Non conduct of Local Government poll and delay in cleaning up or updating the National Register of Voters for Anambra State are two major challenges facing the government of Mr. William Maduabuchi Obiano and its ANSIEC as well as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and its Anambra State Resident Electoral Commissioner.
It is also a serious threat to the upcoming governorship election in the State scheduled to be held most likely in November 2017.
The failure of INEC and ANSIEC in this regard is nothing short of political exclusion and gross deprivation of the People of the State of their inalienable rights to participate in political and democratic processes.
It is on record that Anambra State since 2002 had had a long history of non-conduct of local government election or democratization of its LGA System, which is a fundamental breach of Section 7 of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
Between 2002 when the tenure of then elected local chairmen and councillors expired and early January 2014; a period of twelve years, the 21 Local Govt Areas in Anambra State had existed without elected leadership except caretaker committees.
The long period of non-democratization of LGA System in the State was brought to an end in January 2014 at the twilight of the Peter Obi Administration when the Local Government election was held.
Since January 2016 when the two years tenure of the 21 LGA chairmen and their 326 councillors expired, the State LGA System has remained under caretaker committees till date.
On the failure of INEC to update on continuous basis the National Register of Voters for Anambra State, it has led to gross deprivation of over 1.7 million citizens of the State of their rights to vote and participate in political and democratic processes.
By Anambra’s real population estimate of 7-8 million, at least 3.5 million adult citizens are to be captured by the Independent National Electoral Commission as registered voters and holders of the Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVCs).
Realistically, three out of every six adults living in Anambra State presently are yet to be captured by INEC as registered voters and holders of the PVCs.
This was similarly the case prior to the 2015 General Elections and has further increased owing to increase in voting population brought about by increasing population movement or migration into the State in search of brighter economic opportunities and insurgency or as a result of insecurity forced migration.
Hundreds of thousands of citizens resident in the State have also reached the voting age of 18 from May 2015 till date as well as tens of thousands of others who have died or relocated.
That is to say that Anambra’s current registered voters of 1,784, 136 are grossly unrealistic and under represented by INEC.
The realistic figure should be nothing less than 3.5 million registered voters if well captured.
We therefore view the non-conduct of LGA Poll and failure to update on continuous basis the National Register of Voters for Anambra State as a serious or fundamental violation of the Section 7 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended in 2011 and its supplementary Section 4 of its Part 11; as well as the provisions of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2010 and the INEC Establishment Act of 2004.
INEC has also failed in its constitutional duties, clearly spelt out in supplementary Section 15 of the Part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended in 2011.
Not minding that political participation through the right to vote is a fundamental right guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution and in democratic governments or societies, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission (ANSIEC) created by Sections 153 and 197 of the 1999 Constitution respectively, have continued to observe these principles in fundamental breach.
This by refusing or failing to capture most, if not all citizens eligible to vote in Anambra State in the voters’ register for the State, as well as failure to conduct election into the State’s Local Government System as constitutionally and statutorily required.
While ANSIEC woefully fails in its duties to carry out its functions owing to its parasitic control and whimsical and capricious management by the Government of Anambra State; INEC on its part, fails monumentally on account of gross incompetence, partisanship along ethno-religious lines and other ulterior motives.
In 2015, for instance, the Commission brazenly ran two different policies in its continuous voters’ registration, voters’ revalidation and issuance of permanent voters’ cards, in which the northern part of the country particularly the Muslim population, was given a preferential consideration as against its southern counterpart.
This has resulted in availability of PVCs to most adult citizens of the north as well as millions of underage population.
The preferential treatment was so grounded that Islamic clerics, village chiefs and heads were deployed to ensure that every member of the northern Muslim population, whether normal, destitute or disable was captured as a registered voter and holder of PVC; whereas in the south particularly Southeast, South-south and areas dominated by Christian populations and guest communities; the reverse was grossly the case.
Even when eligible citizens defied the INEC imposed hash conditions and showed up at INEC offices or registration centres to be captured as registered voters or issued with PVCs, the local INEC officials working under firm instructions from above, ensured that such citizens got frustrated and forced to go home and never to come back.
It was on account of such that millions of them were denied registration and over 12 million others earlier registered denied PVCs and denied participation and voting in the 2015 General Elections.
In the present case of Anambra State as it concerns the upcoming governorship election, INEC is at it again by deliberately refusing to carry out its constitutional and statutory functions particularly as it concerns the continuous voters’ registration, its revalidation and voter and civic awareness campaign, which are clearly provided in the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2010.
Prior to the 2015 General Elections, the total number of citizens said to have been registered to vote in the State was 1, 784.136 (one million, seven hundred and eighty four thousands, one hundred and thirty six); out of which only 1,222,002 (one million, two hundred and twenty two thousands and two) citizens were said to be issued with PVCs.
By Section 9 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2010, INEC is mandatorily directed and required to continuously compile, maintain and update on continuous basis a National Register of Voters for the Federation of Nigeria and for each of the 36 States and the FCT- section 9 (2).
By Section 10 of the same Act, INEC is mandatorily required to provide for continuous registration of all persons who are qualified to be registered as voters.
By Section 12 of the Act, any Nigerian citizen that has attained the age of 18 must be registered by INEC in person in a registration arena designated by INEC and he or she is not allowed to be registered doubly-section 12(2); except where he or she chooses to be transferred as registered voter from one area to another -section 13.
Each registered voter is permitted to bear only one PVC-section 16 (2).
Issuance of duplicate copy of a voter’s card by INEC to a citizen whose PVC is lost, defaced, destroyed or damaged is allowed in Section 18 of the Electoral (Amendment) Act 2010.
By Section 16 of the Act, INEC has sole responsibility of printing and issuance of voters’ cards and by Sections 2 and 22, the Commission is mandated to carry out on continuous basis civic and voter education concerning its activities.
In all these, INEC is yet to carry out dutifully any of the statutory functions as above highlighted. The Commission is idly waiting for few weeks to the election date so as to come out with its legend fire brigade approach for the purpose of manipulating and rigging the all-important Anambra Governorship Election and its results.
The shoddiness and gross incompetence of INEC in its midwifery of the Anambra governorship polls in recent times could be seen in the poor number of valid results released by the Commission particularly those of the winners of the polls; as against the total number of registered voters and PVC holders.