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Voter registration: Senate summons Jega

The Senate has summoned the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, to appear before it on Wednesday (today) over the poor conduct of the ongoing voter registration.

It also voted to amend the Electoral Act 2010 to provide for an extended time for INEC to continue the conduct of the exercise until all eligible voters were registered.

Before the decisions were taken on Tuesday, the House of Representatives had amended section 9 (5) of the Electoral Act of 2010 to give the electoral body four weeks to conclude the registration.

Section 9(5) of the Electoral Act states that “The registration of voters, updating and revision of the register of voters under this section shall stop not later than 60 days before any election covered by this Act.”

By the Act, the current exercise will terminate on February 2, to be followed by the publication of the voter register.

The Senate, which resumed plenary on Tuesday after Christmas and New Year holidays, had also passed a resolution urging the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqquayat Ahmed-Rufa’i, to ensure that public and private schools re-opened as soon as possible but not later than Friday.

It argued that since Nigerian children were not part of the voter registration, there was no sense in having their schools shut.

The Senate reached the resolutions after its Deputy Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (SAN), brought a motion, under Order 42 and 52 of the Senate Rules, to the floor.

Ndoma-Egba called the Senate’s attention to the “shoddiness” in the voter registration and expressed his concern that most Nigerians would be disenfranchised if urgent steps were not taken to redress the situation.

He informed his colleagues that the exercise was fraught with faulty registration machines, unavailability of the machines in some communities as well as poor motivation and training of the officials manning the facilities.

“Even though we had to gloss over lots of issues in ensuring that money was made available to INEC to prosecute the elections , since the commencement of the voter registration, there has been wide spread disenchantment of Nigerians nationwide,’’ he said.

The lawmaker also faulted the closure of schools for the period of the exercise, saying that it negated the drive towards improved educational standards in the country.

The Deputy Senate Leader said, “These problems suggest that the goals of having free and fair elections in April will be compromised. Our children had no connection with the political exercise but were stopped from going to school. We are sacrificing the future of our children for politics.

“It is surprising to hear that there are shortages of consumables, issues of technical hitches with the machines and NYSC members threatening to boycott arising from complaints of non- payment of their allowances.’’

Senators were in agreement that the Electoral Act needed to be amended to ensure that more time was given to INEC to register all would-be- voters.

They also called for the immediate commencement of the amendment process, whether or not INEC made a request for such extension.

The Deputy President of the Senate, Chief Ike Ekweremadu, in his comments, noted that the Senate should be prepared to deal with the problems posed by the hiccups at registration centres.

The Minority Leader of the Senate, Senator Maina Lawan, said “The exercise is a sham, I am sorry to say this as the Vice Chairman of the INEC committee,” adding that the Senate should amend the Electoral Act to give an extension to the registration exercise.

Another Senator, Chief Uche Chukwumerije, said the challenges faced by INEC in registering people was “a forerunner to the failure of April elections.”

He argued that besides the N89bn voted for the exercise, Nigeria might as well be paying up to N150bn if the closure of schools and hours lost at the registration centres by employed Nigerians were to be considered.

Also, Senator Anthony Manzo wondered why INEC opted for China for the DDC machines instead of countries with experiences in e-registration of voters.

While ending the debate, the President of the Senate, Mr. David Mark, said it was obvious to those familiar with registration of voters that the 14 days allotted to the exercise by INEC was inadequate.

Mark consequently said the motion was apt and asked senators to vote on the prayers.

He said,“It is clear now that the 14 days is not enough. The excuses being given is not tenable. The INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, will have to come here in the Committee of the Whole to explain to us what the situation really is.”

While the Senate agreed in principle on the need to amend the Electoral Act, it however, stepped it down to await the outcome of Jega’s appearance today before taking the resolution.

Before the Senate’s decisions, the House of Representatives had amended the Electoral Act of 2010 to give INEC four weeks to conclude the voter registration.

The amendment now allows for 60 days within which INEC shall conclude the voter registration before the general elections.

The amendment followed a motion by Ita Enang, which was unanimously adopted by members when put to vote by the Speaker, Mr. Dimeji Bankole.

Bankole said the Act, as amended, would be forwarded to the Senate for concurrence.

He added that relevant committees would continue work on the 2011 budget.

The House later suspended plenary for two weeks.

-Punch

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Posted by on Jan 25 2011. Filed under Elections 2011, Legislature, Senate. 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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