New Voters Register Ready December 9 - Jega


ABUJA, Sept 06, (THEWILL) - The Independent National Electoral commission (INEC) came short of announcing a comprehensive timetable for the 2011 general election today, but ended up telling Nigerians to expect a brand new voters’ register by December 9.

Chairman of the commission, Professor Attahiru Jega who revealed this also disclosed that as much as 70 million voters are expected to be captured in the new voters register.

Jega spoke when he received members of Study Group 1, Course 32, of the elitist National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos inside INEC headquarters in Abuja.

The INEC Chairman stated that the commission has gone very far in mapping out the strategies it would deploy for voters register, having overcome the issue of resource constraint, adding that the registration exercise would be done within two weeks.

Nonetheless, Professor Jega expressed fears about the time constraint, saying time still poses a serious challenge even as he acknowledged for the umpteenth time that the old voters register was not reliable.

"The current voters register is not credible enough for the forthcoming elections and a new voters register is necessary. I think we have gone very far in this regard. Obviously to attempt to do new voters register as we prepare for elections in January is a very challenging task. There were resource and time constraints to tackle.

"But I want to say that we have overcome many of these particularly the resource constraint. We have made a case for funding and we have received the funding that we have requested for. However the time constraint is still of concern although we are doing our best to see that we overcome it," Jega said.

The INEC chairman said: "In terms of preparation for the elections, it is clear to us that if we take the constitution amendment into consideration, and the new Electoral Act 2010, the first elections may at the earliest hold on the 8th of January and if this was to be so, then we have to complete the voters; registration by the 9th of November and we have to do a clean-up and to integrate and certify the register by the 9th of December."

However, he pointed out that this was a relief to the commission as it was a remarkable improvement on the 2006 Electoral Act, adding that under the 2006 Electoral Act, INEC would not have had time to compile new voters register but would have only done a clean-up of the current one.

As INEC prepares for the exercise, he stated that the commission must prevent the mistakes of the past and assured that these have been taken care of. He identified the problem of inadequate, inappropriate and sub-standard equipments as well as poorly trained registration officers.

As part of the implementation plan, Jega hinted that a retreat for Resident Electoral Commissioners in the 36 states of the federation and Abuja would be held between September 16 and 19 in order to further concretize strategies for the task ahead.

On challenges militating against smooth voter registration, public awareness to reverse the existing apathy from members of the voting public, Jega said actual timely release of funds is his fear but expressed confidence that Government would live up to its billings.

On the registration plan, Professor Jega said: "We plan to acquire Direct Capturing Machine and to deploy one each to the 120, 000 polling units in the country. In our procurement, we also took care of redundancies so that there are enough to go round in case there are problems. The registration will take place between the first week of October and the first week of November.

"We have estimated that it may take between 9 to 10 minutes to register one person using the Direct Capture Machine with one registration officer. If we are to work 8 hours daily we expect that we can register up to about 70 million in 14 days. This has taken into consideration even the possibility of unexpected delays and so on. If there are 70 million register-able Nigerians out there, we believe that with the deployment capacity that we have planned for, we should be able within a period of two weeks of capturing with 8 hours in a day, be able to capture all of these persons," Jega said.

He stated that the commission would recruit 360, 000 registration officers and deploy three persons to each of the 120, 000 registration units.

The INEC boss also said that the commission was engaging critical stakeholders such as the politicians, military and paramilitary agencies, government and its parastatals, as well as international agencies who are also supporting the commission.

Professor Jega stated that INEC was not unmindful of the very high expectation of Nigerians and the huge challenges posed to undertake a free, fair and credible election, and added that the commission was determined to do its best.

He assured that INEC will give Nigeria a far more dependable voters register to build on in the future and ensure free, fair and credible elections, adding, "it is going to be difficult, but it is not insurmountable, but we have the problem of a very tight, time framework."

The leader of the group, Professor Olu Obafemi, while speaking on behalf of the NIPPS study group described Jega’s task as very challenging but stated that going by his antecedent the INEC boss is capable of delivering free, fair and credible elections.