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MORE THAN EXTENSION NEEDED

By NBF News
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IT is pointless debating whether an extension of the registration of voters is 'absolutely necessary'. The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, by giving absolute necessity as a condition for extending registration of voters is living in denial about failure of the exercise.

Blame shifting or blame sharing will not achieve anything. INEC is in a flux after heavy criticisms of the exercise. President Goodluck Jonathan publicly stated that registration staff were improperly trained. He is right.

Professor Attahiru Jega, INEC chairman, confirmed the fears when he admitted some voters were not fully registered. Voters' fingers, all 10, were to be captured, some registered less.  Those registrations are not valid. Jega expects them to re-register, but how many of them will know if their registration was successful?

The last batch of 26,000 DDC machines were expected on Saturday, half way into the exercise. If they undergo the operational difficulties earlier deployments suffered, the time will prove inadequate.

Moreover, willingness of potential voters to register has not been enough. The tardiness with operating the machines, their availability, and the proficiency of the staff have all affected the success of the exercise.

While it is expedient to blame INEC, Nigerians should not forget the National Assembly spent two years on an ego trip that delayed amendment of the Constitution. We are merely reaping the consequences of that inaction and the limited time within which the exercise must be concluded.

Challenges with the exercise now lay mostly with the machines. The technology deployed, even if they were the best for the exercise, came too late to be ready for voters. Millions of Nigerians have been kept waiting for hours, some leave in frustration.

Jega has an explanation.
'Over eighty per cent of the machines on the field have already been reached and they are being re-configured and that is why in the last two days many are saying there is a remarkable improvement in the registration. We have been able to reduce the average time of registration,' Jega said.

The exercise has not gone on successfully. Many communities, in urban and rural Nigeria , have not been allocated machines. Frustrations are mounting. Like most scarce resources, the deployment of the machines has become another symbol of the status of politicians, who are busy telling people they are the ones ensuring the machine get to them.

We still wonder why the schools were shut. Most of the registrations are going at street corners, the teams are NYSC members, not teachers. Security is non-existent. Stories of stolen registration machines abound. Lame explanations about INEC disabling stolen machines are unconvincing and increase fears about security for the data being collected.

Government through INEC should confirm plans for extension of the exercise.  Without better preparations, an extension will be a waste. We suggest that once the machines arrive, government may declare a two-day holiday for the registration.

The past two weeks were spent learning.  We only hope the experience will enhance final efforts at producing a good voters list.