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INEC discovers four centres inside thick forest

The Independent National Electoral Commission has discovered four voter registration centres in a thick forest in Anambra State.

The centres were found six kilometres deep into the Nziko forest at Nteje, Oyi Local Government Area.

The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Prof. Chukwuemeka Onukogu, led a team that included the state’s Deputy Governor, Mr. Emeka Sibeudu, to the units located “within the vicinity of a shrine.”

It took the team 30 minutes to drive on the rough road from the nearest residential area to a point where the rest of the journey was made on foot for more than 10 minutes.

Onukogu, who did not disclose how the commission learnt about the centres, said only 200 people had been registered at the units since the voter registration started on January 15.

“The centres are located within the vicinity of a shrine. But the registration officers, mainly National Youth Service Corps members sat pretty, looking at the machines, with virtually no registrants in sight,” he explained.

He said what pained him was the fact that the centres were deep in the forest with no residents when there were no Direct Data Capturing machines in Onitsha, Awka, Nnewi and Ozubulu.

“I have heard of floating polling booths. Today, I have seen one. I am sad that there are four machines wasting here, whereas there are no machines in Onitsha, Eke Awka, Ozubulu and Nnewi where thousands of people are waiting to be registered,” he added.

Onukogu said the ‘irregular location’ of the centres also posed a grave risk to the registration officers and the machines.

“How will I evacuate men and machines in the event of danger?” He asked, alleging that the centres must have been secured by a top politician with clout from the area.

He said he would take away three machines and leave one behind after meeting with the registration officials.

Onukogu also said he was constrained by the fact that the “floating registration centres” deep in the forest were documented from the Abuja headquarters of INEC.

But he said something would have to be done to correct the anomaly by INEC.

Sibeudu, who also lamented the development, said, “We have shortfalls in machines. But in the forest here, there are four machines lying idle.

“All the people we met here are not up to 10. But if you go to some other places, you will find thousands of people waiting to be registered.”

But a former Deputy Chairman of Oyi LGA , Chief Samuel Offorkansi, who was seen supervising affairs at the centres, said the place had been serving as a voting and registration centre since 1998.

He said contrary to what people might think, there were highly-populated villages around the centres.

Meanwhile, two ad-hoc staff of INEC have been arrested in Benin, Edo State, for allegedly going to the private residence of Chief Gabriel Igbinedion to capture his finger prints with a DDC machine.

Investigations by one of our correspondents showed that Igbinedion, an Action Congress of Nigeria chieftain, had gone to a registration centre opposite his home on Saturday to register.

He was said to have asked his aide to stay back and pick up the voter card. But when the ad-hoc staff discovered that the DDC machine did not capture Igbinedion’s fingerprints, they advised the aide to go.

They, however, went to the home of the Esema of Benin to capture the fingerprints but landed in trouble as they were arrested by the Police.

Before their arrest, the Edo state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party had alleged that people were being registered at Igbinedion’s home.

The party therefore called for an investigation into its claim.

But in a swift reaction, the Chief Press Secretary to the state governor, Mr. Peter Okhiria, said the allegation was “another attempt by the PDP to cover all their criminal activities since the inception of the exercise.”

He said that three chieftains of the PDP were arrested in Uromi when they attempted to substitute INEC ad-hoc staff with their relations.

-Punch

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Posted by on Jan 25 2011. Filed under Elections 2011, Top Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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