One week after the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF) passed a vote of no confidence on the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and called for his removal, the group has again alleged that the commission had registered mercenary voters, especially Nigeriens under the continuous voters’ registration (CVR) exercise.
In a four-point communiqué titled: ‘Our Case Against 2019 Elections Preparations’, issued after its meeting in Lagos on Sunday, it stated that the registration of foreigners could have informed the federal government’s haste to construct a rail line from Kano, through Dambatta, Kazaure, Daura, Mashi, Katsina, Jibia and terminate in Maradi, Niger Republic.
The communiqué signed by Mr. Yinka Odumakin (Southwest), Senator Bassey Henshaw, (South South); Prof. Chigozie Ogbu (Southeast and Dr Isuwa Dogo of Middle Belt, the Forum said money had already been appropriated for the project in the 2018 budget.
According to SMBLF, intelligence report at its disposal had shown that INEC was registering Nigeriens and other foreigners for the purpose of voting in the 2019 elections.
“Equally worrisome is the intelligence report at our disposal that a large number of mercenary voters have been registered from neighbouring countries especially from Niger Republic under the continuous voter registration which could have been one of the reasons why the Federal Government is in a haste to construct a rail from Kano, through Dambatta, Kazaure, Daura, Mashi, Katsina, Jibia and terminate in Maradi, Niger Republic. Money has been appropriated for this in the 2018 budget,” said SMBLF.
The group also faulted INEC for not publishing the report on the outcome of the investigation on the under-aged voters’ phenomenon in Kano State saying INEC chairman’s “conduct over the scandal of underage voters in Kano has shown a gross betrayal of public trust.”
It would be recalled that the INEC chairman promised during a conference organised by the INEC in Lagos on February 16 2018 that the under-age voters’ incidence in Kano State would be fully investigated.
“Five clear months after the promise and prompt conclusion of the assignment by the team he set up, the INEC chairman has refused to release the report which would necessarily have necessitated a nationwide interrogation of the voter registry.
“Information at our disposal is that the report of the committee is so damning and that is the reason why he is doing a macabre dance on it. How on earth can we trust a man doing such over an issue of public knowledge to be fair on matters relating to free and fair elections that would not be in the public glare?
“We demand the immediate release of the INEC report on the Kano underage voter’s scandal and interrogation of the voter registry by a judicial commission with representatives from international and local elections observers to check cases of underage voters and foreign mercenaries before the 2019 elections. This is very necessary as INEC cannot be a judge in its own case.”
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In his response, however, the INEC director of publicity and voter education, Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzzi, said anyone who had evidence should come forward.
He told one of our correspondents on the telephone that there was no cause for alarm since the voter register would be displayed before Permanent Voter Cards would be issued.
Osaze-Uzzi said in the event that any alien was spotted on the voter register, he or she would immediately be removed.
The INEC director said, “If anyone is alleging that there is irregular registration, we display the register and they should furnish us with evidence of such illegality. If someone who is not entitled to be in the register is on the register, we will have the opportunity of removing that person.
“So, if they can furnish us with details, I think we will be able to properly look into it because the voter register is exclusively for eligible Nigerian citizens. If there are non-Nigerians on the register, they should help us by providing us with details such as location, pictures especially since there is an opportunity to do so when the register will be displayed next month.”
On the under-age voters’ report, the chief press secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr. Rotimi Oyekanmi dismissed the allegation that the commission was yet to release the report of its findings about the Kano under age voters’
“It was not only that the commission released the report, it also called a press conference in Abuja where the chairman addressed the media and the public on its findings about the Kano incidence.
“For anybody to now say the commission is playing game with the report by not releasing it is unwarranted,” he said.
“At the briefing Prof. Yakubu explained, among other things, that local government elections are not conducted by the commission but by the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIECs),” he said.
With Punch and The Guardian reports