By NBF News
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The Kwara State Government has condemned media reports that the state recorded the lowest figure in the ongoing nationwide voters' registration exercise, saying no fewer than 555,021 eligible voters have so far been registered in the state.

It is important at this point to inform the general public that Kwara State has not recorded the lowest figure in the registration exercise as the analysis, according to the report, only indicated the first four days of the exercise in the state compared to other states which have average of six to 10 days already covered.

Speaking with journalists in his office, the state Resident Electoral Commissioner, Chief Timothy Ibitoye disclosed that of the 2,013 Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines allotted the state to cover a total of 1,872 registration centres, a total of 1,685 DDC machines were initially supplied giving a balance of 238 DDC machines still being awaited. Ibitoye therefore confirmed that as at Tuesday, January 25, a total of 555,021 eligible voters had been registered in the state.

He further disclosed that as at today, all the 1,872 polling centres in the state were now being covered, adding that all the remaining balance of 238 DDC machines had also arrived and distributed to the registration centres which hitherto were not having the machine.

Coordinator of Divine Rescue Mission Ministries, a mother body of Care Widows, Dr. Nonye Madubuko has lamented the low turnout of widows in the ongoing voters' registration exercise.

Madubuko said the low turnout of widows in Kaduna for the voters' registration exercise could be attributed to the slow pace of the Direct Data Capturing (DDC) machines, inadequate supply of the machines and other logistic problems.

'Where there are large turnouts, it is because there is one or two polling centres available. For example, in Kaduna, in places like Gonin Gora, Buwaya, Ungwar Boro, Tudun Wada, Ungwar Rimi, Malali and parts of Sabo Tasha, you are likely to see a large number of people including women because there are few machines available,' she lamented.

She, therefore, called on women in Kaduna State, especially widows, to come out en masse and register, saying their voter's card was what would give them the opportunity to vote into power a government that would uplift the plight of widows in Kaduna State and Nigeria at large.

'When other women whose husbands are still alive take refuge in security of their husbands, you find out that we have no one to turn to. We are all alone. As widows, the only protector and provider that we have is God. He is the only one who cares for us and our children. We must not miss this opportunity of voting a government which cares about us,' she added.

To demonstrate the importance attached to the voters' registration by his administration, Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has declared today a public holiday to allow more people in the state to register. Fayemi, in a statement yesterday signed by his Special Adviser on Media, Mojeed Jamiu, said the holiday would enable civil servants in the state to register in their various towns and villages.

This, he said, would give them the opportunity to exercise their franchise at the State Assembly, National Assembly and presidential elections scheduled for April and other subsequent elections. Fayemi stressed the importance of the ongoing voters' registration and urged all eligible voters in the state to exercise their civic responsibility by taking part in the registration process.

According to him, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had overcome its initial challenges but urged the electoral agency to put in place necessary measures to ensure that all eligible voters were duly registered. The governor had last weekend in Ode-Ekiti, while flagging off free medical treatment for the people of Gbonyin Local Government Area, declared that any civil servant who failed to register as a voter would not receive his salary.

Fayemi said, 'your vote is your power and I want all of you to ensure that you register as voters to enable you exercise your civic rights at the forthcoming general elections. 'Any civil servant without voter card will not receive this month's salaries and the subsequent ones. I am emphasising it that voter card will be required from civil servants before they collect their salaries.

'The free health mission for the second quarter of the year will be based on voters' cards because nobody will steal our votes this time around.'

It is not all knocks for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) after all, as opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the state expressed the party's confidence in the commission's ability to fish out and deal with those behind the stolen five INEC machines reported in the state recently.

Chairman of the party in Niger State, Captain Abubakar Isah Mokwa (retd), at a press briefing in Minna said he had no doubt in his mind that the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in the state, Dr. Emmanuel Onucheyo would leave no stone unturned in unearthing the missing machines.

'I have had discussions with him on some occasions and I have found him to be a gentleman, a man I know will leave no stone unturned in dealing with those involved in the issue of the missing machines.

'I am sure the man will do everything within his power to ensure that those involved are brought to book,' Mokwa asserted.

'The INEC commissioner is doing a good job, his doors are open to everybody not only the PDP, he listens to all.' He, however, asked the INEC to extend the ongoing voters' registration by 10 days to enable more people put their names on the register. The party also called on the Niger State government to put machinery in motion to hold fresh local government elections immediately in view of the March 2011 terminal date for those presently occupying positions.

He said since the council administrators were elected on March 27, 2008, their mandate should end on March 27, 2011, pointing out that for democracy to thrive, fresh people should be brought on board instead of going ahead to install caretaker committees.

A group, the Abia Conscience Forum, has cried out over the handling of the ongoing voters' registration in Abia State, alleging that eligible voters risk being excluded. In a statement, the group said it appeared there was a deliberate ploy to disenfranchise many would-be voters, especially in the Ngwa speaking area of the state. According to the group, Obi-Ngwa Local Government Area, for instance, was supplied with fewer Direct Data Capturing (DDC) machines than what was originally meant for it.

It alleged that majority of the few DDC machines sent to the area had crashed, with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yet to replace them. The group said the situation in Osisioma was even more critical, with virtually no DDC machines to register the enthusiastic electorate. Besides the voters' registration exercise, the Forum also kicked against a circular purportedly from the Abia State government to principals and headmasters of schools in the state directing that on no account should they allow their school premises be used for campaigns.

It accused the state government of threatening to sack any principal who flouted the directive.

While describing the directive as a deliberate ploy to stop the opposition from campaigning in the state, it wondered where else 'the opposition will hold their campaigns in the absence of other alternative venues.' It pleaded with the state government to ensure a level playing field in the forthcoming elections to allow the people freely choose who should lead them from May 29.

Senator Abiola Ajimobi, the Oyo State Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) governorship candidate for the April poll, has said that the only way the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) can justify the large turnout of people for the ongoing voters' registration was for the commission to organise a credible, free and fair election.

The ACN candidate who monitored the exercise in Ibadan, the state capital, with other chieftains of the party, said people's attitude to the registration had been very commendable and a demonstration that Nigerians were ready for positive change. Just as the Chairman of Oluyole Local Government Area of the state, Alhaji Kehinde Olaosebikan, attributed the huge turnout of eligible voters for the registration in his council to the massive sensitisation campaign embarked upon by the state government.

Olaosebikan, while also speaking at Onipe where had gone to monitor the exercise yesterday, observed that while some state governments were still using force to mobilise people for the exercise by tying the payment of salaries to registration, people of the state had been trooping out voluntarily to register even under the harsh conditions brought about by the inadequate materials.

In ensuring that Lagosian participate fully in the on-going voters card registration exercise, LAGBUS Assets Management operators of 'The Big Red Buses' has provide a 2-day free bus ride to logician as to encourage them to come out en-mass to register. The free bus ride which kick-off today, would be observe between 9.00am and 3.00pm in the entire route where services are provided by LAGBUS Assets Management.

Flagging off the free bus ride, the Management Director of LAGBUS Assets Management, Mr. Babatunde Disu explained that the rationale behind the initiative is to create awareness and to get more people to register in the voters registration exercise. According to him' once you have your voters' card in your hand you will enjoy free bus ride to any of our routes within the state without paying a dime'

He added that it is the civic rights of every citizen of a country to have the voters' card which would enable them to choose the leader of their stressing that your voter card is your voice.

Disu further explained that it is part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of the organisation to assist Lagos State Government in promoting voters registration as the state government is doing its best to ensure that the people of state go out in multitude to register for voters' card.

The Bishop of Awka Diocese, Anglican Communion, Rt. Rev. Dr. Alex Ibezim has charged the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to ensure that the loopholes being encountered in the ongoing voters' registration exercise do not recur in the forthcoming general elections.

Consequently, he has urged the commission to ensure that basic things and infrastructure needed for the election were on ground before introduction of any system.

Ibezim, who gave the charge shortly after registering and obtaining his voters' card at Doris Inn registration unit in Awka also called on Nigerians to exercise patience with INEC as it battled to resolve all outstanding problems in the ongoing registration.

He said, 'people have to be patient so that this system will work. Everything cannot be perfect; we need to pray for them. You don't just jump into a system and expect everything to start working at a time.

'So they need to make sure that basic things, infrastructure are there on ground before ever they introduce whatever type of machine they are introducing, so that things will work.'

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Niger State has urged Christians in the state to take advantage of the one-week extension to register to enable them vote in the April general elections.

Chairman of the association, Rev. Musa Dada who made this call in Minna described the registration exercise as the first step towards enthroning credible leaders.

He urged the people not to be deterred by certain challenges facing the exercise, stressing that no sacrifice was too much to render in the desire to participate in strengthening the nation's democracy.

'Without the registration card, your so-called support for the leader will amount to nothing but mere noise-making. If you say a government is good, the only way you can ensure the continuity of that government is to register and vote for the return of the government.

'Ditto for a government you want to change, the same thing you need to remove such government. Whatever you want to do, whether to vote in a good leader or vote out a bad one, you still need the voter's card, it is your power and you must exercise it.'