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INEC Unveils 84m Voters Register, Phases Out Incident Form

Smart Card Readers To Be Used For 2019 General Elections No New Polling Units, Voting Points

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) unveiled a new National Register of Voters, weeks to 219 general election.

Speaking before an impressive audience at the regular quarterly consultative meeting with political parties in Abuja, Chairman of the Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu announced that after the mandatory display of the register in all polling units nationwide for claims and objections from 6th – 12th November, 2018, the final figure of registered voters now stands at 84, 004, 084.

He said: “As you would have noticed, the Commission has been diligently implementing the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2019 General Elections.

“We have so far implemented eight out of 14 activities. At this meeting, we shall implement the 9th activity by publishing the final register of voters for the 2019 General Elections as required by law.

“In fulfilment of this legal requirement, the Commission has made available to each political party a copy of the entire national register of voters.

“After the mandatory display of the register in all polling units nationwide for claims and objections from 6th – 12th November 2018, the final register for the 2019 General Elections stands at 84,004,084 voters.

“This is the register that will be presented to each political party at today’s meeting. It is also the same register that will be available at each polling unit nationwide on election day.”

Prof. Yakubu also announced that the Commission had printed and delivered the Permanent Voters’ Cards (PVC) to the states for collection by registered voters.

He said: “I urge all registered voters who have not collected their PVCs to approach any of our Local Government Area offices and other designated collection centres nationwide to pick up their cards.

“While we are encouraged by the response so far, millions of cards are still yet to be collected.

“I wish to reiterate that the Commission will not allow the collection of PVCs by proxy.

“Registered voters should endeavour to collect their cards personally without which no person can vote on election day.”

INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu (middle), National Commissioners, Prof. Anthonia Okoosi- Simbine (left) and May Agbamuche-Mbu (right) at the event

Smart Card Readers

The INEC Chairman affirmed that the Smart Card Reader would be used for the accreditation of voters for the general elections, in accordance with the Commission’s policy.

“He explained: “For clarity, I wish to stress that the function of the Smart Card Reader during accreditation is to confirm, verify and authenticate the voter.

“First, it shall be used to confirm that the PVC is genuine and issued by INEC.

“Cloned cards or cards that do not match the codes for a particular polling unit in which the voter is registered will be rejected by the Card Readers.

“Secondly, the Card Readers shall verify that the voter who presents the PVC is the actual owner of the Card by ensuring that the personal details on the Card Reader are consistent with the manual register for the polling unit.

“Thirdly, the Card Reader shall be used to authenticate the fingerprint of the voter as an additional confirmatory procedure.

“If the fingerprint is not authenticated by the Card Reader but the PVC is confirmed as genuine and the voter’s personal details are consistent with the manual register, he/she shall be allowed to vote.

“However, where the biometric authentication fails, the voter will be required to thumbprint a box next to his/her picture on the register and to enter his/her mobile telephone number before proceeding to vote.

“The Commission has modified the Register of Voters for the 2019 General Elections accordingly.

“Consequently, the separate Incident Form used in previous elections which is only completed by the Presiding Officer without the involvement of the voter is now abolished.

“Similarly, the claim that the Card Reader has been enhanced to recapture voters’ fingerprints at polling units and automatically overwrite the biometric record on our database is untrue and should be disregarded.”

Vote Buying

Prof Yakubu revealed that the Commission had received credible information that some partisan actors were going round and either buying up PVCs from voters or financially inducing them to collect the Voter Identification Numbers (VIN) on their PVCs.

In other instances, he further noted, telephone numbers and details of bank accounts of voters were being collected.

Prof Yakubu reasoned: “By collecting the PVCs, their intention may be to deprive the voters of voting, since no one can vote without the PVC.

“By collecting their phone numbers and bank details, the intention is to induce voters by electronic transfer of funds to their accounts, since it will be difficult to buy votes at polling units.

“By collecting the VINs, they may be acting on the mistaken notion that our system can be hacked into and the Card Readers somehow preloaded ahead of election and compromised.”

He declared: “We want to reassure Nigerians that we are aware of the new tricks. It is a futile effort.

“We will work with the security agencies to deal with the violators of our electoral laws, including those who may be trying to compromise our staff responsible for making the PVCs available for collection by legitimate voters.”

When the phenomenon was noticed during the last Ekiti governorship election, the Commission responded by altering the configuration of the polling unit and moving the ballot boxes closer to the voting cubicles in order to make it difficult for voters to expose their marked ballot papers.

The Commission also introduced a partial ban on the use of mobile phones and other photographic devices by voters while in the voting cubicles.

Besides, the rolling and flattering of ballot papers by voters after thumb-printing and before casting them into the ballot boxes was added.

Prof Yakubu demonstrated the rolling and flattering technique with a specimen ballot paper at the event.

Party Agents

Prof Yakubu advised the political parties to start compiling the lists of their respective party agents for submission not later than 14 days to the election.

He said: “In line with the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2019 General Elections, the deadline for Presidential and National Assembly elections is 1st February 2019 while Governorship, State Assembly and FCT Area Council elections is 16th February 2019.

“Very soon, the Commission will schedule a Train-the-Trainer Workshop for party agents.

“I urge you to nominate competent persons as master trainers capable of cascading the training to other party agents”

Campaign Finance

The INEC Chairman also told the party leaders that the Commission will keep an eye on what political parties spend on campaign finance.

His words: “As campaigns are going on nationwide, the Commission will keep very close watch on campaign finance.

“In particular, we shall closely monitor spending by parties, candidates as well as individual and group donations to campaign organisations.

“We will discharge this regulatory responsibility diligently.

“The Commission has designed Campaign Finance Reporting Forms to ensure compliance with the reporting requirements by parties.

“The EC16C for annual finance reporting by parties, the EC16D for income (including contributions and donations) and EC16E on party expenditure are already available on the Commission’s website.”

Guidelines and Regulations

Prof Yakubu also spoke on the need to finalise the Guidelines and Regulations for the 2019 general elections, asking the political party leaders to study the draft document emailed to them earlier and make their inputs.

“As elections approach, the Commission has to quickly finalise on the Guidelines and Regulations for the 2019 General Elections,” he averred.

“In keeping with the Commission’s tradition to consult stakeholders, soft copies of the draft Guidelines and Regulations have been forwarded to all political parties through your official email accounts over a week ago.

“By making the document available ahead of this meeting, we hope that political parties would have studied it for discussion.

“We have also made one hard copy available to each party for this meeting.

“It is important to have your input at this meeting so that we can expeditiously finalise the document as well as the training manual for the General Election.”

No New Polling Units

He also seized the opportunity to reassure political parties that there would be no change in the number of polling units and voting points used in the 2015 general elections and the 2016 Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory.

“Any information to the contrary, he stated, “is utterly baseless and should be disregarded.”

According to the timetable and schedule of activities released by the Commission on January 9, 2018, the Presidential election as well as elections for 109 Senatorial Districts and 360 Federal Constituencies will take place on Saturday 16th February.

Meanwhile, the Governorship elections in 29 States of the Federation, 991 State Assembly constituencies and 68 Area Councils in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) will be held on Saturday 2nd March.

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