Massive Protest Lagos Over Voter Registration
LAGOS, Jan 24, (THEWILL) - Thousands of aggrieved residents of Lagos State including human rights advocates, civil society practitioners, student union activists and community leaders today stormed the office of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the state secretariat protesting what they termed irregularities, in the on-going voter registration exercise across all the states of the federation.
The groups in the protest include Coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reforms (CODER), Coalition for A Better Nigeria, Coalition of Youths and Civil Society (CYCS), National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), June 12 Coalition, National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN) and Network for Good Governance (NGG) amongst others.
CODER National Coordinator, Mr. Ayo Opadokun, Campaign for Democracy Executive Director, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin and Comrade Awa Bamiji led aggrieved protesters, who marched from Lagos INEC Office in Yaba to the state secretariat, calling for justice and carrying placards with diverse inscriptions, which apparently conveyed the grievances and frustrations eligible voters encountered in registration centres across the nation.
On their placards were inscriptions like: “Jega is doing Jaja Jaga registration; we say no Jaga Jaga registration; Jega, do not steal our votes; we shall fight rigging to the last, poor credible registration; poor election; No wuru wuru registration; no to fake machines; Fashola, shine your eyes; Lagosians say no to direct dubious computers; our N75 billion cannot buy original machines; we need two week extension”, amongst others.
The protest caused traffic gridlock from the Jibowu area along Ikorudu Road, but it nearly crippled vehicular movement on all the road networks leading to the office of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) as the protesters insisted on the extension of the registration exercise and deployment of more machines to the registration centres.
The protesters called on electoral commission chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega to extend the voter registration across the country by additional two weeks in order not to disenfranchise qualified Nigerians.
In a letter of protest it addressed to President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan via Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, the coalition recounted irregularities trailing the voter registration in Lagos State and other states of the federation.
The errors, the coalition highlighted, include shortage of registration machines, sudden failure of its batteries, cases of missing machines, importation of non-residents to the registration centres and ineffective registration officers.
The letter, signed by Bamiji, Opadokun and Okei-Odumakin said the electoral commission had started laying what it described a solid foundation “for one man; many votes, thus inviting Late Michael Jackson to resurrect and vote in Nigeria again as former INEC Chairman, Prof. Maurice Iwu did in the 2007 General Elections.”
The coalition sought the whole review and extension of the voter registration exercise “with a view to making it better. Or we quickly switch over to a better, easier and more economical Option A4 before it is too late. This is too much with many troubles,” they wrote.
Photo: Lagos Governor Babatunde Fashola addressing the protesters.
In his response after accepting the letter of protest, Governor Fashola said the electoral commission was ill prepared for the on-going voter registration, which he said, could mar the whole process of the next elections.
According to him, ‘we have cases of DDC machines arriving just yesterday. People registered but cannot get voter’s card due to printer errors. Some machines cannot even capture fingers properly. A lot of hiccups and lapses are posing a threat to credible elections as the leadership of electoral commission earlier promised.’
Also speaking at the INEC office, NANS Chairman (Lagos Area Axis), Comrade Olanrewaju Ogundipe told the state’s INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola and other INEC officials in the state that the ploy was an attempt to rig the next elections, which he said, Nigerian students are determined to resist.
“We are here to express our grievances about the ongoing voters registration exercise. It is not going on well. The DDC machines are going very bad. If the situation continues this way, millions of Nigerians, especially students will be disenfranchised. If the exercise ends on Saturday, it will be another form of rigging the coming election,” he said.
Ogundipe said the students want INEC “to extend the duration of the exercise by another two to three weeks so that everybody could register in order to vote at the next elections. The elections will be a sham if nothing is done to address several anomalies”.
Also speaking on the hiccups, Network for Good Governance Coordinator, Mr. Oluremi Olaleye said the exercise was nothing but a sham, calling for extension “to give every Nigerian opportunity to duly register. More than 80 percent of eligible residents have not been able to register. As I am telling, only 5 percent has registered in Lagos.”
In his reaction, Dr. Adekunle Ogunmola pled for understanding and patience, acknowledging that the commission had taken cognisance of all complaints from different quarters.
He said something would be done “to save the situation. I can assure you that we will not wind up this exercise until all intending voters are registered. We want to make sure we give Nigeria the best. All eligible voters must be captured before we can conclude the exercise. We now have many more DDC machines. By Saturday, we will know whether lots of people have been captured or not.
“Definitely, whatever happens by Saturday will determine whether the voter registration deadline will be extended or not. All we need is patience; any attempt to disrupt this exercise will not be good. It has started on a faulty note, it will end well. I can give you assurance that the exercise will be extended,” Ogunmola added.