Hitches mar exercise

By NBF News

The exercise is yet to take off in Imo State after a protest by members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) who were trained for the exercise. Daily Sun reports that the corps members demonstrated over alleged injustice and malpractices that had characterized the list of NYSC members designated to carryout the exercise.

It was gathered that the corps members who besieged the head office of the INEC along Port Harcourt Road, Owerri later discovered that some of the names were conspicuously missing from the list and were being replaced with those who did not attend the three-day mandatory computer training organized by the commission.

The NYSC members were also protesting over non-payment of their training allowances owed to them by the electoral body. The Resident Electoral Commissioner (INEC), Prof. Selina Okoh told newsmen on Saturday that the delay for the take off of the exercise in the state was marred by the protest of NYSC members and assured that the commission would commence the payment of their training allowance on Monday.

When Daily Sun moved round Owerri, the state capital and its environs, yesterday it was discovered that voters turn out in their large numbers but there was no presence of INEC officials or NYSC members designated for the job. At Okwu Uratta in Owerri North Local Government Area, two corps members reported on duty without the Direct Data Capture machine while at Akwakwuma Girls Secondary School voters were seen waiting for the arrival of the electoral materials and their officials.

Meanwhile, police had arrested 37 suspects (corps members) involved in last Saturdays protest at the head office of INEC, Owerri.

President, Southern Kaduna People's Union (SOKAPU), Professor Ishaya H. Nock has urged the natives of the southern part of Kaduna State to go out and register. In a statement made available to newsmen in Kaduna which was signed by SOKAPU National Public Relations Officer, Timothy A. Bonnet, the union president reaffirmed that the voter's card would enable the people to exercise their civic right to elect credible leaders during the forthcoming April general elections.

Professor Nock said quality leadership in the country would not be realized when people of credible voting age refused to participate in electing quality leaders, stressing that eligible voters who were not registered would not have the civic right and opportunity to vote at the April polls. 'Our people must join and be seen to participate and expand the political space by helping to evolve a better and greater democratic culture for rapid development of our country.

'It is imperative for all SOKAPU members of eligible age both at home and Diaspora to register and vote as their contribution to entrenching democracy by electing credible leaders.

The voters' registration exercise, which commenced across the country last Saturday, almost could not start in Aba the commercial hub of Abia State due to late arrival of materials.

As at 11 am when Daily Sun visited some of the designated centres for the exercise, there was no sign that the voters' registration exercise was scheduled to start that day, as no INEC officials nor their ad-hoc staff could be found at any of the centres. Most of those who came to register had to go back home disappointed, as there was nobody to attend to them.

But at 3.30 p.m. when Daily Sun visited Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) office in the city located within the headquarters of Aba South Local Government, officials of the commission in the local government led by the electoral officer were seen sorting out the materials which they said arrived late from Umuahia, the state capital.

However, the electoral officer who would not want her name in print said despite the late arrival of materials, that her office would ensure the exercise commenced on Saturday even on skeletal level.

The exercise nevertheless began at about 4.30 p.m. in some centres while in others, it didn't start.

When Daily Sun visited the Amokwe Item Hall registration centre on St. Michael's Road at 5 p.m. only two persons had been registered as the INEC ad-hoc staff at the centre like in many other centres visited, found it difficult to operate the Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines, even as the turn out was impressive.

At the Amokwe Item Hall centre which was supposed to contain six units, only one unit was involved in the exercise on the opening day as the late arrival of materials coupled with the late release of the names of the ad-hoc staff by INEC officials, hampered the smooth take off of the exercise in the other units.

Equally at the Lady Grace Juniorate centre, Federal Housing Estate, Ogbor Hill, the same scenario played out. Those who came to register were disappointed as apart from the late arrival of materials, the ad-hoc staff had a swell time grappling with the DDC machines. The case was just the same across the city on day one of the exercise.

Governor Bukola Saraki of Kwara State has enjoined Nigerians to support INEC in the first leg of the country's electoral process by ensuring that they participate in the ongoing voters' registration.

Saraki made the call at the weekend at his Ajikobi ward in Agbaji quarters, Ilorin the Kwara State capital where he registered in preparation for the April general elections.

The governor called on every patriotic Nigerian to make the voters' registration exercise his priority, saying that obtaining a voter's card should not be the responsibility of politicians alone.

According to him, 'to have a credible election in the country, we must commence with the process of voters' registration and that is what INEC is doing right now across the country.' He commended the commission for starting on a good note and appealed to the people to make the voters' registration exercise paramount to them in order not to be disenfranchised in the forthcoming general elections.

He also called on people of the state to ensure that they participate in the exercise, pointing out that the voter's card was the only weapon they have to elect their representatives at the election.

He therefore appealed to the people to be patient with the officials of the commission while performing registration, assuring that everybody would be captured during the two weeks interval.

The governor further reminded Nigerians not to wait until the last day of the exercise before rushing to register, advising them to avail themselves of the opportunity now as there may be no room for extension by the commission.

Speaking at the event, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for the state, Chief Timothy Ibitoye appealed to the people of the state not to allow this golden opportunity elude them.

Ibitoye said whoever fails to register while the voters' registration exercise was on stands the risk of not being able to vote during the country's general elections.

Secretary General, Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Dr. Lateef Adegbite and an Islamic group, The Muslim Congress (TMC) have urged Muslims all over the country to participate actively in the ongoing voters' registration exercise. Adegbite made the call yesterday in Lagos at the 1432 AH get-together of the TMC in his address as the father of the day where he asserted that 'it is true that, that we will be able to choose the right leadership that would steer the affairs of the country to the right course.'

According to him, possession of voter's card was the first step towards moving Nigeria forward, warning that missing this opportunity would amount to supporting the decadence in the society, which he said; 'is not in line with the Islamic tenets.' While challenging the Muslims to strive to take their rightful position in the scheme of things in the country, the legal practitioner cum Islamic scholar maintained that 'if Muslims take active parts in the day to day policy making in the country as dictated by the Islamic tenet that teaches honesty, justice and transparency, it will go a long way to solve the social, economic and political menace the country is going through presently.'

Speaking in the same vein, the Secretary-General of the TMC, Alhaji Abdul-Wasi'i Bamgbala lamented that the country was at the precipice, insisting that unless something concrete was done to arrest the trend, the country, according to him, might collapse.

The Chairman of Bariga Local Government Area of Lagos State, Akeem Omoyele Sulaimon has lamented over defective DDC machines deployed in his council area in the ongoing voters' registration exercise. The council chairman was at one of the registration centres last Saturday to register only to find out that some of the DDC machines were not functioning properly.

Sulaimon was the first person to be attended to, by the INEC official at about 11.30am. But the DDC machine did not function well at one of the centres in Ladilak area of Bariga. As at 3.00 pm when Daily Sun left the centre, the finger-print part of the DDC was not functioning well. The council chairman complained openly to the INEC officials on duty. The same situation prevailed in some other registration centres in the area.

He also promised to make a representation to the state INEC about the difficulties being encountered by his people in the registration exercise. Speaking to a team of journalists at Adeleye Street registration Centre, Bariga, Hon Sulaimon expressed his utter dissatisfaction about the exercise, saying 'if by 3.00pm only one person has been registered, how can INEC register 50 persons that ought to be registered for the day.

I hope that this is not a deliberate effort by the PDP-led Federal Government to disfranchise the people of Lagos State,' he added. Sulaimon appealed to the people of the council area not to be discouraged by the poor INEC arrangements for the registration exercise, by coming out en-mass to register in order to have good government and credible leaders at the federal centre this year.