The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has succumbed to pressure from Nigerians following the allegations made by the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) on the registration of ineligible voters especially in the ward of Governor Hope Uzodimma in Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State.
The CUPP through its spokesman, Ikenga Ugochinyere, on Wednesday during a press conference in Abuja had tendered evidential documents to that effect which contained details of fake registered voters which it claimed was extracted from the INEC Voters Register database.
According to Ugochinyere, the names were sourced from both within and outside Nigeria including some African countries such as Ghana, Cameroon, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Togo, Guinea, Gambia and countries outside Africa including Jamaica, Brazil and New Zealand.
The Coalition also alleged that a court action was secretly filed by the ruling party at Owerri Federal High Court since August 24, 2022 with the aim to suspend the use of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, for the conduct of the 2023 general elections.
However, the development has generated a lot reactions among Nigerians who seem to have lost confidence in the integrity and ability of INEC to conduct a free, fair and credible elections come 2023.
Consequently, members of an opposition party and its support groups have reportedly instituted a protest against the electoral body with the hash tag #OccupyINEC to drive their demand for explanation into the allegations while protecting the integrity of INEC and the sanctity of the ballot.
The demands made by the group include amongst others that;
1. INEC must present the electronic format of voters’ register held in its Central Database.
2. INEC must provide the Manual/Printed copy of voters’ register, for all 36 states, plus FCT & 774 LGAs of Nigeria.
3. We must inspect ALL Electronic Devices & ALL Database created for the purpose of the 2023 General Elections.
Citing Sections 9(2) & 15 of the 2022 Electoral Act as amended, the group noted that the protest action falls within the ambit of the law which allows political parties or its support groups to make such requests.
In an effort to douse the tension and restore the public confidence, the INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye Esq, said that the commission recognizes and respects the right of citizens either as individuals or groups, to demand explanation from public agencies, including INEC and to hold them accountable.
In a statement dated Thursday, 15th September, 2022 and obtained by Niger Delta Connect on INEC verified official Twitter handle titled ‘Further Update on the Cleaning Up of the Voters’ Register’, Okoye said it is always important that caution is exercised so that such interventions do not unwittingly sow doubts in the public mind, thereby diminishing public confidence.
He went ahead to confirm that the commission had uncovered the alleged registered ineligible persons, adding that about 3,316 ineligible registrants have so far been invalidated in Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State.
Okoye said, “The commission will continue to provide the public with updates on the progress of these processes as we did through our Press Release of 12 September, 2022.
“The Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS) for the period of registration between 15th January and 31st July is been concluded presently and the outcome in terms of multiple and ineligible records with be made public.
“For instance, in Oru East Local Government Area of Imo State, where the commission allegedly registered ineligible persons, 3316 ineligible registrants have so far been invalidated and the process is still ongoing.
“We appeal to the public to wait the commission’s display of the register for claims and objections to raise any concerns that they may have about the registration. We reiterate that our ABIS is robust and will detect practically all the ineligible records for removal.
“Nigerians should be reassured of the Commission’s commitment to the credibility of the electoral process in Nigeria. We appeal for your support while we painstakingly deal with the clean up of the register and other processes that will guarantee that the general election in 2023 is free, fair, credible and inclusive.”