 1 shall be accompanied by the applicant's voters' card and shall be made not less than 30 days before the date of an election in the constituency where the applicant is now resident”. Section 13 (3): “The REC to whom an application is made under this provision shall cause to be entered the applicant's name in the Transferred Voters' List if he is satisfied that the applicant is a resident in a polling center in the constituency and is registered in another constituency (former)”.
Section 13 (4): “ Whenever an Electoral Officer (EO) on the direction of REC enters the name of any person (applicant) on the Transferred Voters' List for his constituency, he shall: (a) assign that person to a polling unit area in his constituency and indicate in the list the polling unit to which that person (applicant) is assigned; (b) issue the person with a new voters' card and retrieve his voters' card (former); and (c) send a copy of the entry to the Electoral Officer of the constituency where the person whose name has been so entered was originally registered and upon receipt of his entry, that Electoral Officer shall delete the name(data) from his voters' list”.
The allegation as made is totally false and lacks fundamental ingredients of truism. While it is necessary to put those aspiring to occupy public leadership positions through elective or appointive processes on their toes so as to ensure the emergence of people with upright and charismatic characters, such activities must be rested in the universally acceptable processes especially in matters of journalistic investigation and reporting. Such must be devoid of political witch-hunting, ill conception and motivation. Nigerian journalists, who are part of the mass media recognized by Sections 22 and 39 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999, as amended in 2011 must not endanger the sanctities of the two hallowed provisions. They must also stay away from “konja journalism”.
The sighting of “double registration or data” of a citizen on the INEC's physical or soft data warehouse without an investigation to ascertain the circumstances of its double entry and existence, amounts to “trial by ordeal”, which has no place in Nigeria's justice and human rights system. For instance, in 2009, prior to the 2010 governorship poll in Anambra State, the leadership of Intersociety in Nigeria, went to Dr. Chris Ngige's campaign office in Awka and found that the data including picture of late Chief Gani Fawihinmi, SAN, who voted in Lagos in previous elections such as 2007 polls, was included in the list of registered voters in an Ekwulummili Ward in Nnewi South LGA of Anambra State. Further investigation showed that INEC was solely responsible for such anomaly.
In Mr. Willy Obiano's case, for him to vote in the November 16 important governorship election in which he is a contestant, he must bear a voters' card issued him in Anambra State and not that of Lagos State, which is not a party to Anambra governorship poll. His lawyers put INEC on notice on his behalf and exhausted all the processes attached as contained in Section 13 of the 2010 Electoral Act. The job of deleting his previous data in Lagos lies between the two concerned Electoral Officers in Anambra and Lagos States. The EO in Anambra State ought to transmit the information to his Lagos counterpart to facilitate the former's deletion. The allegation of payment or offer of a bribe of N500m to an Anambra INEC official so as to delete Mr. Obiano's data is an act of impossibility and a clear case of further injurious falsehood. This is because deleting such data from Anambra angle means that Mr. Obiano has incapacitated himself and cannot vote in the said election he is a contestant.
We reiterate our call on the Anambra State Electoral Residency of INEC headed by Professor Chukwuemeka Onukogu to offer satisfactory explanations to the People of Anambra State and Southeast Nigeria with respect to anomalies complained above. The Electoral Residency is also called upon to be alive to its administrative duties at all times permitted by law. Capturing only 73, 475 voters in the continuous voters' registration exercise out of teeming eligible but unregistered voters in Anambra State is an example of administrative incompetence. Mr. Willy Obiano's “double registration” allegation, though false and empty, is also part of it, so also the case of “missing 53 polling units”. Politicians including those controlled by “the Center of Excellence” are advised to stay away from “konja politics” and learn a lesson from the 2012 Ondo “electoral humiliation”. Issue-based politics wins hearts, while mechanical or “konja” politics poisons minds. Journalists in Nigeria must also be alive to their journalistic duties at all times. This includes searching for and arming themselves at all times with relevant materials such as copies of the Electoral Act of 2010, which can be sourced both online and offline. Those who reported the unfounded allegation of Mr. Obiano's double registration are “electoral illiterates”.
For: Southeast Group 8 Rights Coalition:
1. Emeka Umeagbalasi: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
2. Ibuchukwu Ezike: Executive Director, Civil Liberties Organization, Nigeria
3. Rufus Duru: Global Rights & Development International
4. Justus Uche Ijeoma: Society Watch (a membership project of Intersociety-Nigeria)
5. Emma Onwubiko: Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria
6. Aloysius Emeka Attah: Civil Liberties Organization, Anambra State Branch
7. Peter Onyegiri: Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy
8. Samuel Njoku: Human Rights Club of LRRDC, Anambra State Branch