Thursday, 15 August 2013

Open Letter: Hurdles That May Mar Credibility Of Two Important Forthcoming Elections In Anambra State

Professor Chukwuemeka Onukaogu
Resident Electoral Commissioner for Anambra State
Anambra State‘s INEC Office, House of Assembly Road
Awka, Anambra State, Nigeria

Hurdles That May Mar The Credibility Of Two Important Forthcoming Elections In Anambra State 

The leaderships of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law and the Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization have carefully studied the 15-point public notice issued by your Commission regarding the November 16, 2013 governorship election in Anambra State of Nigeria.

The public effect of the timetable commenced on 13th day of August, 2013. This is in line with Section 178 of the Constitution of Nigeria, as amended in 2011. The Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission has also announced its intention to conduct election on 5th of October, 2013 into the 368 local government elective seats in the State. In other words, election is to be conducted into the 326 councillorship and 42 chairmanship and vice-chairmanship positions in the State’s 21 Local Government Areas. This is in accordance with Section 7(1) of the Constitution.

But after our careful study of the two timetables, it was discovered that there are unresolved issues and questions that if not resolved, will mar the credibility of the two important polls and rubbish the integrity of the two electoral umpires-INEC and ANSIEC.  The hurdles and unresolved questions collectively arise from your Commission’s management of the Anambra version of the National Register of Voters.  According to your Commission, there are 1, 758,220 registered voters in Anambra State as at 2011.

Your Commission has recently announced through its public affairs department of its National Headquarters, that there are 93, 000 “double registrants” in the Anambra version of the National Register of Voters. This is in violation of Section 16(2) of the Electoral Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2010.   The Nigerian media, quoting the acting chairman of the Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission, Mr. Sylvester Okonkwo, also reported recently that there exists polling boots or centers in some shrines and “evil forests” located in Ogbaru, Onitsha North and Oyi LGAs of the State.  There are 4,611 INEC-recognized polling booths or centers in Anambra State.

By law and according to Section 9(1) of the Nigeria’s Electoral Act of 2010, your Commission is empowered and mandated to compile, register and update on “continuous basis” all persons who are qualified to vote in any federal, State and Local Government elections in Nigeria; that is to say 18 years and above.  Section 9(2) empowers your Commission to maintain a register of voters for each State of the Federation as well as for each Local Government Area in each State with its ward. Section 9(5) disqualifies your Commission from the registration of qualified persons and the revision and updating of the voters register, 60 days before any election. Section 9(6) mandates your Commission to designate by public notice registration centers for the purposes of continuous registration of qualified persons and updating and revision of the voters register.

Further, Section 10(3) mandates your Commission to make available to every registered political party, at every 60 days of a new year or around February, the names and addresses of those registered during the continuous registration exercise. Section 13 directs your Commission through REC to accommodate in the Transferred Voters List the registered voters who moved from their previous electoral constituencies to new constituencies. Section 18(2) mandates your Commission to resolve complaints arising from loss, destruction, defacing and tearing of voter’s cards, not less than 30 days before polling date.

Section 20 of the said Electoral Act of 2010 also mandates your Commission to integrate the Supplementary Voters List arising from continuous registration exercise, with the Voters Register and make same public, not later than 30 days before the polling date. Under Section 21, an aggrieved omitted registered voter has seven days to appeal to the REC for his or her omitted names to be rectified before the polling date. And Section 18(3) bars your Commission from issuing voter’s card to any qualified unregistered Nigerian on polling date or less than 30 days before the polling date.

Our questions on the strength of the foregoing are: has your Commission fully complied with these legal provisions and directives? How prepared in the context of credible and participatory poll, is your Commission with respect to the forthcoming governorship poll in Anambra State of Nigeria?  While we wait eagerly for your Commission to provide answers to the above extremely important questions, we must point out that Sections 9(1) and 10(1) of the Electoral Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2010, with respect to “continuous registration of qualified persons and revision and updating of the voters register by your Commission at publicly designated centers by public notice” are gravely observed in breach. This is because there are no scientific and verifiable records showing that such crucial exercises had been conducted in any part of Anambra State of Nigeria since 2011.

By Section 9(5) of the said Electoral Act, registration of qualified persons or those who have attained the voting age of 18 years and above in the State since 2011 will end by 16th of September, 2013; 60 days before the governorship poll. Yet thousands of qualified persons have remained unregistered. The fate of the State citizens whose voter’s cards got lost, destroyed, torn, defaced or damaged, particularly those of Ogbaru, Ayamelum, Anambra East, Anambra West and Oyi LGAs, affected by the flood menace of 2012; still hangs cloudily barely three months to the crucial governorship poll and less than two months to the all-important LGA poll.

The names of dead voters, who died since 2011, may also not have been deleted from the register.  Your Commission’s expected expeditious answers to the above questions should also address the issue of the discovery of 93.000 “double registrants” in the Anambra version of the National Register of Voters as well as the media reported   the existence of  polling  booths or centers in shrines and ‘evil forests” courtesy of the boss of the  Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission.  

Another important reason behind this letter of ours is concerned with the forthcoming LGA poll in Anambra State, slated for 5th of October, 2013. As cited above, your Commission, not ANSIEC, is legally and constitutionally entrusted with the round the clock midwifery of the National Register of Voters including the Anambra State, its LGA and  ward’s versions. Also by law, no LGA poll can be conducted without INEC’s Voters’ Register and on the same premise, ANSIEC is mandated to apply to your Commission for the release of the State’s version of the register and your Commission is mandated to issue it an updated, revised and cleaned up “certify  true copy” of the register.

This means that the register must be tidied up before it is released to ANSIEC for the conduct of the said LGA poll. In view of this, our question, again, is has ANSIEC applied to your Commission for the register? If yes, has it been given? If yes, which version was given to it?  Has it been updated and revised with deletion or inclusion of 93.000 “double registrants?  What about those who lost their voter ‘cards or have their names omitted? And what of those who have not been registered?

If no, how does your Commission intend to do it? In view of the fact that your Commission has fixed 17th of October, 2013 as a date for the publication of the integrated Supplementary Voters List and the Voters Register for public scrutiny sequel to the November 16, 2013 governorship poll; how possible is it for it to be used to conduct LGA poll on 5th of October, 2013? Are there going to be two versions of the register; one updated, revised and cleaned up; and the other not?  We also wish to the duo of your Commission and ANSIEC: is it still possible to conduct legally flawless;   credible and participatory Anambra LGA poll on 5th of October, 2013?

We trust in your Commission’s expeditious and satisfactory response to these vital questions as well as prompt and creative resolution of the hurdles complained of.

For: International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
 41, Miss Elems Street, Fegge, Onitsha,  Anambra State, Nigeria

Emeka Umeagbalasi, Chairman of the Board
Mobile Phone: +2348033601078, 8180103912

Comrades Aloysius Emeka Attah & Justus Uche Ijeoma
For: Civil Liberties Organization, Anambra State Branch
14, Orlu Street, Fegge, Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria
Mobile Phone: +2348035090548, 8037114869  

1.  Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, Abuja, Nigeria
2.   Chairman, Anambra State Independent Electoral Commission, Awka, Anambra, Nigeria

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