By NBF News

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has advised INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega not to use allegedly compromised or incompetent contractors for the forthcoming registration of voters.

The party said there was the need for him to start on a clean slate.

In a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the ACN also warned the INEC chair to be careful in depending on the existing structure at the commission, especially since its largely incompetent and discredited immediate past leadership may have set up booby traps for whoever would try to turn things around for the better.

'One of such booby traps is the recommendation or sponsor, by insiders and powerful elements, of several contractors as equipment suppliers for the impending registration process. Now, as it has been widely reported, the shortlist of contractors contains names of those who allegedly messed up the 2007 registration and helped ruin what could have been a landmark elections, under the watch of the disgraced former INEC leadership.

'If there is any hitch to the registration process as a result of the incompetence of these shortlisted contractors, the 2011 elections are already ruined before they are even held, and the blame will be laid squarely on the shoulders of Prof. Jega. Afterall, as far as INEC is concerned, the buck stops at his desk. This is why he must ensure that he starts on a clean slate, send out fresh pre-qualification invitations and ensure that only capable and competent contractors are selected for the all-important task,' it said.

ACN said the shortlisted companies – Dimension Data, Pacific Millennium, Basmak, Google, Zinox, Joint Komputer Company, Image Technology, and Resourcery – are allegedly either inexperienced or lack the tested solution to handle the job for which they have been shortlisted. 'One of the companies is alleged to have been paid over N500 million in 2007 for data integration, but failed to deliver. Another was alleged to have pirated the software that messed up the registration in 2007, while at least one of them is said to have been sponsored by an INEC commissioner.

'Also, one of the companies is said not to be in the data business while another is an oil services specialist, with no requisite experience in the business for which it has been shortlisted. 'While we do not have anything against these companies, it is important for INEC's new leadership to investigate their involvement, if any, in the disastrous registration process in 2007, as well as their sponsors to ensure that the much-awaited voter's registration process is not messed up again. Any of them that contributed to the failure of the 2007 registration process must stand disqualified,' the party said.

It also called on the INEC Chair to look into the reports that some of the contractors were now seeking the assistance of the Bangladeshi company that was not even shortlisted, despite having a proven record in this area and presenting a solution that is 30 per cent less than what INEC had budgeted. 'If this is true, then the INEC boss may have to consider building a consortium around the Bangladeshi company (TigerIT Bangladesh) to handle the registration process, instead of handing the job to those who have either failed to deliver in the past or are incompetent,' ACN advised.

It also called for an investigation into the allegation that N5 billion was set aside for GPS on the laptops to be used for the registration process, especially as it has also been alleged that an INEC insider introduced the idea for self-enrichment purpose.

'Huge taxpayer funds are involved in the voters' registration process, which is being repeated within three years because the last one was messed up. The process itself is the bedrock of any free, fair and credible election. That is why it is critically important that Nigeria gets it right this time. Nothing must be allowed to stand in the way of a well-conducted registration process,' the party said.