Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Mahmood Yakubu, has assured that next year’s general elections budget would be concluded next week.Yakubu also expressed dissatisfaction over underage voting at the just-concluded council poll in Kano State, saying the commission would look into the matter and that anyone found guilty would be probed.
Speaking yesterday at a workshop on “Election Project Plan Implementation,” which held in Victoria Island, Lagos, the INEC chairman stated: “Recent reports of violations by under-aged persons following the local government elections in Kano State is deeply disturbing. “It is true that the State Independent Electoral Commission had requested INEC for a copy of the voter register.
“I can confirm also that a soft copy of the register was made available to the State. The voter register in Kano State is the one used for the 2015 general election. “In July 2016, INEC used the same register to conduct a state Assembly by-election in Minjibir Constituency, which has 78,210 registered voters spread across 126 polling units clustered in 11 Registration Areas (Wards). In that election conducted by INEC, no single incidence of under-aged voter was recorded.
“What, therefore, happened in the last local government election conducted by the State Electoral Commission? Was the voter register actually used or not?” he queried.Yakubu assured that the matter would be fully investigated, saying a National Commissioner from INEC would lead a team to Kano next week, involving technical staff of the Commission drawn from the Voter Registry (VR), Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and the Electoral Operations (EOs) Departments for an immediate and comprehensive investigation.
He stated that the commission will share the findings of the investigation with Nigerians, saying: “I wish to assure Nigerians that going forward, we will interrogate the voter register nationwide in order to purge it of any possible ineligible registrants.Yakubu also disclosed that about 3,978,682 fresh candidates have registered in the ongoing Continuous Voters Registration (CVR) between July to December last year, adding that 135,127 unclaimed Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) were collected within the same period.He also said 166,073 requested for transfer of their PVC, while 334,086 requested for replacement, adding that in the new registration, the gender distribution shows 58 per cent male and 42 per cent female.The INEC boss explained that in terms of the distribution by states, Rivers recorded the highest number of new registrants, followed by Delta and Lagos, while Kwara, Gombe and Ondo recorded the lowest.He assured that while registration for the first quarter of this year in ongoing, only legally eligible citizens would be registered at the 1,446 registration centres nationwide. Yakubu, who disclosed that the commission has concluded work on data consolidation and ran the Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), added that cards for the over four million fresh registrations, including requests for transfer and replacement, would be ready for collection in the first week of May this year. He assured that all eligible Nigerians who present themselves for registration as voters would be registered and issued their PVCs ahead of next year’s general elections.
With regard to the commission’s position on the sequence of elections contained in the Bill recently passed by the senate, Yakubu posited that the current timetable and schedule of activities released on January 9, this year, was consistent with the powers of the commission under existing laws.