RESIDENTS, BENUE OFFICIALS CLASH OVER VOTERS' REGISTRATION

By NBF News
Listen to article

ACN urges transparency
THE on-going registration of voters ran into fresh hitches yesterday in Makurdi, Benue State as government functionaries attempted to hijack the process by giving lists to registration officers of those they wanted registered.

Consequently, a free-for-all ensured in many of the registration centre across Makurdi as prospective voters opposed the government officials at different locations, leading to the disruption of registration.

At a registration centre in Old GRA, Makurdi, the registration officer had to shut down the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machine after he was attacked by residents who resisted the list of a commissioner.

It was the same story at the Protocol registration centre at Government House where a list from top female government official caused uproar when prospective voters queried her action.

Security personnel had a hectic restoring order at the Government House Protocol registration unit following the protest by aggrieved prospective voters.

In Wadata at NKST Primary School registration unit, community leaders intervened when youths protested the use of a list allegedly sent in by a member of the Benue State House of Assembly, which contained the names of persons not resident in the area.

But the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Public Relations Officer in Benue State, Louis Ochai, claimed that the commission was unaware of the lists from government officials to circumvent the process.

He said that the Commission would investigate the situation and take appropriate action.

However, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has asked INEC to ensure more transparency in the ongoing voters' registration exercise, insisting that 'the commission has been slow to react to anomalies hindering the success of the exercise.'

In a statement issued yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, the party also warned 'INEC not to disenfranchise the millions of Nigerians who have yet to register because of the problems plaguing the exercise which INEC must bear responsibility.'

The party expressed support for the growing calls on the commission to extend the time for the registration.

Mohammed wrote: 'The voter registration has been everything but transparent, and INEC has allowed everything it said would not happen, such as the spurious donation of funds by some state governments to 'assist' the process and the registration in homes of some powerful politicians and in palaces.'

'These problems, as well as those we identified in our earlier statement (including double and under-aged registration and registration without fingerprinting – which have not been addressed anyway), have exposed INEC's painfully inadequate preparations for the voter registration.

'This is not very reassuring for Nigerians that INEC can indeed live up to its avowed commitment to organise free, fair and credible polls in April.'

The party said if INEC has become overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems facing the registration, then it must urgently call a meeting of key stakeholders to proffer solutions to the myriad of problems facing the exercise.

Meanwhile, former Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Florence Ita-Giwa, has reassured the people of Bakassi that despite all odds, the registration exercise in Bakassi continued.

Briefing the media in Calabar yesterday on recent boat accident that involved some Bakassi indigenes, Ita-Giwa said the accident rather should embolden them to register.

On Sunday the Paramount Ruler of Bakassi, Etiyin Etim OkonEdet and 17 others escaped death when the boat on which they were travelling to Dayspring Island where the people of Bakassi have been assigned to register capsized.

Ita-Giwa said: 'Whether the journey is turbulent or not, we are bent on registering all our people. I appeal to all people of Bakassi to come out en masse and register so that they can vote and be voted for as bonafide Nigerians.'

And, Muyiwa Ige, the son of the late Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bola Ige, has advised the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, to be wary of saboteurs within and outside the commission who might want to make him fail on his assignment.

Ige, who spoke after obtaining his voter's card in Esa-Oke, Osun State urged the INEC chief to look inward for possible complicity of the commission's officials in hitches trailing the registration exercise.

He submitted that Jega was a man of high integrity but noted that he should be careful about elements in the commission who might want to use their positions to frustrate the voter's registration in an attempt to stain his record.