Home » Elections 2011 » VOTERS REGISTRATION: Jega seeks fresh N6.6bn

VOTERS REGISTRATION: Jega seeks fresh N6.6bn

FOUR days to the end of the voters’ registration exercise, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has requested for additional N6.6 billion to cover the period of extension of the exercise being sought. Jega also claimed that 28.5 million out of a target of 70 million Nigerians have so far been registered.

Chairman, Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, after appearing before Senate over voters’ registration, in Abuja, yesterday. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan. 

He had earlier requested and got N87.72 billion from the Federal Government for the voters registration exercise.

The House of Representatives, Tuesday, amended the Electoral Act to give the commission one month extension of the exercise.
INEC Chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, who appeared before the Senate, yesterday, to give an account of how the commission has performed so far, assured that officials of the commission would be able to register roughly 65 million voters if the registration exercise was extended by seven days.

After more than three hours of answering questions from members of the Senate, INEC Chairman, yesterday, secured a four week extension of the registration exercise, three weeks more than the one week he had requested from the National Assembly.

Seamless extension

To allow for a seamless extension, the Senate amended Section 31 of the Electoral Act in conformity with the amendment by the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Professor Jega’s appearance before the Senate in a committee of the whole, ended in a sort of melodrama as most of the senators’ anger  earlier was subdued by the superior statistics provided by the INEC chairman.

The INEC chairman and his entourage comprising his national commissioners, relevant directors and some of his personal aides walked into the Senate chambers at11:30 a.m. and was welcomed by the  Senate president who asked him to tell the nation how much time he needed to conduct the exercise creditably.

Jega who appeared calm and confident while his appearance lasted also debunked media reports that he was contemplating resigning his position as a result of pressure being brought to bear on him from some quarters.

He also explained that with the extension being sought, INEC would incur an addition N6.6billion to settle those that would be involved in the exercise as well as tackle other logistics associated with the exercise. Jega said that all the nation’s roughly 120,000 registration points had working equipment and competent staff.

While acknowledging that some officials had extorted money from voters or helped register phantom voters in the country, Jega said out of the 240,000 workers out in the field, “not more than 15 are accused of criminal activity.”

He acknowledged some of the problems facing his effort, noting: “God willing, we’ll be able to register every registrable Nigerian. Many Nigerians have already concluded it was going to fail and they are just waiting for that answer. There are many problems and we are responding to them. Things are not as bad as being projected.”

Jega’s defence

Jega was asked by Senate president, David Mark, how much time he needed to complete the registration of all eligible Nigerians that offered themselves for the exercise as well as his assessment of the exercise.

He responded: “From our own projection as I speak with you now sir, if the Electoral Act is properly amended, we believe that if we have an extension of one week from January 29 to February 5, God willing, we will be able to register every registrable Nigerian. The constraints we have as the provision of the Electoral Act stands now is that we have to finish all registrations latest 60 days to the election which is latest by the second week of February.

“Unless there is an amendment to the Electoral Act, we cannot do much extension beyond four days. That is between January 29 to February 2. But if the National Assembly graciously amends the provision of the constitution, if we have an extension of an additional one week, we believe sir that we will be able to finish this exercise very successfully.”

Initial challenges

While admitting the initial challenge faced by the commission, Jega explained that all the challenges that were identified on the first day of the exercise which he described as a ‘disaster’ had been corrected and the exercise was going on smoothly in most centres where the DDC machines had been deployed.

He said: “There was additional problem with the setting of the finger printing machine from the first day where we discovered that the setting was very high and that setting was for the highest standard of finger print for forensic purpose and election is not a forensic matter.

That is why we had these difficulties because the scanners were very sensitive. If you have any problem with your finger whether it is stained with oil or whatsoever, it will refuse to accept you. So the first day was a disaster because the machine was just rejecting anybody that came to register.

“But the second day, we discovered this and we have taken measures to correct it and we had already by the second day begun to deploy what we called a patch to address the problem of finger print scanner. And as many Nigerians have testified, by the fourth day, we had been able to increase the registration remarkably.

Deployment of DDC machines

“If you recall sir, in 2006 when the registration started, there were barely 1000 direct data capturing machine. But we have been able to deploy on the day it started, at least 107, 000 direct data capturing machine. So if there are problems sir, frankly as I speak to you now sir, we have reached a comfort level. On the first day of registration we had the statistic nationwide, we were only able to register about 250, 000 on that first day because of those problems. As I speak to you now the average registration per day is about 4.3 million.

“So we did our projections from this statistics that we have that if we have additional one week just to cover the initial problems that we have, we should be able to register every Nigerian that comes out to register. Unfortunately sir one of the contractors disappointed us, but as of two days ago we now have all the machines delivered to us and we have them delivered to the states.

But there are still some polling units which have not been reached but every state except Kwara unfortunately, which even in the next two hours, they will get their own, every state except from Kwara had received the full complement of their DDC machines plus the 10 percent extra which we believe can be used to compliment other places where there is none.”

Jega explained that as at three days ago, the commission was able to register more than 28 million voters noting that at the rate of 4.3million voters a day which the commission is now registering, an extension would guarantee the registration of not less than 65 million voters.

“On the first day nationwide, we were able to register only 250, 000 voters but as we deploy equipment and software and they become more efficient we have improved.  As I speak with you now, by two days ago, the average registration per day is 4.3 million. By two days ago, we had registered 28.5 million Nigerians. On an average of 4.3 million per day and with things improving, the average is going up.

By our own estimation,  by Saturday when we close,  we would have registered  between 23 and 25 million Nigerians. If we get an additional extension of seven days still using that projection of 4.3 million per day, by the end of that one week we will be able to register more than 65 million Nigerians” he emphasized.

PDP’s insistence on conduct of primaries

On the vexed issue of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP,’s insistence that it would conduct primaries outside the deadline set by INEC, Jega insisted that the commission was guided by the Electoral Act which empowered it to set up a guideline on the conduct of party primaries as well as the elections for the country, arguing that the commission was acting within the ambit of the law.

He said: “The provision of the Act clearly states that INEC should provide guidelines for political parties’ primaries and convention and the guidelines for the elections. Everything we are doing is to bring sanity to the system. The timetable is very clear, every primary ends on January 15.

All nominations should be submitted by January 31. If we wake up and somebody says he is going to do primary again long after January 15, we are obligated to draw his attention to the  provision that the date for primary has closed. That is what we have done and I do not see how we can be seen to have broken any law or acted contrary to the provision of the law.”

The two-week voter registration began Jan. 15 and is scheduled to end Saturday afternoon for elections that include a crucial presidential race. However, problems with the effort began almost immediately. Some of the laptop computers, fingerprint scanners, printers and digital cameras the nation purchased for more than $230 million didn’t arrive in time, while other units had not been charged. Others had problems with the fingerprint scanners, which remain finicky at best.

 -Vanguard

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Posted by on Jan 26 2011. Filed under Elections 2011. 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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